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Even by Arsenal’s standards, that was some f**k up. Match report and player ratings.


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.

AT 4-0…
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.

And was replaced by Squillaci, whose statistical record next to Koscielny this season has been fairly diabolical. But still… we were 4-0 up.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

28 Responses to “Even by Arsenal’s standards, that was some f**k up. Match report and player ratings.”

  1. Srikant says:

    I thought this was the worst piece of refereeing I have ever seen . Utterly disgraceful!!!, I remember that Diaby was tackled by a Bolton player early in this season , even then he was pissed but not enough to wring the guy’s neck like he did today . I have to say the Newcastle fans did a very good job of creating the atmosphere for the referee to be pressurized ,but lets not take away anything from Phil Dowd , he is the man of the match .

    a red was

  2. Srikant says:

    contd…. Personally I think what influenced Dowd to show Diaby a red was that at the end of the half after Barton had gone through Arshavin’s legs , Diaby went after Barton which resulted in Barton getting a free kick .
    And I thought Nolan deserved to be off , even i saw Wilshere protesting to the ref ,but nothing happened .

  3. pikkmikk says:

    Bollocks… I had a bet with Stoke and Spuds winning by a single goal and Arsenal by two goals or more. At 3-0 I thought it’s in the bag. At 4-0 I thought about the Spuds game at the Grove when we were 4-2 up at 89 mins and that we’re the only team that can crumble a four goal lead…But not against this Newcastle side.
    Man i need bear sooo bad!

  4. slc gunner says:

    we are just so good at being on the wrong end of comebacks (spurs 2-3, wigan 2-3, spurs 4-4, and i’m sure there are more). we were comfortable at 4-0 until the 68th minute. that 1st goal seemed to isnpire newcasle. looked at a few replays…i would have given it. it was stupid defending from kos though…the guy was going nowhere. the 3rd goal – replays indicate it may have been a rosicky push, but not really not clear. if it was a push, it was again so stupid…williamson wasn’t in a scoring position. and then the 4th came from rosicky mis-kicking, and then giving away a stupid free kick. the goal came from the free-kick. rosicky’s worst game ever. scquillaci is so crap. doesn’t win anything in the air, no physical presence, no pace. hope djouoru is not badly injured. i have to disagree on diaby…yeah he’s been badly injured before, but you need to keep your head. he wasn’t injured in the challenge. let’s hope we can respond better than we have in previous years.

  5. skillz says:

    guys we have just seen the brotherhood of EPL REFS getting back at us for fabregas comments aginst everton..the’re own way of teaching us a lesson since cesc didnt get charged…the whole thing reeks of conspiracy especially with that penalty at 4-2…good heavens

  6. argonaut says:

    You can’t blame Diaby for that reaction. In every match he’s played this season he has been on the receiving end of a clumsy, potentially career-ending tackle. Yet, the refs have offered him zero protection, and the FA are just as much in collusion for failing to retrospectively punish not only the players making these challenges, but also their managers and clubs.

    If the managers got a fine when one of their players makes a terrible tackle, you would soon see the number of bad challenges drop.

  7. Joe says:

    I have been contemplating suicide for the last 2 hours after this, blaming Phil Dowd, blaming the players for failing to stitch a pass together from 55-85 mins, blaming Arsene for his substitutions, blaming anything, so thank you Playa for providing some reasoned sanity.

    My one positive thought is this: the last time (apart from Bolton coming back from 2-0 down with the kickathon at the Reebok) that I felt we’d fvcked up a really important lead away in the Premiership race when we actually had a chance of winning was the 3-3 at Leicester in 1997-98. I was there and the sense of loss was horrific, but we bounced back and won the title. And before any w*nkers start going on about our soft defence, we had those Bolton and Leicester capitulations with Adams, Keown, Dixon, etc. So let’s hope for a post-Leicester style reaction now.

    Oh, and by the way, today’s collapse never never ever happens if Alex Song is playing: that’s how important he is, and how Wilshere gets 8 in the ratings above is beyond me. He might have shouted at the ref a bit but he did bugger all – like Cesc, Rosicky, etc. – in terms of keeping the ball in the second half. Stop giving him a pass cos he’s English…..

  8. Srikant says:

    argonaut, I just want to point out Zinedine Zidane did the same in the final at WC 2006. No matter what Materazzi said to him , he shouldn’t have reacted . He was the captain of his team who needed him at that time and it was a freaking WC final !!!! Zidane was still forgiven in his case because lets face it … he was Zidane !!!He has won almost every trophy in his career , But in Diaby’s case it isn’t the same , he has still not done anything of significant vale to for us , i though he was extremely good in the 1st half but his immaturity may have cost us the title.

  9. Anonymarse says:

    Ok, no excuses. We were dreadful 2nd half, Newcastle were spirited. They deserved to cut the deficit. But…Phil Dowd is the reason we didn’t win that game, pure and simple. Diaby shouldn’t have reacted and fully deserved a yellow card. No more though, there was no violent conduct. The decision was wrong (albeit only the start of it). Koscielny won the ball for the first penalty. Dowd was behind the play, so he couldn’t see it. He saw the Newcastle player go to ground and guessed. Wrongly. Not a penalty (still, only the second worst mistake he made though !). The third penalty (the moment that really turned the game and made anything other than an Arsenal win possible): the softest penalty decision I can ever recall seeing given. A horrendous, unforgivable error.

  10. pikkmikk says:

    I really can’t blame Diaby. Think of the horrible injuries that Arsenal players have sufferered in recent seasons and then think the imbecile “the game is so fast that tackles are bound to be mistimed at times” excuses and for that horrendous tackling is tolerated in the as a part of the game. For a split second Diaby thought that that’s it, there goes my leg again and I’m out for a year or so and he reacted like he did.

    Now’s the time for retrospective action against Barton as the tackle wasn’t noted by the “referee”. The ball is in your court FA.

  11. ivan says:

    Blame the team all you want. It was the ref who stole the game from us. Show me a similar performance from an official in any other top league…you can’t because this was horrendous.

  12. Nick says:

    Is there an i hate phil dowd club available for me to join?

  13. JohnDale says:

    @Joe are you serious, Jack was one of the few who kept a consistent play through out the entire game. He worked his butt off! So yeah, he deserves the 8 and more.

  14. PD says:

    Dowd was nothing short of a disgrace, no doubt, However, the team have to look at themselves too. As soon as it went to 4-1 (wtf was Koscielny doing – why does he insist on trying to win the ball when there’s no need to do so ???) we literally shit ourselves & as a result they battered us. There was total panic, no leadership, no composure; it was simply horrible to watch. We still had a 3-goal lead – there was no need to panic whatsoever but we did.

    Thank God MU lost. It has proved yet again that this side will never, ever have a better chance to win a title. This is a woeful league. We can still win it but if we don’t I really think it’s time for Arsene to go cos I can’t foresee him ever getting another chance this good.

  15. Elvis says:

    The referee did not have a great game but Arsenal were simply awful in the second half and were extremely lucky not to lose the game. I blame Diaby for his petulance rather than the ref for his incompetence. Every time Newcastle pumped a high ball into the box I wasn’t worried that the ref would make a mistake but that our Keystone Cops defence would concede again.

  16. Anonymarse says:

    One point gained on United then. Not a bad day. Ahem…

  17. stevie D says:

    Gut wrenching result for us that’s for sure. But at the end of the day United lost. We gained a point on them. We were fortunate to still get something from the day. Let’s hope Djourou is not too badly injured and move on to the next. Come on Gooners it hurts, it does, but lets stay on board. This team is good.

  18. kman says:

    We cannot,will not progress in the EPL with a stubborn coach who is allergic to change. Now Djourou,song and vermalen are down.We’re left with these two french circus clowns and it’s just a matter of time before one of them get’s a red.Rosisky is out of gas,disposable offensive MF with no goals in eons and a total liabilty even though wenger sees a superstar in the making.Scillaci is a frightened defender with no speed,jump or power.wenger again is left to tell tall tales.What a shambolic team

  19. julius says:

    Manu have lost and their unbeaten run is stopped, but dont be surprised tomorow, the papers will be talking about Arsenal….you watch tomorow…

  20. argonaut says:

    Srikant, I am not condoning Diaby’s reaction, I just understand where it came from. In every game this season he has been on the receiving end of an appalling tackle. Bringing up Zidane is irrelevant. Materazzi didn’t almost break his leg, and Diaby did not headbutt in retaliation, he shoved him. It’s a completely different situation.

    Diaby reacted just as badly when Barton scythed through Arshavin. The ref should have taken action against Barton then. Perhaps Barton might have thought twice about doing it to Diaby had he already been booked.

    If you want to find scapegoats, try looking at the officials and the FA for being utterly useless when it comes to retrospectively dealing with ungentlemanly conduct on the pitch.

  21. rahul says:

    i think we missed having a true holding midfielder after Diaby was carded.

  22. slc gunner says:

    where dowd screwed up was in not booking barton for sything down arshavin at the end of the 1st half…he didn’t even blow for a foul which was unbelievable. had barton been booked, he would have been less inclined to dive in at diaby in the 2nd half (which didn’t look as bad a tackle to be honest). still: we’ve won many games with 10 men before so this should not have led to 4 goals being given up. bad defending and bad play cost us.

  23. Tim says:

    Well written and considered report Goodplaya, not an easy task in the aftermath. Agree with your player ratings too, but one thing I think has been missed on the blogs and twitter etc is the timing of us losing JD20, not only did we loose AD2 presence and he was having a good game, but JD20 has been immense of late and I think it no coincidence his absence contributed heavily, that and the SS18/LK6 partnership which we know is flawed. Lets hope he’s fit for Wolves

  24. Baron says:

    Please don’t excuse Diaby. Do we have to worry about whether he’ll see red every time he gets a rough tackle? If we do…that’s exactly what he’ll get every game. Yes, Dowd was crap, but Diaby’s job starts with him staying on the pitch. And the excuse machine that runs this club didn’t do anything to encourage his side to play the next match with maturity and discipline because his first reaction was to defend Diaby. He should have held Diaby accountable for losing the game, because that’s exactly what Diaby did.

  25. Elvis says:

    Baron sums it up well in post 25. Dowd may have missed Barton’s fouls (that happens in a fast game) but Diaby gave him no option but to show a red card. With him and Djourou off the pitch (and with the ominous arrivals of Rosicky, Squillaci and Eboue) we invited disaster. I was relieved we scraped a point at the end.

  26. Joejoe says:

    Ref was a prick. Absolutely amazed Nolan wasn’t sent off for clothes lining Szczesny.

    I think what killed us was a lack of a holding midfielder. No Diaby, Song or Denilson. No Djourou or Vermaelen to step into that position. It’s incredibly unfortunate to have all those players unuvailable to play in that single position. The team couldn’t really get the ball out of our defensive third or break down any of Newcastles attacks.

    I know some people are gonna lay the blame on Squillaci, but I think its unfair. The center backs weren’t the main issue today (apart from the first penalty where I think Kosicielny could have done better).

  27. andri says:

    Very cute post :)

  28. ChicagoGooner says:

    The sending off was justified, stupid of Diaby, but by the rules of the game, he had to go. The big problem was once Djourou went out, it was over. He is a good leader in the middle of the back four, and that is what was lacking. Arsenal with 10 men is a formidable side, but with no leadership at the back four and a young goalkeeper, they were exposed. It was dreadful. If Vermealan and Song were out there, Arsenal win 4-2.
    Dowd was horrid, he clearly wanted to get the home side back in the game the second Arsenal went up 4-0. The FA needs to review his work and keep him off the field for a while.

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