Monday, September 01, 2008

Welcome back Harry

Arsenal 3 – 0 Newcastle Utd

Well, I think we all knew it was too good to last.

Our promising opening to the season was curtailed in clinical fashion by a slick, fluid Arsenal performance which would have been enough to beat us even if we hadn’t welcomed our old friend Harry Kari back into defence. All that prevented us from being on the wrong end of a cricket score was another brilliant display from Shay Given, the only Newcastle player to emerge with any credit other than perhaps Jonas Gutierrez, who did at least demonstrate his determination to make lung-busting runs in the performance of his defensive duties as well as in forward areas.

The Irishman had already made one superlative save, pushing Kolo Toure’s low shot round the post, when a penalty was awarded against Charles N’Zogbia for handball, a decision we had no grounds to protest about but did so anyway. Unfortunately for us van Persie placed his spot kick right in the corner, Given unable to repeat last Saturday’s heroics against Bolton.

A second followed shortly before half time, Emmanuel Eboue slipping the ball inside for van Persie to crash a shot into the roof of the net from close range. A Dutch double, then – and it looked as though double Dutch was what our defenders were talking to each other. Presumably glad of the opportunity to evade further embarrassment, Jose Enrique limped off shortly after, to be replaced by Sebastian Bassong.

It was the same story after the break, the only surprise being the fact that the ball only found its way into our net once more, some particularly clownish defending letting Denilson in for a shot which skimmed off the underside of Steven Taylor’s foot.

The "things could have been so different" brigade (of which I’m occasionally a member) will no doubt point to Michael Owen’s shot which supposed strike partner Shola Ameobi helpfully deflected wide of the post when it was 1-0, and to Nicky Butt’s shouldered effort which diverted yet another poor corner onto the face of Manuel Almunia’s crossbar before Denilson sealed the victory.

But that papers over the facts that we were second best in every department (up front, where Owen was on medium wave and Ameobi on his own unique frequency, as well as in defence and midfield), that van Persie very nearly completed his hat-trick with a rocket smashed off the underside of the bar from an audacious angle, and that Given was forced to come to our rescue repeatedly. Little wonder, then, that up in the stands Mike Ashley felt the need to drown his sorrows by downing a pint in 13 seconds.

And just when I thought the evening couldn’t get much more depressing, on came a grinning Joey Barton for his rehabilitation…

True, a bit of perspective wouldn’t go amiss. The fact remains that if we’d been offered four points from an opening three fixtures which included trips to Old Trafford and the Emirates, we’d have taken them gladly. We’ve got those two games out of the way early and only been outclassed in one of them. There’s no denying, though, that Ashley and King Kev need to pull some rabbits out of hats before the transfer window closes tonight.

An Arsenal fan’s perspective: East Lower

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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