Arsenal don’t like November do they. Traditionally this has always been a bad month for Arsenal with regards to their results on the pitch. Be that as it may, another defeat to a recently promoted side at home is nothing short of shambolic. WBA were the first promoted side to do one over us at home this season and frankly, losing at home is no championship material regardless of the opponent.
Laurent Koscielny talked about making the Grove a fortress if we want to achieve something this season. He is far from wrong and on this showing, it justifies even less. Picking up home wins are vital if any team harbours any hope of winning the league. If anything, this result makes it even less of a fortress and removes opposing teams of any pre-match fears when they visit the Grove.
In truth, Newcastle were never at the races. It was a fairly comfortable day’s work for our defenders and keeper. On the one occasion that they did threaten, they scored. Newcastle had a freekick just inside of Arsenal’s half and it was pumped in high into our penalty box. Marouane Chamakh who was supposed to mark Andy Carroll, just let his opponent go. Maybe he saw that Lukasz Fabianski was coming to claim the cross but should have at least followed his man and make things a little harder for him.
Fabianski commits his first error since the Sp*rs Carling Cup game and the Newcastle front man gleefully headed the ball into the empty net. The Pole would have to take up some responsibility having come so far out of his goal line and not having a touch of the ball. Even with his outstretched hands, it kinda looked like Carroll still jumped higher than his fingers. I’m not going to judge Fabianski because of one mistake as he has done well since coming into the side. Was a poor goal to concede but there was ample time on the clock to turn this around.
Unfortunately for us, that never happened.
Samir Nasri for much of this season, the most creative player Arsenal have, suffered an ankle knock and was peripheral afterwards. He eventually hobbled off in the early part of the second half and the moment that happened, Arsenal look lost going forward. You would not expect that of Arsenal, not least with Cecs Fabregas still on the pitch.
Our captain was a shadow of his normal self. Misplaced passes was a feature of his game today and that itself is really rare. I’m not sure how it looked to you but I have a feeling that he is not entirely fit either. Should Arsene Wenger gamble with his long term fitness? Absolutely not, and you wonder why his hamstring keep flaring up. If he was still feeling the effects of his hamstring, Fabregas should have excused himself from the game and make sure it is properly healed before playing another game for us, no matter how important that game is (unless it’s a cup final or the last game of the season, of course).
As a offensive threat, Arsenal were non-existent today. Theo Walcott had one of those games to be forgotten almost immediately. He never got to use his pace today as Jose Enrique stayed as close to him as possible within the confines of the law. With no space to use, Walcott should have ventured inside to support Chamakh rather than stay on the wings. We needed someone to come to change the game and Wenger is tasked with that duty to bring somebody on.
The change did come early by Wenger standards. It came after half an hour played but unfortunately for us, that turned out to be Robin Van Persie replacing Chamakh. It is incredible that the Dutchman, after 3 months absence and only a couple of training sessions was selected to try and get us something out of the game. I love Robin but I also believe this game is a little too soon for him and little unfair to expect him to turn the game for us.
To add injury to insult, Koscielny was sent off late in the game. Last man foul, there was nothing much for the referee to decide. He allowed Nile Ranger to turn him in the first place and subsequently tangled with the Newcastle forward and brought him down. His second red of the season but otherwise gave an acceptable performance.
The other player who probably deserves more from this game is Jack Wilshere. There were a couple of challenges that he had to make to prevent Newcastle from breaking into a counter attack and he did that brilliantly. He even held his own against someone the size of Carroll. Continues to impress, this fella.
As I’m writing this, Chelsea are about to lose at Anfield. While it helps to maintain the gap despite us losing today, it does not make things any better. In fact, it is a case of missed opportunities as we could have reduced the 5 points difference between us and Chelsea. Are we still in the championship hunt? At the moment, I’m not sure myself. Wolves is next and the players will have to show to us that they care by getting a result there.