Newcastle 0 – Arsenal 0: Barton and the Ref the Talking Points AgainBy: Lachlan | August 13th, 2011
Except for the lack of goal scoring, this game reminded us quite a bit of the one at Newcastle last year. So let’s get right to the controversy, shall we? In about the 75th minute, Gervinho made a move in the box, and was clearly fouled. It was one of those where if it’s outside the box, it’s an easy foul call. But yet when it’s in the box, the game quite often rolls on. Anyway, Barton was apparently upset that Gervinho had the nerve to fall down after being tripped, and he grabbed Gervinho by the shirt pretty aggressively. Gervinho responded with a light face slap, which caused Barton to fall as though he were hit by a freight train. It would have made Rivaldo proud, I’m sure. Anyway, the ref got that one wrong on a couple of fronts, and so I’m sure fans will feel aggrieved once again. I don’t feel quite the same way, for reasons I’ll discuss a little later. But if there would have been an immediate penalty call, then I don’t think Barton would have the time or chance to start the melee in the first place. We’d have gone to the spot with a chance for a 1-0 lead. Instead, play continued, and Barton was able to start the fracas while the ref had apparently turned away. So the ref either missed Barton’s initial actions, plus his blatant fakery, or the ref felt all of that only merited a yellow card. Either way, it was a tough result for us at that point. From there on, we made merely defensive substitutions, and basically tried to hold on for one point.
Now, before I’m labeled as too much of an Arsenal homer here, I’ll present the other side of the coin. In the 59th minute, Song got away with a clear stamp on the back of (who else?) Barton’s leg. Song was already carrying a yellow at the time, and I have no idea what he was doing. He easily should have been sent off right there. If the ref had gotten that one correct, then perhaps the game would have changed at that point, and the Gervinho incident would never have happened. Either way, one could argue that the bad calls ended up roughly even, so I don’t want to blame this on the ref entirely. Furthermore, there’s still no excuse for the actions of Song and Gervinho. I get that Barton can be a jerk, and I get that he totally flopped when touched by Gervinho. Still, that sort of thing happens all the time. We have to keep in control of our emotions.
We started with a fairly predictable formation and lineup. I’ve heard it described as a 4-2-3-1, along with other descriptions. With Rosicky and Ramsey in the middle, I would probably describe it as more of a 4-1-4-1. Perhaps Rosicky was a bit more advanced in his position than Ramsey, but Song was really our only true defensive midfielder. Gervinho and Arshavin started out on the wings, and switched sides a number of times during the match.
The first half looked like many matches we’ve seen in previous years – generally in control, owning the majority of the possession and chances, but without a real breakthrough. According to ESPN’s stats, we had 70% of the first half possession, with three corner kicks, and the bulk of the chances. At the other end, Wojo looked strong and in control, with a couple of key punches to safety.
Our chances began with a Rosicky shot early on that went a few feet wide. In the 18th minute, RvP fired from close range, but it was deflected out for a corner. I thought our best potential chance came in the 27th, when a pass forward broke Arshavin open for a 2-on-1 with a lone defender back. I thought he should have dribbled forward more, to make the defender commit one way or another. However, he immediately tried the long, forward pass, which was intercepted, and so we wasted that one. In the 31st minute, Koscielny had a header cleared off the line, so that may have been our best chance. And finally, in the 43rd minute, Arshavin made up for his previous wasted chance with a beautiful lofted pass that landed at RvP’s feet, but van Persie did nothing with it. And so the half ended with a whimper at 0-0.
In the second half, rather than creating even more chances, it seemed to me that we fell off the pace a bit. Newcastle had more possession, although still not many clear chances. Their best chance of the whole match may have been Cabaye on a half-chance in the box in the 61st.
Our best chance may have been the RvP free kick in the 55th that went just over the bar. Theo had a decent shot in the 64th that Krul did well to control. And Djourou of all people had a chance to lead a breakaway in the dying moments, but his pass was poor, Theo mishandled it in the end, and the chance came to nothing. Other than that, we didn’t threaten too much. The final stats show 11 Arsenal shots, but only 2 on goal.
Overall, I think we’d have to look at this more like two points dropped, rather than one point gained. While you could argue that with our current injuries and uncertainties, a draw isn’t too bad away from home. But still, much of our roster problems are our own doing, I would have to say. We knew a long time ago the season started on August 13, and I would have liked to believe we would be more ready. There were some positives to take from it, such as the back four plus Wojo. And just the fact we kept an opponent off the scoreboard, which has been a rarity lately. But still, teams that win titles generally find a way past the Newcastles of the world, and this is another indication that our current lineup isn’t suited to win big things. With Gervinho out due to suspension for a couple of key matches, perhaps that will heighten the realization that we need a few more players. But that’s a blog for another day, I suppose.
On to the ratings:
Wojo – 6. I would have rated him higher, because he really didn’t do any wrong. And I’m sure a goalie getting a yellow isn’t cause for alarm in the long run. But still, there is a lack of discipline that pervades the roster at times. Why does he need to run to the other end of the field to get involved in that mess? Anyway, I’m probably being harsh. It was a solid performance, without a whole lot to do.
Sagna – 7.5. A few crosses went off target, and he had a left-footed shot that went way over the bar. Or at least I think it was a shot. Still, for me, if you’re a member of the back four, your primary job is to not allow goals. So a job well done in that area, again.
Vermaelen – 7.5. Same comment as with Sagna and the others. He did pick up a yellow, but at least it was for defending and not anything crazy. It’s good to see him back in the lineup. Dare I say that it’s like a new signing?
Koscielny – 8. Man of the Match. When a game ends 0-0, it seems natural that the man of the match should be a goalie or defender. He had a header cleared off the line in the first half. Other than that, Kos wasn’t super noticeable, but didn’t make any mistakes either. A very assured performance overall.
Gibbs – 7.5. He, like Sagna, did well in defending. The yellow he picked up was a bit harsh. And a few crosses could have been better. Still, let’s hope he stays healthy and continues on like this.
Song – 4.5. He did his role well, in terms of breaking up attacks and such. But still, he should have been sent off, so I’ll rate him accordingly. That’s the sort of thing that costs teams points and possibly titles.
Ramsey – 6. A central midfielder needs to be more noticeable, unlike defenders. He didn’t make any major blunders that I recall, but didn’t slice open the defense either. If only we had a true playmaker in the middle, a “rudder” sort of player…
Rosicky – 5.5. I like the guy, but still don’t think he’s good enough to really create goals. He had a good chance to shoot at the very beginning, but missed by several feet. I don’t remember too many other big moments from him.
Arshavin – 5.5. Subbed off in the 61th minute. As already mentioned, he wasted one good chance, but created another that RvP couldn’t do much with. I don’t recall any other magic today other than that.
Gervinho – 4. Even before “the incident,” I was thinking that he’s probably going to be about like Walcott. Which isn’t a terrible thing, but also means he’s probably not a world class sort of player either. He did a lot of running and trying to create, but time and again, the last ball was off target. The ref did miss the foul in the box, and I can understand wanting to take a shot at Barton in that situation. Still, you just can’t do that. Can’t.
Van Persie – 5.5. It just wasn’t clicking today for some reason. If one wanted to defend RvP, one could argue that the service was lacking. But the few times he had chances, or took corners, there wasn’t much to it. The free kick that sailed just over was the best chance he had, but there wasn’t enough beyond that. We needed him to be our star in the absence of others, but he didn’t get that done for us today.
Walcott – 6. He did fire off a nice shot in the 64th that could have created a rebound chance. But other than that, not much from him.
Frimpong – No rating. He came on late to salvage a draw, and didn’t do a whole lot.
Djourou – No rating. He came on very late, and as already noted, he didn’t do well with the chance he could have created. Still, it’s hard to blame a central defender for not opening up the defense on a counterattack.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:7.