Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal: Sunday Mirror match report
Published 22:05 13/08/11 By Brian McNally
Joey Barton’s return to the Newcastle team ended in further controversy as he Arsenal’s Gervinho was sent off for a clash with the midfielder.
The Arsenal man saw red after raising his hands following what Barton perceived to be a dive in Newcastle’s area by the Ivory Coast player.
The late controversy followed what had been a uneventful opening game between two sides torn apart by summer transfer traumas.
The Gunners dominated in terms of possession but they looked nervous and hesitant when ever the goal came into sight.
Arsenal passed Newcastle off the park but it seemed that the anxiety that has afflicted Wenger in recent months had got to the players.
Wenger looked the picture of serenity 40 minutes before kick-off when he strolled on to the St. James’ Press room and calmly studied the earlier results.
But minutes before kick-off Wenger bore a worried, wearied look as he evaded questions on the impending departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
When asked if their was any confirmation of their departures his curt reply was: “It is not my main worry.”
Wenger’s ultra-defensive approach to the long goodbyes of Fabregas and Nasri are alienating even his dwindling army of Arsenal fans.
The response of many anxious Gooners is that if losing two stars of the calibre of Fabregas and Nasri is not his main worry, then it is about time it was. But even though Wenger appears to be ignoring the crisis in his club’s midst he could at least take heart from the way his side began their Premier League campaign in the St. James’ Park cauldron.
It may have been a far cry from the scintillating first half they produced against the Magpies in February when they ran in four goals in an amazing 26-minute opening and threatened to break the Premier League scoring record.
But they were almost as dominant in the first half yesterday but there was simply no end product this time.
Gervinho, the £10.7million capture from Lille, produced some glimpses of excitement as he teased and tormented Ryan Taylor.
But far too often Arsenal’s build-up broke down in and around the home penalty area as Robin van Persie, who had scored in his previous nine away games, was wasteful. His best chance came just before the break when Andrey Arshavin’s brilliant pass seemed to give him a clear route to goal, but the Dutchman’s touch let him down.
Earlier he had another decent chance but was thwarted by a brave block from Steven Taylor. Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal was largely unemployed in the first half but was guilty of one howler when he misjudged Tomas Rosicky’s corner but was rescued by a goal-line clearance from Danny Simpson.
Newcastle‘s only shot at goal in the first half was a speculative volley from Jonas Gutierrez which sailed well wide.
After the break, Arsenal’s Alex Song, who was already on a yellow, was lucky to stay on the pitch for a stamp on Barton’s ankle.
It appeared that referee Peter Walton did not see it but the Football Association will almost certainly take a look at the video evidence tomorrow.
VERDICT: You can always expect the unexpected at Newcastle and a goalless draw didn't look on the cards after February's incredible 4-4 drama. But there were plenty of cards if no goals.
THE BIG ISSUE: Was Toon boss Alan Pardew right to start with Joey Barton after his spat with the club?
The passionate welcome afforded to Joey Barton by the St James' Park fans was proof that in public relations terms Pardew called it correctly.
'One Joey Barton' read a banner that summed up the Toon Army's mood and the volatile schemer responded with raised arm in thanks for the support.
The Magpies decision to give Barton a free transfer after his infamous Twitter rant was on Pardew's admission taken in anger.
But, despite the pact, Barton remains on the transfer list and could still leave before August is out.
Geordie fans have shown that they want him to stay.