I guess the two teams used up all the goals and excitement last year because yesterday, the controversial incidents apart, it was a snoozefest of a game, with little in the way of highlights.
All the talk this morning will be of the red card, the red card that should have been and the other red card that should have been. Let’s start with Alex Song. Already on a yellow he clearly trod on the back of Barton’s leg after a midfield clash and was lucky to escape a straight red. If we so vociferously condemned Lee Bowyer last season for a similarly snide attack on Bacary Sagna there’s absolutely no way to defend what Song did.
If they decide to look at it again – and I’m quite sure they will – Song could find himself punished restrospectively and could miss three games. Regardless of who got stamped on it was an act of stupidy and thoughtlessness from a player who really should know better at this stage of his career. If he is banned for three games I hope we fine him a couple of weeks wages (for all the good it will do) to remind him how he’s let the club down. We have something of a paucity of midfield options already, this doesn’t help things one bit.
Now Barton and Gervinho. Firstly, Arsenal were denied two penalties yesterday. There was definite contact from Tiote on Gervinho, penalty 1, but Walton played on. Secondly, as the ball was still in play, Barton grabbing Gervinho up off the ground and tugging him about the place is also a penalty. Walton didn’t see it because he had his back to the incident as play carried on. His assistant must have seen it though.
Walton, handily, turned around and arrived just as Gervinho threw out a hand to rid himself of the clutches of Barton. I know people say you can’t raise your hands but what exactly was he supposed to? Stand there limply and take it? What followed gives you the true essence of Joey Barton. He went down as if he’d been caught by a right hook from Hellboy, his equally half-witted teammate Steven Taylor gestured to any official who would look his way that there’d been an elbow, and Barton, tough as nails, hard man that he is writhed on the ground in ‘agony’.
Afterwards, Barton tried to justify his behaviour on Twitter by saying he wouldn’t be cheated out of points by an opponent but claimed his play-acting was simply doing the best for his team. For the record, and just so we’re clear, Gervinho’s red card was justified. If you slap an opponent in the side of the head, even if he’s picked you up off the ground and is grabbing you around the throat like you were on a night out in Liverpool, you’re going to get sent off.
However, that Barton escaped with just a yellow is ludicrous. That he’s been booked means no further action can be taken and the referee and his assistants have demonstrated once again that this is a rule which has to be changed. They didn’t see the full extent of Barton’s aggression, otherwise he’d have been gone too. There is no other way to classify what he did except violent conduct. Their ineptitude means justice was not done.
There were those who sought to make excuses for him yesterday, not least of which was that idiot Pardew, saying that he lost his temper because of what happened with Song 15 minutes previously. Those people do themselves, and the game, a disservice. Even if it was that which caused him to lose his temper it speaks more to Barton’s inability to control himself than any perceived injustice he might have felt. In the immediate aftermath, if he’d followed through on Song perhaps, then you could say that was a factor, but not 15 minutes later with a totally different player. He’s just got a hair-trigger temper that can go at any time.
The bottom line for me is that Barton is the archetypal bully. He’s a coward and a liar. To go from snarling, aggression to pathetic play-acting sums him up in a nutshell. His claims to van Persie and the referee that Gervinho had punched him were entirely false. And Barton knows fine well the difference between what happened yesterday and a punch. See here – and watch him lie his way through the aftermath that incident too.
In the end though, Arsenal lose Gervinho for three games, Barton gets away with it again and I have to say I wasn’t at all impressed with the amount of Arsenal players who found it in themselves to hug Barton at the end of the game. I know our reaction as fans is very different to that of players but we shouldn’t have gone near him. If he’s not capable of basic sportsmanship then he doesn’t deserve a handshake, let alone smiling hugs. Fuck him.
As for the football, there wasn’t a great deal to talk about or analyse. Arsenal had plenty of the ball but lacked the creativity to fashion clear cut chances – another reason why Cesc’s departure has to result in a foray into the transfer market. The couple of half-chances we got fell to Robin but his recent run of excellent form deserted him and he wasn’t quite sharp enough to take them on properly. Theo had a pretty decent opportunity too but the shot was easy for Krul. Beyond that we did little from an attacking point of view – and I have to say I think Bendtner would have been a decent option yesterday.
There was encouragement at the back though. I thought Vermaelen and Koscielny dovetailed very well, the latter in particular having a quietly efficient game, while it was really nice to see SZCZ dominate his area like that. For free kicks, crosses and corners he was assertive, came for the ball when necessary and won it every time. It’s in stark contrast to the way Arsenal keepers have performed in recent seasons. Almunia rarely came, preferring to stay on his line and I do wonder if this change in focus is part of what we’ve done to make ourselves more solid when defending set-pieces. If it is, it worked yesterday and added solidity.
Afterwards Arsene said:
Overall, we had a good performance. I can’t remember giving Newcastle a chance at goal and, away from home, you have to give credit to our team for that.
On paper a point away from home is not a bad result and there are definitely positives to be taken from it. On the other, that Newcastle side is pretty poor and the lack of creativity/attacking options were enough to have away fans break out the “spend some fucking money” song again. You have to say the bench looked pretty lightweight yesterday. Add to that the potential loss of Gervinho and Song for the next three league games and it could certainly have been a better day.
In other news this morning there’s nothing new about Cesc, nothing new about Nasri, and when it comes to potential transfers Arsene said after the game:
I am not against spending money if the players we buy can improve our squad. We have a big squad and if some players leave we will try to bring players in. We request top quality and we are not scared to spend money.
So, one paper links us with Cahill, another with Jagielka and you get the sense nobody has the first clue what’s going. Least of all The Mirror who run this quite ludicrous story about Bacary Sagna joining Sp*rs (it will never happen), but have used a picture of a blacked-up Wayne Rooney Photoshopped incredibly badly onto Sagna’s head. What is going on there?!
Answers on a postcard t0 firstname.lastname@example.org, I guess.
Right, that’ll have to do – have yourselves a good Sunday. Till tomorrow.