Just like last season’s opener, Arsenal started the new EPL season with a draw and going a man down.
I missed the first 38 minutes of the game, for the first time in a very long time I missed some part of a season opening game. Even so, I didn’t miss much in terms of action. Apart from the theatrics of Joey Barton, which I will discuss later, it was a forgetful game that had nothing to offer in terms of quality in attack from both sides. Newcastle failed to threaten us throughout the game despite using lots of aerial balls. Szczesny was merely a spectator.
As far as Arsenal is concerned, it was an overall decent performance. In defense we performed exceptionally well and more than what I was expecting. We were first to almost all the aerial balls and cleared away the dangers early. The midfield also provided great support, especially Song. The back four plus the midfield deserve credit for such a sound defensive performance. Still we should not to get carried away as we will need to maintain this standard throughout the season.
On the other hand, offensively we were rather ordinary. We did have lots of possession but failed to create clear cut openings. What we did create were not taken. We lacked ideas in the middle and failed to maintain a high pace to our passing. The flanks weren’t properly used and the finals balls were clearly lacking quality.
Coming to the sending off of Gervinho and Barton’s disgraceful conduct. Do I don’t need to narrate the incident!? In short Gervinho went down in the box, Joey c**t Barton lost his temper, dragged Gervinho up aggressively using his shirt and then went down clutching his face as if struck by a bullet in the resulting fracas of players. The replays showed that Gervinho hand did touch Barton on the face when trying to get away from his clutches and other Newcastle players.
The referee, who I am sure didn’t see the incident then somehow made the stupidest decision in football that I have ever seen, now a standard in EPL. He sent off Gervinho and only gave a yellow to the instigator, Barton. I was dumbstruck at what had happened. It was either a red to both or a yellow, just like Arsene said after the game. It was never a red to one a yellow to the culprit.
I don’t want to say anything about Barton because you will always have players like him that don’t deserve to be on the pitch. As for Gervinho, he shouldn’t have reacted because that was what Barton wanted. Barton did it last season to us and he has done it again this season. Dealing with such players is only going to harm us. And this brings me to the point that we don’t learn from our mistakes.
As for Gervinho going down in the first place, the replays showed that he was clipped. Technically that should have been a penalty. However, I don’t want to see players going down this easily. I hate this when other players do it so it is not acceptable for one our players to do the same.
As for the Song stamp on Barton, I personally don’t want to see such incidents. Song should not have done it. He did get away with it in the game but we can lose him for three games if further action is taken on it.
Despite a decent performance, we need to improve a lot. We did miss Fabregas’ vision and we do need to replace him with someone who can do a job as well as him. The same is the case at the back.
I was again impressed by Gervinho. He sure has pace and he knows how to get away from defenders. He does need to improve his final ball and understanding with Van Persie though.
Rosicky, Arshavin and Ramsey need to take more responsibility and improve their work rate. Our game depends on quick passing and we certainly lacked that yesterday.
I was also glad to see Wenger making the right substitution at the right time. Bringing on Frimpong and Djourou near the end was necessary to end the game with a point.
We do need to control our emotions during the game as it can cost us in the long run. We are now going to face Manchester United and Liverpool without Gervinho and I hope not, Song.
A point away from home is good enough but, as I said before, we need to improve. We have to keep working hard as lots of work needs to be done still. A few more recruitment will really give us a boost.
Coming to player ratings
Szczesny: (6.5) Didn’t have much to do as Newcastle hardly had a shot on goal. Managed to catch and punch every ball that went down his way.
Koscielny: (8) Great performance from the Frenchman. Didn’t put a foot wrong. Read the game nicely and was always early to the ball and cleared the danger. Was also good in the air and covered well for Vermaelen.
Vermaelen: (7.5) Overall a good game for him but still needs time to get back to his best. Lost his man a couple of times and missed a few headers. Otherwise didn’t give space to the Newcastle forwards.
Sagna: (7) Solid performance as usual. Was caught napping on one occasion in the second half and still needs to improve his crossing.
Gibbs: (7) He also performed well and more than my expectations. Was always ready to attack and defensively showed composure. He was outsmarted a couple of times quite easily though. Needs to improve his positioning.
Song: (7) Another one who put on a great show. Shielded the defense well and was always pressing. Moving forward he produced one great ball in the second half. The stamp on Barton was, however, uncalled for and needs to reduce the number fouls he commits.
Ramsey: (5) He had an on-and-off game. Gave away the ball in dangerous positions but his pressing was better. Needs to improve his stamina as he looked tired near the end.
Rosicky: (5.5) His movement with the ball was good and looked lively but lacked the killer pass and then he disappeared near the end. Needs to take more responsibility and improve his work rate.
Arshavin: (6) He looked lively from where I started watching the game but then became anonymous. Produced a great ball in the dying minutes of the first half. He too needs to increase his work rate and take more responsibility.
Van Persie: (6) Was missing his killer touch in front of goal, should have scored on Arshavin’s pass. Was good on the free kick and provided good support in defense.
Gervinho: (6.5) Produced an impressive performance, not taking into account the red card. Showed his pace and skill with the ball. He was a continuous threat on the flanks but his final pass needs improvement as said above.
Walcott (6) looked rusty and missed one of the better chances to score. Frimpong (6) came in and provided good support in the middle. Djourou (no rating), despite coming in stoppage had, had an opportunity to make an impact, was let down by his pass.Follow @Rgunners