Reflections on Newcastle

By on September 1, 2008
The joy is back.

van Persie congratulates Nasri for "slicing down" Joey Barton.

Arsenal confirmed that they are back on track with a definitive 3-nil dismantling of Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle at the Emirates on Saturday.  This definitive result followed on the heels of their 4-nil victory in midweek over another England failure, Steve McClaren and his new Dutch side, FC Twente.  Arsenal needed to make statement Saturday afternoon following their dismal showing at Craven Cottage last weekend and they now head into the always disruptive international break with their confidence restored.  Will Saturday’s performance settle the supporter’s nerves?  Most still expect the Boss to make one more signing before the transfer window closes on Monday night but it is not at all certain that that will happen.

The team found its way back to style Saturday afternoon and Newcastle paid the price with their third consecutive 3-nil defeat at the hands of the Gunners.  van Persie’s two goals were a bit overdue and though he came off due to injury, reports claim that he will be fit enough to go on international duty this week.  Though Adebayor’s scoreless streak remained unbroken, he played a key role in setting up both of the open play goals.  Of course, the miss following two great passes from Fabregas and van Persie to set him free in the box tends to stick in the mind.

Perhaps, the biggest surprise of the afternoon was Arsenal supporters finally seeing in Emmanuel Eboue what the Boss has apparently seen in him this whole time.  Eboue had the best match in midfield that I can remember him having.  His runs were threatening, as they were at Fulham, but what he’s always lacked in his midfield role is intelligence in decision making.  Denilson finally made something of a claim on the DM spot after a few very sub-par performances in the opening weeks.  His passing was much improved over the Fulham match (though it would’ve been a real challenge to top that performance for passing ineptitude) and his decision making was also far more sound.

On the left, it looks like it’s gonna be very hard for Tomas Rosicky to get back into the side if and when he ever gets healthy.  Samir Nasri has proven in the opening weeks that he is a true Premiership quality player and both is overall adjustment and his understanding with Gael Clichy are already sufficiently developed.  He also showed he had the ability, like Hleb, to hold the ball in the midfield and his coolness in the box with his back to goal and a defender hanging on him saw him take two touches and find Adebayor who set up Denilson for the third goal.  Fabregas seems as though he’s just about back to full match sharpness and the team’s movement as a whole seems to be finding its stride which makes these international breaks all the more disconcerting – especially when they are followed by away trips to Blackburn and Kiev.

Regarding the two incidents from Saturday’s match, I must say that Kevin Keegan deserves an Oscar award for the two outrageous claims he made after the match with an absolutely straight face.  First, he claimed that the penalty on N’Zogbia was weak because he was only “two feet away.”  The replays show not only that the defender was much farther away than “two feet” but also that he not only raised his arm (a stupid mistake by a defender in that situation) but also that he moved it in the direction of the ball.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s intentional or not, it’s still a penalty and Keegan should know that.

The second is his claiming that Joey Barton, following his very rough challenge, was “sliced down” by Samir Nasri.  Replays show Keegan to be wrong once again.  Nasri barely clipped Barton’s heel as he was running away which sent him to the ground flat on his ass… oh wait, that was his face.  Perhaps he didn’t see the full recklessness of Barton’s initial challenge which he only got away with because he was lucky enough to get some of the ball.  Joey Barton the hack was then followed by an appearance by Joey Barton the punk (as it usually is) as he smiled at Nasri following the tackle.  For Keegan to complain that Barton was treated unfairly or played roughly is the absolute height of irony.  It was irresponsible on Keegan’s part for playing him in the first place with an FA hearing pending on Friday.  The key thing to keep in mind wasn’t that Barton was targeted by Nasri but that he was being retaliated against – being targeted implies Barton didn’t bring it on himself.

Arsenal now have two weeks off following which we will make the trip to Blackburn who despite the positives drawn from their opening day win at Everton have since drawn Hull at home and got demolished by West Ham 4-1 this weekend.  In other fixture news, Arsenal’s third round match in the Carling Cup against Sheffield United will take place on Tuesday, September 23rd at 7:45pm at the Emirates.