Sunday, 14 August 2011

Newcastle round-up -Wenger targets £12m Fabregas replacement -Jagielka/Cahill bids imminent

Morning Gooners.

Well that was eventful wasn't it! Not the result we were all hoping for but at least we didn't lose. I'm glad that football is back. The real game rather than those meaningless matches we play in Pre-Season which don't matter what so ever.

Last night's game is where we can see what really matters and coming away with a draw - the same result we got last season at St James Park - isn't the end of the world. Especially when you have Joey Barton refereeing the game as well as playing for the opposition.

The manager made one change from the team which was defeated in our final pre-season friendly against Benfica. The injured Laurent Koscielny replacing Johan Djourou in the heart of our defence. Tomas Rosicky was preferred to partner Alex Song in the deep lying midfield role and Andrey Arshavin kept his place in the  team, with the returning Theo Walcott having to be satisfied with a place on the bench. New signing Gervinho was handed his first team Premier League debut, while Robin van Persie passed a late fitness test.

The first half saw us dominate possession.  It's what we'd expect really. There were few clear cut chances. In fact the statistics showed at half time neither side had force their opposition goalkeeper into making a save. We lacked the penetration which showed at the back end of last season when we relied too heavily on the goals of van Persie. The Dutchman had several half chances, the best when the ball pin balled around the box and the striker had to hit the ball first time right-footed with a defender on rushing. However the ball was wide of the target.

We created several chances. Gervinho and Andrey Arshavin impressing on the wings. But there was no penetration of the Newcastle back line which forced a save. The Arsenal defence didn't have that much to do and though. When they were called into action Koscielny and Vermaelen were up to everything which was thrown at them. Wojciech Szczesny was commanding in his penalty area.

Probably our best chance at getting the ball over the line was when Koscielny beat Tim Krul to Rosicky’s corner but the Frenchman saw his effort smashed clear off the line. Minutes from the break a neat Arshavin flick saw him put van Persie clear however the ball didn't bounce kindly for the striker and the danger was cleared.

So all square at the break. Arsenal just seemed to be lacking that guile in the final third we need to break teams down.

A van Persie free kick in the opening ten minutes of the second half after Sagna had been felled was just over the bar. Ten inches lower and Arsenal would have been in front.

Alex Song got caught up in a tangle with Barton and should have been sent off for stampting on the Englishman. He was stood next to the player as Barton rolled on the floor expecting to see the referee brandish a red card. However the referee didn't see the incident so we'll be expecting a trial by TV for Song who will no doubt be banned for at least three league matches.

Wenger made Arsenal's first change 60 minutes into the match. The impressive Arshavin being the man replaced by Walcott.  The Englishman had a good chance to put Arsenal into the lead but his shot was smothered by Krul.

The momentum was all with Arsenal however the game changing even happened in the 75th minute when Gervinho was felled in the box. Referee Peter Walton was staring straight at the incident and gave neither a penalty nor a free kick for Newcastle for the Ivorian's "dive".

He didn't dive. He was clipped as he changed direction in the box and the correct decision would have been to award Arsenal a penalty.  However the official let play go on and turned his back as his fifth official Barton hauled Gervinho to his feet by the collar..

Quite understandably the Ivorian took exception to this man handling. And in the resulting melee, Gervinho slapped Barton who went down. Of course Walton saw the incident and was helped by Steven Taylor saying our man had elbowed Barton. Red card Gervinho, yellow card Barton.

Newcastle's tactics had to try and get an Arsenal player sent off. And they had achieved their aim. There were few chances created after the sending off. Djourou won the ball back and quickly counter attacked in the final minutes but his final ball to Walcott let him down and the danger was snuffed out.

We finished the game with 10 men, we'll now be without Gervinho for the league matches against Liverpool, Manchester United and Bolton. Song will probably miss those games as well. Not the best of starts discipline wise, but at least we didn't lose and we kept a clean sheet.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
"I thought we had a solid performance and were in control. Newcastle had last season’s 4-4 more in their mind than we did. They organised not to concede goals, defended well and it was very difficult for us because we played a team who was highly focused to defend.  
"We missed something, the regret is that we missed something in the final third and in the speed of our passing. But, overall, we had a good performance. I can’t remember giving Newcastle a chance at goal and, away from home, you have to give credit to our team for that."
The thing which worried me is that without Fabregas we're not as good going forward. In Arshavin and Gervinho we had two players who were working hard to create chances but with RVP slightly off colour yesterday, no one to put those final touches on the ball and turn them into shots on target. To leave the pitch at half time without Krul having a shot to save is disappointing.

We really need to find another striker if Bendtner is to leave and quickly. We cannot hope to rely on RVP to save us like he did last season. Chamakh is badly out of form, Vela looks set to be going out on loan and that leaves us with who exactly? Benik Afobe? You can't rely on a 17-year-old to score you the goals you need to challenge for a Premier League title.

I don't think we missed Nasri at all yesterday. He is easier to replace than Fabregas. But we do need to find a suitable replacement for Cesc when he does eventually join Barcelona - which looks likely to be tomorrow.

The manager has to get this team ready for Udinese on Tuesday night and then move quickly to replace Fabregas, sooner rather than later. Not reinvesting the money is not an option.

A round up of the Sunday newspapers:

Henry Winter writing in the Sunday Telegraph gives a spirited defence of Barton and his ways. I'd remind Winter that two Arsenal wrongs doesn't make Barton right to do what he did.

The Mail on Sunday believe we're likely to renew our attempts to sign Phil Jagielka from Everton. However it appears the player is quite content to stay on Merseyside rather than move to north London. The sticking point as always is the fee. Arsenal won't be prepared to match Everton's £18m asking price for a player who is 29 this month.

Meanwhile the Sunday Mirror say we're looking at making a bid for Gary Cahill after chief scout Steve Rowley watched him play against QPR for Bolton yesterday. However I'm certain we won't bid the £16.5m for a player in the last year of his contract.

The People believe Sunderland have joined Newcastle in the hunt for Nicklas Bendtner's signature. However  they say Arsenal's £14m asking price for the striker is the sticking point.

L'Equipe report we're after Marseille's Andre Ayew who has a buyout clause of around £12m.

Lee Dixon talks to the Sunday Mirror about life after Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri at Arsenal. He says we can come through it.

I'm not sure if the newspapers are trying to have a competition with one another over who can publish the most unbelievable transfer story before the window closes, but after yesterday's Tevez to Arseanal in The Sun, The People try to go one better with a story that Bacary Sagna is going to leave for Tottenham!

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