It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4 Review

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Feb 062011

Worrying news from Twitter. Stade 2 – the French equivalent of MoTD has accused Rosicky of throwing the game. See here if you speak French. Unbelievable. He played pretty badly, but that’s nothing new. They claim he had a hand two of the goals, and that Interpol are opening an enquiry. They can’t, Interpol is just the means by which police forces communicate and they don’t have a ‘police force’. Complete rubbish. I hope Arsenal lawyers are onto them sharpish.

On a lighter note, this is far more likely 😉 Phil Dowd’s betting slip, courtesy of twooner @darylbooth.

Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4 Review

Never has the tired cliché “a game of two halves” been more depressingly appropriate. Last night I couldn’t find the words to express the feelings of disappointment in our team and anger at the culprits – Dowd, Diaby, and the criminal Barton. And it must be added, fresh frustration in our transfer non-activity after the injury to Johan Djourou leaves us with two fit centre halfs.

It started so well, didn’t it? We were two up while some fans were still finding their seats. And the goals were so easy. Arshavin found Walcott after 43 seconds, and my fellow Hemelite found the back of the net. Next Djourou scored his first league goal for the club, heading in Arshavin’s free kick. Another good performance from the bonkers little Russian became irrelevant in the farce that was to follow.

Before half an hour we had four, and I was considering my 7-0 and 7-1 bets at 500-1 were a sound investment. There were signs, however, that the men in black hadn’t been to Specsavers. V Persie got crunched by two toon players, and was penalised for it. He took his revenge by getting the third and fourth goals, a cut back from Walcott and a totally free header from a Sagna cross.

There did turn out to be 8 goals as I’d predicted, but who’d have thought that the next four would be all Newcastle? Certainly not me. Even if you’d told me we’d have to play the second half with 10 men I’d have been confident that we’d have seen out the rest of the game with ease.

No doubt Pardew said something in the dressing room about commitment. No doubt he complained that they’d hardly put a challenge in. He’d have been right to say that, Newcastle in the first half were as dire as we were excellent. A different team emerged from the Toon dressing room, and it was one that craved blood.

They didn’t waste any time trying to get it. The convicted violent criminal that is Joey Barton went in hard and two footed on Diaby, in precisely the kind of challenge that breaks legs. The Frenchman’s reaction was one of fury, he grabbed Barton by the scruff of the neck and was rightly sent off. Given our number 2’s injury history, such a reaction was on some level understandable, but for the most part just plain idiotic. There was no way that Phil Dowd could allow him to stay on the pitch after that, and he knew it. Stupid.

All Arsenal players are routinely given more hard tackles than other teams receive, because of the view that “Arsenal don’t like it up them.” Some players, like Vieira was in his early playing days and Fabregas is now, are rountinely kicked around the park, in the view that it will disrupt our style of play. But both those players learnt that the only way to deal with it is not to react. To get one over their opponents by a goal and a hard tackle, not by getting themselves sent off.

I have no doubt that Barton got what he was after from Diaby, which just tells you all you need to know about the scouse git. How Phil Dowd let him stay on the pitch is just beyond me. But by reacting in such a way, Diaby’s just making the situation worse, and no doubt more teams will now act in the same way. We’ve got Wolves after the midweek international. Great!

Another decision that baffled me, was how Nolan could stay on the pitch. He did exactly the same thing as Diaby, if not worse. Szczesny clung on the ball after Barton had scored their first, a deserved penalty which Koscielny gave away. Nolan had him in a headlock and who got carded? You guessed it, Szczesny.

After they scored a lucky second, they got their third thanks to another refereeing blunder. I have no idea why a penalty was given. Koscielny jumped with Rosicky and a Toon player and the linesman waved his arm frantically. It wasn’t a soft penalty it was a ridiculous decision.

Tioté’s equaliser in the dying minutes of the game was a fine goal, to be fair. But my head had been in my hands long before then, as gooners everywhere could sense the goal coming. There was a brief moment of hope before the final whistle when v Persie scored, but it was disallowed for offside. He was level apart from his arm, which as I understand it makes him onside. But at least the decisions had a degree of consistency to them – they all went against us.

Game over, we’d managed to lose a four nil advantage. We could have been two points behind ManUre after they lost at Molineaux.

But that’s not the whole story. Yes, Diaby was an idiot, Barton’s a violent criminal, and Phil Dowd is as blind as a bat, but still. We showed a worrying lack of heart, muscle, leadership, and crucially mental strength to throw away the lead in that manner.

It’s often noticeable that a team’s performance drops when a key player is injured. Given how well he’s performed for us all this season, Johan Djourou has turned into such a player, and his loss is worrying. Fingers crossed it’s not serious. But such a drop in form – think England v Brasil in Japan when Rooney’s foot went – may be understandable, but it’s certainly avoidable.

It must also be difficult to stay focussed on discipline as a team when one of your own loses the plot in the manner that Diaby did. But you’d expect a team whose manager is constantly banging on about mental stength to have that focus, concentration and desire. They were not helped by the cauldron of St James’ Park, but they were also not helped in the second half by their captain, who as I saw it did little to raise his voice or the players’ spirits. Whether or not Cesc is captain, we need a vocal player on the pitch, and I don’t think we had one in Newcastle.

You also have to question the wisdom of bringing off two of our potent attacking weapons. It seemed as though the players on the pitch suffered a drop in confidence with the arrival of Eboue and Rosicky. Bringing them on said to Newcastle – we’re worried, and we’re not going to attack. Compound this with the fact that the Ivorian and the Czech were totally anonymous, and you have all the ingredients for the surrender of a four goal advantage. Shocking.

I hope the players are ashamed of how poorly they reacted to the adverse situation, to rubbish refereeing, and to rough tackling from the opposition. I’ve never seen such a bad half of a game from Arsenal in a long time, and I hope it’s a good while before we see the like again.

Newcastle vs Arsenal Preview and Odds

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Feb 052011

A mate of mine asked me today what my prediction would be for our game at St James’ Park tomorrow. He suggested that I could expect a romp, a mauling, a stroll in the park; that Newcastle have lost their best player, haven’t replaced him and have a long injury list. He also pointed out that the fat idiot in charge has replaced a successful manager with, well, Alan Pardew.

All valid ponits, and I agree with them all. However, I’m nervous about the game tomorrow. I read today that Arsenal have scored the fewest, and conceded the most goals from set-pieces this season in the Premier League. I had a think about Newcastle’s midfield and names like Nolan, Barton, and Tioté fill me with unease not just for the safety of our players’ tendons, bones, and muscles, but for the nature of the contest. Those are three players you could describe as ‘battling’ midfielders. Without Alex Song, who’s out for this game with a dead leg, I fear that our midfield will become overwhelmed by their strength as we were at the Grove.

Song’s likely replacement is Diaby, though Denilson is certainly a possibility. When we signed the former he was announced as our new Vieira. He hasn;t quite lived up to that billing, and I for one don’t feel that the defensive side of our midfield game is strengthened much when he’s on the pitch. Another thing about Vassiriki Abou Diaby (love the first name!) is that he blows hot and cold. Some days he’s strong in the tackle, accurate with his passing, and makes good driving runs. But other days he’s anonymous. I hope he starts in place of Denilson, but I’ll qualify that by saying that I’d rather an average Denilson performance against a poor game for Diaby. Come on Vassiriki!

I was surprised to see Rosicky start against Everton. I know Nasri’s form would make comparison with any teammate difficult, but for me the little Czech hasn’t had a single game this season – nor a substitute appearance – where you could say that he played well. He’s a great player to have to come on and add a measure of control to midfield passing when we’re ahead, and when he is on form his creative forward passing can be excellent. But he’s hardly on fire at the moment, and I’d rather see him warm the bench, with a midfield three of Wilshere, Fabregas and Diaby.

As I mentioned in my review of the Everton game I was happy to see Arshavin get on the scoresheet. Some say when he has off days that he’s supremely lazy, and doesn’t seem to care. It’s a classic example of the psychological phenomenon called the fundamental attribution error. It’s easy to assign character- and personality-based motives to someone for behaviour that is more likely caused by physical and situational factors. In other words, if he looks lazy and not interested it’s more likely that he’s just having an off day, and just not playing as well as he can, than that he’s actually lazy and not interested. Fickle fans are always quick to slag off a player they perceive as underperforming by labelling him lazy. I don’t think he is, simples as that. He’s now back among the goals, and I hope to see him get another to wipe the idiotic grin off that fat tw*t Ashley.

We’ll have the same back 5 that faced Everton, so I’m expecting:

Szczesny; Clichy – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Wishere – Fabregas – Diaby; Arshavin – v Persie – Walcott.


In making my predictions and putting my money where my keyboard is, I’m bearing in mind what I said above about the the strength of their midfield, no Alex Song, and their performance at the Grove. It’s reassuring to hear AW say:

They had a fantastic game against us at the Emirates, where they did very well collectively…But they are still a good side, Newcastle. We expect [them] to be up for it against us and so we prepare ourselves to meet a good team.

I should think so too. I just hope that this message is passed on, inwardly digested, and borne out on the pitch by the players, and that we don’t have any complacency drifting into the back of any player’s mind. That would be fatal.

In the face of such pessimism, I’ve plumped for 2-1 at 15/2 with SkyBet. My long shot is the complete opposite of such negativity. When I saw both 7-0 and 7-1 at the very tempting 500/1 with Paddy Power, I couldn’t decide between the two. With the best odds of 6-0 a comparatively measly 175/1 I had to place a few pennies on both those scores, didn’t I!

As for goalscorers, I went for Cesc to score first at 13/2 with Bet365. Never forget he usually takes the pens. Having defended Arshavin in this post, I feel obliged to back him with the odd quid to score first at 7s with Bet365.  If you’re feeling bold then how about Clichy getting his name on the scoresheet first at 66/1 with Coral? Having gone for two polar opposite scoreline wagers, I thought I’d better back that with some spare change. Money down the drain you say? I say “Come on Gaël”.

With ManUre a shoe-in to beat Wolves, let’s hope that Liverpool continue their resurgence, Suarez gets a hat-trick against Chelski and Torres breaks several bones and does both cruciates. But on a more serious note, only 3 points will keep us close on ManUre’s heels. Let’s take ’em from the Toon.


Arsenally Yours,


Arsenal 2 Everton 1 / Offside rule review

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Feb 032011

Apologies for the tardiness of this post, I wasn’t murdered in my sleep but cut down in my prime by a poorly set  up internet connection. There is much to discuss, and sadly little is about the football itself, but rather referees, rules, and reactions.

The game was an exciting one for a number of reasons. There was the fact that Everton seemed to have the opinion that if they attempted to break legs then that might interfere with our free-flowing football. But, and I’m very happy to report this, we stood up to them, and gave as good as we got.

It was after about 25 mins that the game became truly exciting, thanks to Mr Lee Mason. Here’s the “goal”:

Well, it’s just offside isn’t it? I’m certainly no expert, and I’ll leave it to others to discuss the finer points of the offside rule, but there is no argument to the facts that:
a) when the ball was played through to Saha he was in an offside position.
b) Djourou touch was not a pass back to the goal keeper.

In the light of those two points, it seems fairly clear to me that the “goal” and Mason and his henchmen’s “decision” was a farce.

Now, what interests me more are two points. Firstly, Cesc’s reaction, and secondly, the team’s reaction.

For the first point, and we are only having this discussion because David Moyes brought it up, Cesc asked the fourth official / referee / linesman (depending on who you read) how much he’d been paid to make the decision. I understand it was the heat of the moment. I would rather that his passion ran hot rather than cold. But if true, it’s really not good for our club captain to say such things. I may be approaching “old fart” territory here, but I was always taught that the referee’s decision is always right. It might not be correct, but it’s always right. And last week Cesc tried to get the Huddersfield player sent off. He defends his alleged comments on the official site here. As AW points out, if he was guilty of such an offence then he’d have been charged. The fact still remains that he represents the club on the pitch, and haranguing the referee is not what the Arsenal is about.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Cesc, in that both decisions were ridiculously bad. But it is up to the manager to raise these issues with the FA, and no player, especially the club captain, should be saying such things to the referee. We need to direct our feelings of injustice towards the ref or the opposition into playing well, playing hard, and scoring goals.

Which is, thank God, what happened anyway, bringing me on to my second point of the team’s reaction. Which was positive, and encouraging. Arshavin came on for the anonymous Rosicky and volleyed coolly past the Toffees’ keeper. Great finish, especially when you consider the pressure that he’s under after such a barren spell. One thing that interested my, though, was how the team celebrated the goal. It’s alwas interesting, as you can see who’s mates with who, and who doesn’t get on with other players. It seems to me that he’s a bit isolated. I could be reading too much into this, but if you compare the team’s reaction to Arshavin’s goal with the goal that Koscielny scored, you’ll see that the former is far more muted than the latter. Hmm.

It has to be said that our second was only down to poor defending by Everton. Not picking up the opposition’s centre-half is just a schoolboy error, and they paid dearly for it. After Koscielny’s goal went in, the fight went out of Everton, and we saw out the rest of the game with ease. We may not be so lucky on other occasions.

Speaking of luck, our older Polish keeper hasn’t got any, as he’ll miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery in Germany. I wish him well, and hope he returns full of confidence, and ready to challenge Szczesny for the number one shirt. It’ll be interesting to see who starts the next game between the sticks. With Fabianski injured, Almunia’s assumed move away couldn’t happen, and now we have a young keeper vying for the first team spot with an older, more experienced Spaniard who wanted to leave by all accounts. Watch this space.

So we face Newcastle on Saturday. Bring ’em on. This team is building up a head of steam, and long may that continue. Injuries aside – and we did miss Nasri – we’re on a good run, and if we can keep it up then who knows where we’ll end up. One thing’s for sure though, we need ManUre to drop a few points, and Rooney’s return to goal-scoring form worries me. Taking 3 points from St James’ Park will relieve my concern – it’ll be a test of strength and will in front of a cauldron of some of football’s most passionate fans. Preview to follow tomorrow.

Arsenally Yours,