Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle Utd
So here we are again – a dispiritingly poor performance hands us our second home defeat against a promoted side. Sometimes you can get by with one or two players off colour, but practically a whole side? What was that about?
Wenger passed it off as “unlucky” in the post-match interview (one shot on target for Newcastle, one goal scored) but it wasn’t bad luck, it was just a rank bad performance. For the home side, and one with such attacking talent at its disposal, to create as few chances as we did is mystifying. And to think this happened on the day we finally were able to field a formidable bench containing Arshavin, van Persie, Bendtner and Rosicky.
If you were grasping the thin air for excuses, you could say the long trip to Ukraine might have had an effect. Except for the fact that five of the players who began the game yesterday – Fabregas, Chamakh, Sagna, Koscielny and Song – did not start the game in Donetsk.
I’m a bit bored of making excuses now though, to be fair. It was simply a poor performance from beginning to end.
It’s clear our home form is a worry, and having blitzed our first two home league opponents, Blackpool and Bolton, with ten goals scored for one conceded, we have struggled in the four subsequent games on our own patch. Two of those we have lost – to West Brom and now Newcastle – and two of them we have won but not easily (Birmingham and West Ham). In those four games we have conceded as many times as we have scored – five.
As for yesterday’s goal, it might not be something you can lay the blame for entirely at the feet of Fabianski (or more accurately the hands), seeing that Carroll got between Koscielny and Clichy with consummate ease, but the fact remains he came out to claim the ball and missed it. In typical Wenger fashion, he put it down to the Pole being “too confident” – surely is a first – but a goalkeeper is judged above all else on his lack of errors and not for short bursts of decent performances. This was another error and once again, it leaves us asking questions about the man between the sticks. I concede of course that he’s done well recently and one (more) mistake does not necessarily a return to Almunia make. But we’re back in familiar territory nonetheless.
Seeing Liverpool dismantle Chelsea makes the opportunity squandered extra frustrating, but the most frustrating thing for me is the unpredictability of our performances in general. We blow hot and cold to such a degree that I’m getting chill blains. As a result I look at the next three league fixtures – Wolves away, Everton away and Spuds at home, and in a brighter moment I can envisage a clean sweep of victories. At the same time, it doesn’t take much to fear we could lose them all too. Who knows what we might spring? We are utterly enigmatic. Just look at our league record this season:
Just when you feel some form fizzing away under the bonnet, a setback happens. Three straight wins early in the season were followed by one point from nine. Another three wins (two of which were hard graft) is followed by another defeat.
All too predictable I’m afraid.
Still – at least we can be proud to be top of one league. Koscielny’s late red means we are now top of the red card league, with four.