The season opens with a fizzle and a whimper.

August 14, 2011 11 Comments by Sian

It’s alright, you can come out from behind the settee now, we’re safe. No comebacks, no penalties, no Phil Thompson going looney at the set of Soccer Saturday – Newcastle away is done and dusted for the rest of the season.

After such fanfare/panic/excitement/butterflies/denial floating about with regard to the beginning of the season, it was probably always guaranteed that the opener would be a bit shit. And a bit shit it was. There were many comments of ‘Same old, same old…’, which is understandable given that toward the end of last season, we couldn’t create for love nor money nor toffee.

We passed well (gasp!) and had a couple of relatively danger-free shots on goal, yet provided slightly more of a threat than Newcastle. That isn’t saying much though, and a 0-0 result was about deserved on both parts.

There were chants of ‘Spend some fucking money’, which drowned out any songs Newcastle may have offered, and which have been hotly debated in the aftermath. I don’t know, I’m torn. Much as it was disappointing to hear in the closing minutes of the match when we were actually showing a bit of fighting spirit for a change, I still understand the sentiment. Either way, it was most certainly heard, now whether it will actually be acted upon is another matter to be decided over the course of the next 17 days.

Anyway, though the actual football on display at St James’s Park yesterday was nothing to shout about, there were by no means a lack of shouting points in general. In the first half, Song stamped all over an opponent’s leg. When the opponent got up, squealing for Song to be punished, I think we were all at one in telling him to shut up. Until, that is, a replay showed that Song had indeed stamped all over his leg. It was pretty nasty and more than pretty stupid. If we all voiced our disgust at Bowyer wiping his feet off all over Sagna’s leg last season, there can be no complaints from anyone if Song is now retrospectively banned for violent conduct. The fact the owner of the leg was Joey Barton is really here nor there, but more on him later.

What a bloody idiot. What is it about our players that make their brains fall out of their ears when we go up to Newcastle? Fortunately on the day, Song was not sent off, thus avoiding a repeat of being Diabied for the second time in a year. However, if he is punished later on (and I think he should be… for STUPIDITY if nothing else), we could be without him for both Liverpool and Manchester United, as far as I am aware. Good job our midfield is currently bursting at the seams with options. If he is punished, you would imagine Johan Djourou would be brought in to fill in the Song role over Emmanuel Frimpong.

So that was incident number one. The next one, the one that’s got everyone talking, came in the 75th minute. Gervinho, the best player on the pitch up until that point, went roaring down the left, cut into the area and promptly went down, apparently caught by Tiote. It wasn’t the most blatant penalty the world has ever seen, but nor was it a dive. When you’ve got Kevin Keegan on ESPN going ‘I think he [Gervinho] puts his leg onto the leg…’, I think you know it’s time to switch off the television. He was caught, and he went down. Tiote would probably have felt a bit unlucky to have been penalised with a penalty there, but they have been given before, and will continue to be given throughout the season.

Anyway, Gervinho was halfway on his way to getting up when Joey Barton comes steaming in, picks him up by the scruff of the neck and it all kicks off between the pair of them. The first on the scene was Steven Taylor, breaking up what was turning into something fairly ugly between the pair of them. Gervinho lashed out, slapping Barton across the side of the head, and there was a split second of decision from Barton before he went down like a fairy made of bricks.

Let’s look at the incident as objectively as we can. The decision to send Gervinho off was correct. He smacked him. Arguing that he shouldn’t have been sent off is like arguing that Song wasn’t a lucky boy for avoiding a similar tunnel march earlier on. But look at the full incident. Barton’s gripe is that Gervinho dived (which he didn’t). So he goes up to the new boy, picks him up by the shirt, with absolutely no doubt about his intent to get him angry, then falls down like a sack of shit when struck. I’ve been hit harder by myself accidentally.

Wenger, quite amusingly given the history of his eyesight, complained afterwards that the referee had not seen the entire incident. He was correct, and a replay showed that he did have his back turned towards the other end of the pitch during the first part of the fiasco. Happily enough, the slap he saw and promptly gave Gerv his marching orders for his troubles.

Yet Barton remained on the pitch, in spite of starting the incident, provoking Gervinho, then DOING THE EXACT THING HE WAS HAVING A GO AT GERVINHO FOR. Yes, there was contact between Gervinho’s hand and Barton’s Hitler hairdo. But there was also contact between Gervinho and Tiote. Barton had absolutely no reason to get involved, other than to try and wind someone else up and get them sent off. Which he once again succeeded in.

He is a hateful little elf. A while back, naively, I started to believe in the whole vendetta his new fans are now claiming people have against him. But the consequences are always a result of his actions. His Nietzsche retweets do not act as a carpet cleaner on his muddy past. (And anyone claiming he’s intelligent should know that he thinks ‘shouldn’t of’ is correct English.)

However, he does always manage to get up our nose, and we are the numpties who allow it to happen. It’s a shame Gervinho got himself sent off in the first match of the season, but I don’t really see how anyone else would have reacted any differently. A snarling, seething hyena comes up to you and grabs you to your feet (which you were already doing yourself), what are you going to say? ‘Oh sorry mate, I should have been quicker’? Barton had no reason to get involved. Gervinho had no reason to not get involved. There’s this way of thinking among football fans, a way of thinking I’m often guilty of subscribing to myself. It’s a theory that two wrongs make a right. Song should have been sent off, but wasn’t, so Gervinho being red carded and Barton not being red carded, makes it right. Allegedly. Does it not say a bit more about how many iffy decisions we’re probably going to enjoy over the course of the league? That’s just a thought I had yesterday, by the way, not an invitation for the gleeful bunch of writers and tweeters I’ve been watching smilingly since yesterday’s match finished. You’ve got to love a bit of predictability.

But anyway, that incident is not excuse enough to paper over the cracks in our performance. Defensively we were fine, but then that isn’t saying a lot when Newcastle barely threatened. Vermaelen and Koscielny look to be a formidable partnership and Szczesny was very impressive yesterday.

This may sound like broken record time, but we could have done worse than bring on Nicklas Bendtner yesterday, had he actually been in the squad. I know, I know. But he could have made the difference we needed.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap this up now as it has about as much shape as a bath made of jelly. Forward. That’s what it says on the shirt. Now let’s try and get the boys to see that this is not just a motto, but also an instruction, as we go into the next few matches missing ever more players. Sigh.


  1. lee
    2259 days ago

    enjoyable read again. look forward to lot,s more ,the rest of the season.


  2. Jon Hume
    2259 days ago

    Agree with a lot of your post, we did look pretty good at the back but I have a lingering feeling that it had a lot more to do with the fact that Newcastle were pony and trap. Good to see TV survive a game without getting broken in half!


  3. Andrew
    2259 days ago

    I have a friend who is clueless when it comes to what goes on off the pitch, he is a Man United fan (I’m from Virginia), he watched the match and commented to me last night that our center backs were beasts and Szczesny played with real confidence (I called it swagger). I was like “I KNOW RIGHT!” (hate that saying = pet peeve) But it was how I felt given all the “crisis in the back” talk that AFC fans have had to hear for ages.
    He agreed with me that Van Persie can not be singled out up top, he has to follow a true striker like, eh Rooney. I said that because my friend would be familiar. I enjoyed Gervinho’s movement especially when he drifted along behind Robin. Theo was a spark. Arshavin hustled.
    Barton is a demon. #aGervinhoNeverForgets (thought that trend would be hilarious)
    I really enjoyed this read, as well as all of your tweets.
    Keep ‘em coming.
    - @coopdeville_


  4. El Greco
    2259 days ago

    Thanks for the blog, Sian.
    I listened to the game online and, even without the pictures, the Barton incident came across ‘loud and clear’. The Arse commentator was enraged, bordering on a heart attack rabid as a dog at how Barton escaped a red card.
    Anyway, that incident aside, Arsenal simply didn’t do enough against a poor-to-average Newcastle side which does not bode well when we face the nect average-to-good team….let alone a good-to-very good team!
    Still, I will reserve judgement until after 4 or 5 games. Afterall, both Liverpool and Chelsea drew against poor-to-average teams.


  5. irishgooner
    2259 days ago

    Excellent read, summed everything up brillantly. Don’t agree with JD filling in for Song when suspended I’m sure he’ll give Frimpong his chance.


  6. Eboue's homeboy
    2259 days ago

    Nice blog Sian, agree with most points. I think we can say we were lucky not to have Song sent off but Gervinho has to learn you can’t raise your hand to an oppenent in the premiership even if it is towards a prick like Barton.
    At the back we looked solid with what we had to deal with and I thought both Szczesny and Koscielny were our best performers yesterday and hopefully both Kos and TV can strike up a good partnership at CB. We lacked the final ball going forward but hey it’s only the first game and once RVP gets one they won’t stop going in.
    All in all not the worse start and now onto Tuesday back home at the Emirates.
    In Arsene we trust!


  7. 1NilToTheArsenal
    2259 days ago

    Good summary – truly not a bang to start but whimper (I would have added a “fizz” if we’d managed to score at a least a goal). Still 1 point is better than none, and there were the bright spots you’ve pointed out already.

    Both my footy and hockey coaches used to drill into me that if you “lose it” out there despite your best efforts, you’re always better to be the instigator (within reason of course) then the retaliator. The guy who reacts almost always gets nailed before the main culprit in all the organized team sports I’ve ever played.

    So Gervinho got what I expected, but man, if you’re going to be sent off make it count! What was that candy-assed little slap about? Give him a shove, put him down. Barton got less than he deserved with that. LOL.

    Anyway, it’s great to see you back and I look forward to many more weeks of one of the best fan blogs ever for the 2011-1012 season. I really hope for the city and the country that the craziness has settled down and we can enjoy the campaign properly.

    AW has a couple of weeks to get some experience in to help us, otherwise we’ll be struggling to finish in the CL places.

    Come ON you Gunners.


  8. Kevin
    2258 days ago

    Forward, indeed. Good read, Miss Macalarny.


  9. Tricia
    2258 days ago

    Excellent read as per usual. Agree with pretty much everything. Song’s actions were stupid and I won’t be complaining if he’s retroactively punished.

    Can’t blame Gervinho for slapping Barton. I’ve wanted to on many occasions, but it really was stupid of him. As much as I don’t want to see our players sent off, I agree with you that the decision was indeed correct.


  10. Girl Gunner
    2258 days ago

    Good stuff!!


  11. Paulo
    2258 days ago

    I agree that Koscielny with Vermaelen is a good partnership, but Koscielny without Vermaelen and then Arsenal would struggle, he needs a strong experienced partner with him.
    Up front I agree that RVP for as good as he can be could be so much more productive playing off a striker, and it’s like Arsenal don’t have them, both Bendtner and Chamakh would be perfect, but i cannot remember the last time Wenger has played a straight on 4-4-2 formation, I think he’s obsessed with possession and 4-3-3 to see it another way.
    Man City were a perfect example of a team that knows how to win games, patient, had little of the ball, but when they did have it made it count.
    Now I wouldn’t want to see Arsenal play that way week in week out, but something has got to change.


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