Newcastle 0 – 0 Arsenal: Thoughts and Player Ratings

August 14, 2011

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Subs:

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.

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Newcastle United vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven with Injury Update

August 13, 2011

Finally, we are set to see some football after a summer full of speculations. We are up against Newcastle United away from home. If anything, this is going to be a tough opener for us. The last time we didn’t come back in good shape from there and went on a roller coaster ride backwards. I don’t want to talk about that but I do pray that this time it isn’t the case. 

Although, I don’t think we will see the same theatrics this time, it will be an exciting encounter. Newcastle is known to attack which also leaves them vulnerable at the back. They will definitely try to hold and see how we shape up first. They will use the aerial ball and utilize the flanks, and if I am not wrong, mostly the left. Their midfield will try to frustrate us with petty fouls.

We only have to keep focus and do our job. We have the same problem at the back but if we can maintain good communication and the midfield stays close to defence, we may yet come out with the maximum and start our season on a high. Every one has to do their job properly, it’s this simple. Gervinho and Walcott’s pace might do wonders for us today if they are fed regularly with the ball.

The last time we dominated them both at home and away. Somehow we never won any of the games. Whatever we do today, we don’t have to lose concentration, even if we are 100 goals up.

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, we are sure to miss Wilshere as he has still not recovered from his injury. Ryo Miyaichi also won’t be involved as he is Japan.

With no Fabregas and Nasri, the options are pretty simple. The injury update given by Wenger on friday was very encouraging. We will have Van Persie, Gibbs, Walcott and Vermaelen back in the squad. The only missing person except Wilshere is Diaby, who frankly is always out, so it doesn’t make a difference.

Arsene Wenger’s injury update:

“Basically we have Wilshere injured, hopefully in the short-term. Diaby is not back before the end of August or the beginning of September. Everybody else should be available. Van Persie and Gibbs should be available. They have a test today [Friday]. Walcott will be back in the squad and so will Vermaelen.”

With all this in mind, I am pretty sure to see Van Persie partnered with Gervinho and Walcott up front.

The middle will be taken up by Song, Rosicky and Ramsey.

The defense will be mastered by Vermaelen alongside Koscielny. Sagna will surely start and on the left I will go with Traore as he can do a better job in defense than Gibbs (at the moment). And last but not the least, Szczesny will be in goal.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Traore, Song, Rosicky, Ramsey, Gervinho, Van Persie, Walcott

So, this is the first game and we need all our attention diverted to this. Transfer speculations will continue till the end of August but talking about them won’t help us much. These first 15 days are going to define our season. Wenger was right in saying in his press conference that he has to concentrate on players who can make a difference right now than to talk about players who won’t be involved.

“I believe the best thing for us, one day before the season starts, is not to focus on the possible transfers. What we want today is to focus on the players who play tomorrow and not the players who do not play.”

Let’s we hope we have everyone geared up and ready. Have a good day and enjoy the game. Hopefully we will start off with a bang.