Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1 Saturday 29 August 12.45pm
Arsenal: Coloccini (own goal) 52
With a great feeling around the place after a solid showing at Old Trafford and professional job against Northampton, a sour taste was left in the mouth as a combination of vindictive officiating and self-destruction saw us head to the international break in the bottom three.
The tone for this game was set early on, as referee Andre Marriner showed Sissoko the first yellow after only a couple of minutes. However, we were then actually the beneficiaries of one of his appalling decisions, as Thauvin’s heavy challenge on Bellerin looked a clear penalty. Play went on and we had got away with it – for all of ten minutes.
The stories of Mitrovic being a ticking time bomb waiting to be sent off will be filling plenty of news space. He has a good month on the sidelines and whatever your view on this incident, there’s no doubt that we have a temperament issue that needs to be addressed.
However, the excess of hysteria around this incident….and the tone was set for the officiating performance that followed.
As a high ball dropped, Mitrovic had his eye on it and was going for the ball, no doubt there. Coquelin got there first and nipped it away, and the Serbian caught him with his follow through.
However, the follow through involved studs up straight into the shin, which is both dangerous play and not how you would control a football if it had been there. The Arsenal player showed a sign of things to come by rolling round the floor in faux agony as our new striker took the pond walk amid protestations from his team mates.
While there was a clear case against Mitrovic, the following decisions made by Marriner were just awful, with Mbemba booked for nothing more than strong defensive play and, worst of all, a criminal booking for Thauvin who put a lovely sliding tackle in to win the ball from Coquelin.
The (Arsenal) Frenchman endeared himself to the home crowd further by performing a physics defying dive into the air complete with sharply thrust-back head movement that Marriner was stupid enough to fall for.
Despite the man advantage and the lion’s share of possession, Arsenal were struggling to make the breakthrough as our welcome new defensive discipline continued on from the defiance of Old Trafford.
When the Gunners did get through, Tim Krul was showing the kind of imperious form that suggested he was not going to be beaten today.
He made an excellent full length drive to stop a fizzing shot from Sanchez, only to parry the ball to the onrushing Walcott. With an open goal at his mercy, the out of sorts Walcott managed to shin the ball high into the Leazes end in one of the misses/let offs of the season so far.
Danger signs were there though and there was an air of inevitability when the Gunners took the lead early in the second half.
Of course there was controversy though, as it seemed Arsenal ran the ball out of play early in the move. Krul was again equal to Ramsey’s shot, beating it away as far as Oxlade-Chamberlain whose speculative drive was actually going wide before Coloccini unfortunately diverted it in via the post.
A difficult job now seemed impossible, but Marriner’s continuing influence was making things even harder. When an Arsenal player did finally go into the book (Cazorla) it was followed up with an inexplicable booking for Wijnaldum, possibly for congratulating him on his fine sense of balance and fair play in a less than authentic fashion.
United shows some positive signs of trying to salvage something with attacking substitutions in the form of Cisse, Perez and De Jong, but still the afternoon passed without a shot on goal. For Arsenal, the sight of Olivier Giroud limbering up for yet another goal against Newcastle was not welcome, but the excellent Krul was equal to his best effort.
The final booking from Marriner, in injury time, may have been the most bizarre of the lot, as he seemingly reversed a Newcastle free kick and whimsically booked Coloccini into the bargain, with the crowd now going absolutely mental.
It seems that Marriner had an agenda of not being intimidated by the home crowd and went over the top in enforcing this. Also, if anyone thinks we gave Arsenal a kicking in this game, it’s nothing compared to the relative kicking NUFC have had in some areas of the media for being on the wrong end of this game.
I obviously didn’t hear Robbie Savage’s commentary for BT sport, but the response from the Twitterati made it clear what sort of angle we had from a player whose own unspectacular career involved more than its share of studs up tackles and gamesmanship.
Similarly, how anyone in football can condone Martin Keown’s comments that Arsenal didn’t whine enough at a referee, that gave them everything anyway, is beyond me. You’d think he’d want to distance himself from the ugly image of him roaring in Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s face that is so often synonymous with poor sportsmanship.
For the visitors, Arsenal are a side I find fairly inoffensive most of the year. They play good football, have built a structure instead of buying success and their impressive ground is a personal favourite for an away trip.
However, when you play them it serves as a reminder of just how annoying they can be. Not averse to a sly kick or dirty challenge themselves, the amount of embarrassing play acting that goes on is straight out of early 90’s Serie A. Coquelin in particular is not considered a good bloke anymore round Tyneside.
Finally, to NUFC, who showed spirit again but have only 2 points from a tricky opening four games. There was a rapturous reception for McLaren and he team at the end despite this lowly position, as the considerable effort being shown was acknowledged.
The pride in the shirt so lacking under Pardew and Carver seems to be back and the crowd staying with the team so strongly will hopefully continue through the season, enforcing the fact that Newcastle fans only want a team that tries their best, as opposed to ridiculous media myths of unrealistic expectations.
Unfortunately, Sunday brought news that Cisse’s agent is spoiling for a move for his boy, having fallen behind Mitrovic for a starting spot. If this is a one in- one out job it may be an exciting transfer deadline day, but with 0 shots on target in two games and Mitrovic having a few games to sit and think about what he’s done, it’s something that needs sorting ahead of a promising season.
These are the key stats as provided by BBC Sport;
Possession was 26% Newcastle and 74% Arsenal
Total shots was 1 for Newcastle and Arsenal 22
Shots on target was Newcastle 0 and Arsenal 9
While corners was Newcastle 0 and Arsenal 9
Player ratings totals below from fans so far, add yours and then press submit.
Team: Darlow, Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Haidara, Colback, Anita (Perez 72), Sissoko (Cisse 78), Wijnaldum, Thauvin (de Jong 87), Mitrovic
Unused Subs: Darlow, Taylor, Tiote, Obertan
Ref: Andre Marriner
Crowd: 50,388 (3,200 Arsenal)