Monday, August 15, 2011

False Start: Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal

Considering the current state of things at Arsenal, an away point can be seen as a decent start. It can be.

It can also be seen as worrying. Arsenal's next two league games are against Liverpool and Manchester United. If those games don't go well, then a point at St. James' Park will look like a bad result.

The performance did not provide much cause for optimism either. Against a very ordinary Newcastle team, Arsenal failed to create chances. Van Persie looked unfit and with the Dutchman not carrying his usual threat, the Gunners looked lacking in ammunition. At the start of the game there was a good tempo and signs that Gervinho can help restore a more direct thrust to Arsenal's play in the final third, but as the contest wore on, you became more aware of the Cesc-shaped hole in the middle of the pitch. Wilshere's absence did not help matters. But for one exquisite dink over the top from Arshavin that should have been buried by a dithering Van Persie, Arsenal lacked invention. Rosicky played well but he is nearly as incisive as Fabregas and while Ramsey has abundant potential, his passing game remains slightly erratic.

More happily, Newcastle posed little threat themselves. Koscielny and Vermaelen linked well and comfortably repelled most of what the Magpies had to offer- which was, in fairness, very little. Unfortunately, not every Premier League forward is as impotent as Shola Ameobi.

The main talking point stemmed not from the insipid footballing "action" but from a late bout of handbags that saw debutant Gervinho dismissed. The new boy went down easily under a challenge in the area- replays showed that there was some contact and thus a penalty may have been justly awarded- and the wonderfully entertaining Joey Barton arrived frothing at the mouth. He grabbed Gervinho, yanked him around a bit, and as players crowded around, was felled by a slight slap to the chops. In an ironic twist, Barton, having been enraged by what he perceived as brazen play-acting, clearly informed some Arsenal players that he had been punched.

To find out what a punch looks like, check out YouTube, where you can find CCTV footage of Joey Barton beating seven shades of shit out of a man during a night out.

It is greatly amusing, and a little disturbing, that a man twice convicted of assault can get high and mighty about the idea of gamesmanship, especially when he then responds with his own act of, well, gamesmanship. But I do enjoy Joey Barton. He's more entertaining than the football was on Saturday.

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