So much in this club is fractious, decaying and depressing that the events on the pitch are a secondary concern, miserable form adding an extra strain of glum to the dreary desolate overall picture.

The protest outside the club’s resident Sports Direct store was the big story today. Pressure being increased on Mike Ashley in a terrible week for him that had prompted some petulant outbursts as his cash cow at SD starts to look decidedly unstable. Great timing by the Magpie group to crank up negative publicity then, with a display outside the ground sure have its numbers swelled due to  passers by adding their voice to the chorus on their way to the ground.

Some people haven’t seen it like that unfortunately and I’ve seen potshots at the organisers, the group and the entire concept on social media. For my part I find it unacceptable that anyone could think the club can continue without a strategy to remove Ashley and the continuing efforts of this group are to be applauded and supported. If you disagree with the nature of the action join in the discussion, you’ll be welcome. Divisions among the fans will absolutely play into the hands of the ownership.

Inside the ground it’s different, weird even. There seems to be an agreed amnesty where support for Rafa and the team is priority, with anti-Ashley chants surfacing as the match progresses. Even then there is a sense that hearts aren’t in it as I personally can’t help but feel like everyone in there is sat thinking of something they’d rather be doing, possibly in preparation for a mass desertion next season.

The fact that we’ve had big, tough, horrible clubs in each of our three home openers has helped sour the milk a bit. Arsenal could be argued to be in transition in their first post-Wenger season and less of a threat than recent visitors, but they still had an ominously superior starting eleven.

First half was actually encouraging, as United caused me to regret not having a spread bet on the amount of corners gained. Despite some probing testing play to earn these, there was very little in the way of actual goal threats. When one corner was overhit, Yedlin’s fine return ball split the defence and allowed Murphy to power a header across goal. With two United players waiting for an easy finish, Cech dived to desperately shove the ball away, an action that would turn out to be the only thing he was needed to do today.

It’s fair to say Newcastle were better first half and controlled the game. Unfortunately, this was to be a classic game of two halves. This was almost certainly prompted by the withdrawal of the United captain at half time in an extremely worrying development.

I have seen some fine players act as conductors for Newcastle teams in the past, with the likes of Rob Lee and Yohan Cabaye capable of launching a stunning team performance if in form themselves, or seeing their own off days magnified by the rest of the side. However, I have never seen a team as Jekyll and Hyde as the current Newcastle team is, with or without Jamaal Lascelles.

Lascelles seems to act as superglue for the relative misfits in black and white. He can hold them together as a coherent unit to an impressive extent, but take him out and the implosion is spectacular, as evidenced within the confines of a single game today. I’m sure people will say this is not the decisive factor I’m building it up to be, but look at our record last season with/without him.

Anyway, the rejigged set-up never got going, invited pressure and allowed Arsenal to take the lead within four minutes. To be fair, Xhaka’s free kick was an excellent effort into the top corner, although Dubravka seemed to get tantalising close.

There were mutterings against Rafa here, as our most likely attacking threats of Shelvey and Rondon remained ensconced in the sub shack as the game drifted away. Arsenal passed us to death and Lacazette’s blocked effort broke to Ozil who made it 2-0.

Kenedy appeared from the bench to little acclaim and I was unsure whether this was a critique of his ill-advised remarks about hoping to win things back at Chelsea soon, or a reflection of the general apathy around the place. Muto looked OK after replacing Ritchie, contributing for Perez to cross onto Joselu’s head, forcing a sharp save from Cech.

Shamefully and in lieu of the unemployed talent on the bench, it was our two centre halves who combined to score a canny goal, Fernandez producing a great cross for Clark to bullet header past Cech. It was already injury time though and we had no chance.

There’s two ways of looking at this.

Four defeats from five but no humiliation against top six mainstays in spite of our meagre means, you could look forward and say the season starts next week as the fixture list starts to look less ominous.

If you were feeling pessimistic, which I bet you probably are, you could say we’re in the middle of a club wide black cloud that can’t be lifted and is certain to translate onto the pitch. We’ll know soon, but it already feels like we’re embroiled in more than one fight.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2


Newcastle: Clark 90+1

Arsenal: Xhaka 49, Ozil 58

Possession was Arsenal 64% Newcastle 36%

Total shots were  Arsenal 12 Newcastle 4

Shots on target were Arsenal 2 Newcastle 2

Corners were  Arsenal 4 Newcastle 10

Referee: Lee Probert

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles (Clark 46), Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie (Muto 79), Diame, Hayden, Murphy (Kenedy 69), Perez, Joselu

Unused Subs:

Darlow, Manquillo, Rondon, Shelvey

Crowd: 52,165 (3,200 Arsenal approx)

(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2 – Read HERE)

(A third relegation in 10 years on the cards? Read HERE)

(Phil Thompson had some strong views on the match – Read HERE)

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

To feature like Jamie Smith submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here

  • robbersdog

    Stories in the papers today (including the Chronicle) about how NUFC might be launching its own crypto-currency (Geordie Bitcoin) to raise £15m to buy a player.

    If it was going to raise £100m to improve the squad, then we could get excited, but if we need to engage in some crackpot scheme to raise a lousy £15m, then things are even worse than we thought.

    • SuperDesHamilton

      Remember when Coca-cola done a competition in the lower leagues the winner getting a player bought for 250k. Brighton won & they got Kazim-Richards the coca-cola kid. This is worse than that

      • Toontaff

        We can have The Broon-Ale Boy!

        • SuperDesHamilton

          Least his excuse for being s#### would be he’s drunk

          • Kev Newcastle England

            I just dont care anymore its a relief when not on TV so dont have to watch

      • Ram Kishore

        This token thing is stupid ig.

        • SuperDesHamilton

          I would take this with a pinch of salt Ram

          • Ram Kishore

            Chronicle just put up an update it was just the Sportyco firm trying to gain some publicity

          • SuperDesHamilton

            Aye the chronicle like to make a mountain out of mole hill

    • Steven05

      Really? It’s the first I’ve heard about that.

      How much lower can this scum be? Surely a scheme like that should embarrass him more?

    • Steve Smith

      Wouldn’t put it past the fat man.

      Thetimes co uk/article/newcastle-united-and-cardiff-city-may-launch-currencies-rtkhr579j

    • Wezza

      MA will be saying again that we don’t make enough money.
      To that I’d say where is the 123M TV Money Mike?

      • HarryHype59

        In one of his “special accounts”.

    • mactoon

      How would that work? Fans pay money to get crypto currency and how does the money generated get to Rafa to spend on players?

      • robbersdog

        Perhaps Newcastle fans will be able to buy Slazenger socks (2 x packs for four quid) at Sports Direct with our new crypto-currency.

      • Steve Smith

        Initial coin offering e.g. 20 million coins for £2.50 each to generate fcb £50m. Fans (and mackems) buy as many as they want.

        Every season we then see things like “vote for the colour of next season’s third kit, only 5 coins per vote”

        “Vote for the name of the stadium next season, either sjp or sd arena. Only 20 coins per vote”

        Next season all the recouped coins are then resold again for a price reflecting their popularity.

        • mactoon

          I’m obviously being stupid but if I buy £1000 of coins how does that give money to Rafa without ashley putting it into the nufc accounts?

          • Steve Smith

            No money goes to Rafa. It all disappears to the same place as all the other money. This would just be another cash grab from Ashley.

    • Jezza

      Fatso would pocket the £15 million anyway.

      • HarryHype59

        True, along with the £126m TV money and £40m transfer profits.

    • Superdooperhooper

      Something is seriously wrong when a club in the richest league in the world
      that gets 52000 fans every home game has to do this to raise 15m. Surely sky bt the premier league and the fa should be demanding some answers from fatty and his minions

  • Phildene

    And you’re sitting in the stadium Jamie?! You’re part of the problem mate!?how hypocritical!

  • Kenny

    the f##kers protest then go to the game in their new shirts bought from the
    Fat Rats shop, that is me finished attending anymore protests.

    • mentalman

      i work with a lot of guys from all over the uk with no affiliation to the club and the one thing they all mentioned about the protest was the protesters wearing this seasons shirts. The little i’ve seen of the protest in the media has photos of fans wearing the new shirts.

      It was the same with the walk outs, all my collegues talked about was how there was two different walk outs and that the organisers couldn’t get together and have one big walk out.

      If people are going to protest it needs to get more organised and be a bit more media savvy with it all.

    • glassjawsh-got-banned

      dumb. keep going. there needs to be people with sense still attending the protests.

  • BanJones

    If and when Rafa goes it is Heaton Stan and the Northern League for me, i’ll still look for the Toon’s results but won’t return until Fatty has gone. Until then I am waiting for an organised boycott before I don’t go as my ticket cost me 720 effin squid.

  • wheyayeman

    Whatever your take on how we protest we ought to be fairly unanimous that we do so and in a variety of ways. You are entitled to protest with a club bought shirt on or not. Regardless the main message must be Ashley Out.

  • Spoon_Army

    I sensed an air of indifference amongst fans as I left the ground. There are no surprises with this team. To be out of one cup and in a relegation battle before the middle of September is not a surprise. Looking forward to May 2019.