Arsenal came to Toon to play and play they did.
The first half was predictably all Arsenal, controlled possession and lots of through balls for Gervinho and Arshavin to chase. Gervinho did extremely well on his Premier League debut and there is much more to come from the talented Ivorian. Ramsey busied himself about in the middle of the park and did very well, the midfield trio of Ramsey, Song and Rosicky functioned well and snuffed out any attacking threat from Barton, Tiote and Cabaye whilst piling more pressure on Newcastle.
Unfortunately Robin Van Persie was isolated up front and rarely received the ball in a goal-scoring position. Gervinho worked tirelessly trying to create opportunities but none came to fruition. As the first half came to a close with the score at 0:0 it was deja-vu, the problem with the 4-3-3 is this, if they don’t have to come at you and can afford to keep at least 5 players at the back then it just doesn’t work, because the target man is man-marked leaving a minimum of 4 players to handle the runners.
Jonas Guttierez didn’t shower himself in glory, I saw him on two occasions wave an imaginary card at the ref to get players booked. I thought that was a yellow card offence in itself?
We weren’t clever enough at times and showed a lack of sharpness and guile, Ramsey made some excellent runs which were missed for other options. Our defence coped well with the physical presence of Demba Ba and Ameobi and finished the first half with plenty of credit. Sczcesny had a very mature, consistent performance with some excellent catching and punching whilst under pressure. I thought he particularly dealt with high balls well which always makes the defence feel more relaxed and his ball distribution is much improved.
Out we came for the second half, at this point it all still felt good. I felt the team blend was good and if we got a goal (with the likely source being Gervinho/RvP combo) then I thought we were capable of scoring a few. Rosicky again started pulling the strings and we carried on as if the half time break never happened. Again plenty of pressure and a RvP free-kick that threatened the goal but just skimmed the top of the net with Krul floundering.
Arshavin came off on 60 with Theo coming on to try and stretch the game. Theo looked a bit leggy, off the pace and laboured. I would have saved him for later in the game. A bit of controversy as Song stamped on Barton, which infuriated the Newcastle player as it was missed by all the officials. Currently I wouldn’t be upset if half of the Arsenal faithful marched all over his stupid face, but it was not to be.
Barton, not to be ignored however managed to get into the limelight, never one to shirk his responsibility as a role-model and professional he decided to get involved when Gervinho, who went down in the penalty area after slight contact with Tiote. Barton charged across the pitch, grabbed Gervinho by his shirt and hauled him to his feet. Far be it from me to defend Gervinho, but if someone did that to me I’d headbutt them. Barton looked incensed that Gervinho went down and continued to hold him. A ruck of players ensued with players entering the fray to seperate the players and Gervinho foolishly tapped (only a tap, not a slap or punch) Barton on the head and he went down like he’d been hit by a rock. So, don’t mess with Gervinho, he’s really hard as nails.
Gervinho got sent off, Barton got a yellow. Worst decision ever. I agree Gerv had to go, for the tap as it does count as raised hands, but surely Barton’s handling of the player, his aggressive attitude deserved a red also? – Referee Peter Walton take note: Have a look at the replay son, if you think it’s OK to manhandle a player up from the floor by the shirt then you need to be refereeing somewhere else.
Newcastle tried to press home the man advantage, but the defence held firm with some excellent work from Koscielny and Vermaelen. Gibbo and Sagna both did extremely well also.
We played a containing game after the sending off, looking to break with the pace of Theo and Gibbo but Theo really looked slow today. An odd thing to say and I know he’s coming back from injury but he looked really slow. Frimpong came on for Rosicky in the 84th minute and shored up the midfield further and pushed Gibbo to left midfield. We didn’t really carve any more opportunities in the match and it headed into injury time. Djourou was brought on for Ramsey and literally his first touch robbed a Newcastle player and he bombed forward, charging across the halfway line, it was 3v1 for Arsenal as Gibb0 and Theo ran either side of the beleagured Newcastle defender, Djourou stumbled and half stabbed the ball wide for Theo but he had to check his run and it allowed Newcastle to recover. A short burst of pace failed to beat his man and the opportunity was lost.
There was just enough time for RvP to have a snap-shot at goal which went well wide.
All in all it felt like the end of last season. The Arsenal fans were baying “Spend some F#*#@n Money” and it finished goalless.
There are plenty of positives to take from this match;
1) We defended extremely well at both corners and set pieces. The zonal marking system looked very effective.
2) Our midfield trio looked very good, I can’t fault their performance and I didn’t once think that I wished we had Cesc in there, I thought in particular Song did a great job covering the defence, whilst Rosicky kept pulling strings. Sometimes we needed a bit more guile, but it is still the first game of the season and there is a lot more to come from our midfield if this performance is something to go by.
3) Gervinho is going to be awesome. I hope his red card is turned into a yellow, because I feel it is very harsh considering the provocation and the agressive manner in which Barton grabbed him. I would have done far worse in Gervinho’s shoes and Barton would still be looking for his front teeth now.
4) Sczcesny looked every bit our number 1 keeper. He was very focussed, confident and tidy today.
There is much to look forward to with Udinese on the 16th (tuesday).
Come on you Gooners!!