Even by Arsenal’s standards, that was some f**k up. Match report and player ratings.
NEWCASTLE UNITED 4 ARSENAL 4
THE BIG PICTURE REACTION…
Has to be that this was an unmitigated f*****g disaster. The worst collapse in Premier League history from a team who excel in terrible collapses. And from a team who know how to turn one bad day into a long, long sequence. I know it is only February, but this feels a hell of a lot like Birmingham away last season and three years ago when it all went tits up big style. You have to say that even by our standards, we excelled ourselves today in the monumental f**k up stakes.
We were simply magnificent. We pulverised them. 1-0 up in 40 odd seconds after quick feet from Diaby, a beautiful flick from Arshavin and Theo’s cool run and shot. Not sure how much you can do to stop that. Nor when Arshavin floats in a peach of a ball onto Johan Djourou’s head for 2-0. If the next two were poor defending, you can put that down to that being what demoralised teams do. We had simply battered them almost into submission.
Phil Dowd’s performance was amusing as much as anything. RVP sychthed down by two players? Newcastle free-kick. Arshavin ploughed by Barton? Nothing given because as well as taking the legs he took the ball. As though the fact Barton took the ball was somehow going to save Arshavin from injury.
THEN DJOUROU WENT OFF INJURED…
And was replaced by Squillaci, whose statistical record next to Koscielny this season has been fairly diabolical. But still… we were 4-0 up.
THEN THE RED CARD…
Did Barton have a right to go for the ball? Yes. Did he get the ball? Yes. Could he very easily have broken Diaby’s leg doing it? Yes. Diaby’s reaction was wrong and to an extent he lost the plot. I say an extent because he never actually got violent. He shoved Barton from the back of the neck. Unwise, but never going to injure. Ditto for Kevin Nolan. Unlike Diaby in the original tackle, neither were in any kind of physical danger. The decision to show red was to an extent acceptable, if not I don’t think, strictly necessary. And heaven forbid something should click in Phil Dowd’s head and he should recall that Abou himself spent so long out of the game injured, the victim of an equally needless tackle.* It was a stupid reaction from Diaby and while I’ve never been afraid of criticise him, given what he has personally been through, I’ve some sympathy in this instance.
FROM THEN ON…
The first penalty looked sometimes reasonable and sometimes harsh depending on the replay angle but probably veering towards the former if I’m honest. The referee’s reaction afterwards when he booked Szczesny was an absolute joke. It is our bloody kick-off, you moron. If we take an eternity to return the ball to the centre-circle then fair enough, punish the players doing it. But he had literally picked up the ball and a second later not given it to Joey Barton, who had no right to the ball. Bizarre and it did nothing but inspire Newcastle further. Fast forward to 4-4 and Newcastle players are jumping all over each other in our half and we’re ready to get on with it and where is Phil Dowd with his cards? Nowhere.
UPDATE: Kevin Nolan’s behaviour completely passed me by at the time, but he basically clotheslined Szczesny to the floor in front of the lino and got only a yellow. And for the record, I’ve timed it and Szczesny was knocked over 2.5 seconds after he picked up the ball. In all, and this includes being clotheslined and getting up again, he had it for 6.5 seconds. Dreadful refereeing.
IT IS TRUE…
That we were lucky to see them have one goal wrongly chalked off – the only decision that went our way all day and not surprisingly it came from the lino rather than Dowd. That incident was the low point of a disastrous cameo from Rosicky, guilty initially of giving the ball away very cheaply and then of lazily not getting back into line and playing them onside.
Was a joke of a decision. To give a penalty in that position you’ve got to have very strong evidence that a foul was conceded because frankly, it is the kind of position where forwards go down with nothing to lose and defenders have no reason to make a foul. Yes, it was crap defending from Rosicky but that is not for the referee to punish. It was never a penalty and Barton got unbelievably lucky with what was a crap effort that deserved to be saved and almost was.
THEN THEIR FOURTH…
Was one of those goals that you can just do nothing at all about, a Danny Rose of a strike. (He’s the Spurs player who scored THAT goal against us and hasn’t played for them since.)
YOU HAVE TO ASK QUESTIONS…
How is it that these things happen to us? You have to point to there being some kind of lack of character, backbone or leadership because when these combacks threaten to get out of hand we seem simply incapable of stopping them. But simply trotting out those criticisms is too simple – we’ve shown bucketloads of spirit over the past few weeks and been doing absolutely everything right. The problem I suppose, is that we’re so finely tuned, that we lack any kind of self righting mechanism, any ability to turn things round when we are knocked even a little off kilter. It has been a hallmark of Wenger’s teams – it happened to the Invincibles and it has happened since in a fair few seasons.
OVER THE YEARS, I’VE COME TO REALISE THAT WHAT YOU ALWAYS WRITE AFTER THESE CAPITULATIONS…
Is that it is all about the reaction and that it is only two points dropped. And yet even as you write it you know that we’re highly unlikely to blow Wolves away at the Emirates next Saturday. It is going to be one of those days, one of those horrible ones we have every year where after 75 minutes we’re desparately looking for a goal. I really, really, really hope I’m wrong and the plus side is that this has happened earlier than it has in previous years.
Are almost impossible in a game like this but I’ll give it a try.
Szczesny (7) made some mostly routine saves, conceded two penalties, a howitzer and another goal he couldn’t do that much about.
Sagna (7) was great when we were winning and didn’t look particularly shabby when we were struggling. Not one who lacks character.
Clichy (6.5) didn’t cover himself in glory on their second goal but nor was it a catastrophic piece of defending. Other than that he worked hard and gave it his all.
Koscielny (6) needlessly conceded the first penalty – Newcastle were going nowhere.
Djourou (8) was there in the good times and so gets a good mark!
Wilshere (8) was excellent throughout the 90 minutes really. When we were rocking he showed as much spirit as anyone to try and get us firing again.
Diaby (6) was at his best right up until the sending off. Powerful, bombing forward, tracking back and tackling. His issue has always been about consistency rather than basic ability and this was him at his finest. His sending off was stupid but also uncharacteristic and to an extent I do feel some sympathy.
Cesc (6.5) was excellent while we were winning and kept working hard. But equally as captain he was unable to steady us when we were rocking.
Arshavin (7) didn’t do everything perfectly, but he set-up the first two, looked really dangerous and was working hard tracking back. Replacing him with Rosicky turned out to be a big mistake, though you can see why Arsene did it.
Walcott (8) absolutely tore Newcastle to shreads in the first half. So, so dangerous, he was a great outlet and I’m really not sure we should have been subbing him either, particularly when he was tracking back a fair bit.
RVP (7) took his two goals well but struggled to hold onto the ball when we needed him to.
Squillaci’s (5) assuredness of earlier in the season has evaporated and he looked all over the place here.
Rosicky (4) was truly shocking, giving the ball away, stupidly keeping balls in play when he should have let them go out. You can see why he wsa picked to come on but the question is there as to whether he can still do it at this level.
Comrade Eboue (4.5) was brought on at 4-2 when we were basically really going into war and let us be blunt about this: there is nobody I’d be less inclined to take into war with me. I know he’s a funny guy round the training ground and I know he throws his shirt to the fans but the fact is, his career right now is going nowhere and it was so predictable that his first contribution was to needlessly kick the ball away at a free-kick, earning himself a yellow and only adding fuel to Newcastle’s sense that we were rattled. Of course he played only a small part in our capitulation but I think the criticism nonetheless fair.
*Yes, I am aware that Abou Diaby was sent off at the Reebok himself a few years back for a far less than perfect tackle. Besides the fact that to my mind it was totally out of character, I’m not sure this greatly changes any of the points I’ve made above.