Archive for the ‘Barton’ Category

Arsenal vs Newcastle: The Pantomime Villan Strikes Again

In Arsenal, Barton, Uncategorized, Wenger on August 14, 2011 at 12:17 am

Here we go again, another August, another new season complete with new levels of expectations.  Unfortunately for Arsenal fans the expectations aren’t as high as they should be and when you talk to fellow Gooners there certainly a great deal of apprehension in the air as to how high the team will finish come May next year.

The new opening fixture of the 2011/12 season was a tricky trip up to St. James park where the demons of one of the Premierships greatest ever giveaways need to be put to rest from last year.  Last years capitulation could be put down to the team being reduced down to 10 men following a petulant reaction by Abu Diaby to Joey Barton and you would like to think that it was impossible for lightening to strike twice(!).

The build up to today’s game had not been ideal, the pre-season outings had mixed fortunes with reasonably uninspiring performance against mediocre opposition, turbulent transfer speculation regarding the teams two most talented players as well as injuries to key players.  For a team of Arsenal’s calibre it can be perceived as being negligent to not be able to field a midfield with Nasri, Fabragas and Wilshire when only one of the three was legitimately injured.

In his pre-match interview with the ESPN dolly he admitted that he was nervy for the start of the season.  So are most of the fans!

The starting line up was as follows:


 Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs,

Ramsey, Song, Rosicky,

Arshavin, Gervinho, Van Persie

In fact, ESPN had the line-up as 4-3-3 but it most probably due to their technical inefficiency for displaying anything other than 4-3-3 or 4-4-2.  The line-up was more 4-5-1 with Arshavin and Gervinho acting as rotating wide men attacking from the midfield areas.

Whilst the starting line-up looked reasonable given the current situation, what will have concerned many fans was the lack of depth from the bench.   

Fabianski, Chamakh, Djourou, Frimpong, Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott

 There is very little strength across all the potential replacements who sat on the bench with 3 players potentially making their Premiership debuts if chosen.  If this truly the sign of a squad that has the intent of winning the Premiership and if not, who else other than Nasri and Fabreagas is willing to forego their season career for the development of younger team members to try to demonstrate their potential and “mental strength”?

And so onto the game……….oh yes, that!  All the build and my word neither of these teams were willing to take a strangle on the game.  In fact, the first half was a game of stereotypes with Arsenal having the lions share of the procession and Newcastle happy just to play a chasing game, sit back and absorb the pressure.  In fact, isn’t that the tactics most teams employ against us and hope to frustrate for 60 minutes and then hit on the break, score and then tried an defend for the remaining half hour?  Arsenal pretty much dominated most of the intial play and after 35 minutes that stats were showing that Arsenal has completed 201 passes versus just 69 for Newcastle.

In order to summarise the first half then half chances would be the best phrase.  Gervinho started comparatively brighter than anyone else on the pitch with some neat footwork and mazy runs but no end product.  On at least 3 occasions Gervinho managed to get past his nearest defender, attack the goal line but was unable to provide the final ball for that much-needed goal.  Whilst we may have a player who may actually be able to beyond the defensive line of the opposition the next killer ball/pass needs to be there in order to deliver the results that the teams play deserves.

So the first half passed with minor incidents with a lot of niggly play of which Song was booked for an alleged series of fouls culminating in Demba Ba diving and twisting like Tom Daley when hardly touched. 

Just prior to half-time, Arshavin could have done better with a poor pass to Gervinho that was intercepted by Colocinni when we had a 2 on 1 situation.  Just before half-time the little Russian maestro was nearly rewarded for a little bit a magic when he scooped the ball over the Newcastle defence into the path of RvP who was hustled off the ball by Stephen Taylor.

And it was in the second half that the game got a little more tasty. 

Despite a slow start that was similar to the first half things picked up following the first of two incident involving the pantomime villan, Joey Barton.  This time he played the part of the innocent victim of a rather cynical stamp from Alex Song.  In fact, Song does have a tendency for doing some silly things and he was extremely fortunate to remain on the pitch after stamping on Bartons achilles after play had stopped.  Song should be thankful that Theo was preparing to come on as a substitute as replays indicate that the stamp could not be seen directly by the referee and the fourth official was otherwise occupied by the number board in preparation for the imminent substitution. 

What was of interest was Barton’s response.  A precursor for things to come perhaps, where he initially went to the referee to try to force a decision that wasn’t seen by the official and then to the touch line to complain to someone who was playing away with buttons and numbers.  If it had been seen then Song would have been off and if there is nothing in the referees report then the incident is likely to be subject to review by the F.A. on Monday and in a likely act of having to look forceful at the beginning of the season a ban should be expected by Song.  Stupid considering our current plight.

However, it was the second incident involving Barton that will hit the headlines in the morning.  Gervinho attacked the Newcastle penalty box from the far left touchline and was clipped on the foot by one of their defenders.  As any experienced striker would do, Gervinho went down.  The referee didn’t take the bait and the game went on.  However, in his own intelligent way, Barton felt the need to haul Gervinho off the ground via the neck of his shirt and snarl his opinion of Gervinho’s actions.  Obviously, the expectations of the masses are that any grown man should just stand there and be shouted at and shaken by a small-minded fool and Gervinho, who most probably hadn’t been briefed on J. Barton upon arrival to the UK, reacted.

What has been interesting to see is that both Sir Alan of Shearer and Robbie Savage (who both love to play devils advocate against Arsenal) thought that the challenge on Gervinho was worthy of a penalty.  I do wonder what Kevin Keegan was watching at the time as he always seemed to site on the fence on ESPN and could not commit beyond “probably” to hint that Gervinho put his leg in the way to earn the foul.  How ridiculous as the foot that was caught was his standing foot!

However, the problem is that the reaction was actually quite trivial, handbags at five paces, a little argy bargie between players and a mild slap to the side of the head for Barton.  What was hysterical was the reaction.  The reaction was exaggerated beyond belief and if you watch the replay of the incident and keep an eye on the clock in the corner you’ll see that nearly as much as a full second passes between impact and reaction.  In the technical world this is known as Temporal Contiguity which was followed up by Ballistic Continuity (see link for more definition on how to spot a dive).

In terms of the referees action, for the first time in a while I have to agree with Arsene:

If he’s seen the incident, then why were there not two red cards?

As I’ve already alluded to, the referee was actually happy to let the initial incident pass but due to Barton’s intervention and Stephen Taylors blatant exaggeration of the truth the result was a red card for Gervinho.  There is slight confusion as to whether this was a straight red or two yellows (one for the dive, which would be odd, and the other for the altercation) but a ban is to be expected and if it’s for three full games then that covers Liverpool, Man Utd and Swansea. 

As I was mentioning the other day, Arsenal actually have a very important start to this season and to potentially lose Gervinho and Song along with Nasri, Cesc and Wilshire the heart of the squad has been completely ripped out.  It’s no wonder that the Arsenal fans told Arsene what they thought of the current situation.  To be honest this hasn’t changed since the final game of last season but we’re now 3 months on and nothing has changed.

After this, the game pretty much fizzled out to a stalemate conclusion with a final chance toward the end falling to RvP but he was too far out and too hasty with his shot for it to be meaningful.

So…………what can we tell from our first game of the season?  One things for sure, without any new signing or adequate replacement for obvious absentees it would seem that Arsene thinks that we are still in pre-season mode and we can coast to some early victories with the current squad.  Yes, the transfer window closes at the end of the month but before we reach that milestone we will have played two of our Premiership contenders having only bagged 1 point out of 3 to date.  Something need to happen desperately, some injection of enthusiasm and encouragement need to occur not within the fan base but also across the team and the club.  It was starkly evident that the current first XI were not quite ready yet and need something to help them click, it was as if the trauma of this week had rubbed off on their playing style and this need early correction.

What was confusing at the end was how the Arsenal players seemed to thing that it was appropriate for laughing and hug with Barton after the final whistle.  If I was Gervinho how would that make me feel?  Yes, these are all professional individuals playing a game week in and week out plying their trade.  But what has happened to team solidarity and fighting for the cause regardless of who the perpetrator might be.  That was disappointing to see.

Welcome back the first day of the Premier League.  It’s contentious, passionate and even entertaining despite a dull game.  This is why we love it, this is why we support our teams.  There’s a long way to go and stay tuned throughout!