Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Game 11: Newcastle United at Arsenal

Yet more questions awaited Newcastle United as they visited Arsenal on Sunday.

Further questions of Andy Carroll and his off-field behaviour. Further questions about whether Fabio Capello could select such a player - irrespective of form - for his next Three Lions squad. Further questions regarding Carroll's ability to continue pushing the controversy to one side and keep performing. Yet more queries of a Newcastle United squad smooshed by Arsenal just a fortnight ago in the League Cup - the same defeat starting recent speculation about Chris Hughton's continued employment on Tyneside. More importantly, would we get to see The Understated One's horse-riding happy-dance again? Another conundrum in the makeup of the Magpies back four: Simpson, Perch or the recovered "Who-Boy" Taylor at right-back? Williamson, Who-Boy or the dichotomous Sol Campbell (is he fit, is he not?) to partner Coloccini?

The second-last question proved the easiest to answer. After last week's brilliant showing in the Tyne/Wear derby, manager Chris Hughton - sporting a very unusual haircut, grey on one half of his head and black the other, perhaps influenced by Barton - decided to maintain the same lineup that spanked the Mackems.

Answers to the others would take the full ninety minutes.

Early gambits were mainly to the benefit of the North Londoners: Fabregas cannoned a deflected free kick off the crossbar and Nasri was thwarted by superb Tim Krul shot-stopping. Arsenal then paid the ultimate penalty for their inability to convert their offensive dominance as Andy Carroll soared above two Arsenal defenders and helpless 'keeper Lukas Fabianski to head home his sixth Premiership goal of the season. After the game, both managers praised the horrible-hair'd self-styled Bad Boy for his mobility and goal sense.

The efficacy with which the Toon dropped men back during the second half simply forced Wenger's usually stolid face into a moue of displeasure as time and again his Gunners proved unable to break down their Magpie opponents. As has been their habit this term, Joey Barton and Cheick Tiote were crucial in their ability to both win the ball and distribute it well to the effective flank play of Gutierrez & Kevin Nolan. Their steel and discipline - yes, I just wrote "Joey Barton" and "discipline" in the same sentence - has been, alongside the form of Nolan & Carroll, the most resolute of Newcastle strengths since their elevation into the exalted Premier League ranks. Nolan - uncommonly more conspicuous in the defensive box than at the offensive end with startling effect - was instrumental in maintaining the Toon lead, an advantage cemented once and for all when during added extra time Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny held back Toon youngster Nile Ranger and was shown a straight red. Wenger's men now numbered only ten and any hope of victory began to evaporate.

The duality of Newcastle United has again surfaced. In the space of three weeks, they been subjected to a rumoured re-take-over by former chairman Freddy Shepherd, threats to the continued tenure of a well-performed and well liked Manager, a superstar who can't stay out of the Tabloid gossip columns but yet they still are performing, sitting fifth in the Premier League tables. The fans are becoming more vocal after a rather unostentatious start to their resurrection to Premier League football. A quarter of the year gone and the undeniable talent has emerged and is playing at close to it's potential.

We have some answers. But still there remains questions. And that's why we love football.

No comments:

Post a Comment