Newcastle United (1) – (1) Arsenal
St James’ Park, Newcastle
Last night I was frustrated.
Arsenal took a stunning lead when a perfect cross from Eboue found Adebayor in the centre, who chested the ball and emphatically smashed the ball into the net. It was a beautiful goal and came after only 3 minutes.
But after that Arsenal only threatened to score another, with Shay Given only making one save all night after the opening goal.
Without Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini and Van Persie in particular of the current absentees, Arsenal lack creativity and Rosicky was left to try and make things single-handedly.
So for me anyway, what followed was a frustrating and nervous game which was partly due to Arsenal’s lack of cohesion in the final third and Newcastle’s rough house tactics spearheaded by the direct Joey Barton and Alan Smith, two of England’s finest.
Credit to Newcastle, they took the game to Arsenal after the goal and at times Arsenal held on. Without any sort of imagination or creativity from the Geordies they resorted to the direct approach, something Allardyce is much more comfortable with from his days at Bolton.
I wonder how the home crowd will respond to seeing that game after game.
We had to defend cross after cross, and set-piece after set-piece.
But in the end, Arsenal held on for a point.
So what do I think a day after?
Well the fact was Arsenal had an off day, which is understandable after the amount of injuries we’ve had as well as our fixture schedule. And Arsenal have blessed us with some awesome football this season so they’re allowed to put in a poor performance or two.
Gilberto in particular looked rusty, and Eboue, Adebayor and Rosicky looked out of sorts without the influence of Fabregas’ passing and Hleb’s ball retention.
But the defence was resolute as ever, with Gallas, Toure, Sagna and Clichy digging deep for the cause. Almunia made a good save from a corner in the second half, and was exposed for the equaliser which he couldn’t really do much about.
So in the end, to be 4 points clear of Manchester United in December is an excellent position to be in.
It’s a sign of how far this squad have moved forward, when we’re disappointed with a point which puts us clear of the reigning champions.
If we played Newcastle a few weeks ago, when Liverpool and Portsmouth did last night’s starting eleven would have beaten them – easily. Unfortunately for us, the pressure was on the Geordies and they were always going to be hard to play against. I’ve seen Newcastle a few times this earlier this season and yesterday was one of the most impressive performances they’ve had this campaign. Which obviously doesn’t bode well if THAT was the best they can produce. For them it will be a long, long season with an extremely overrated manager.
I’d be surprised if he’s still there at the end of the season.
For Arsenal, they have a chance to put that performance behind them and kick on in December to fight for the top of the Premier League.