Match report: Arsenal relapse and collapse

Newcastle Utd 4-4 Arsenal

Having sailed serenely through the busy shipping lanes of the new year – W4, D1, L0 in the league with just one goal conceded in the process – Arsenal were well and truly depth-charged at Newcastle.

That a team has never before lost a four-goal lead in Premier League history tells you all you need to know about the second 45 minutes yesterday. It was a calamity, a shambles – it was, in fact, a reprisal of our speciality dish, the Collaps-o-Arsenalâ„¢. It’s a dish we’re becoming sick of the taste of. I won’t bother twisting the knife reminding you of the gory details, but suffice to say the words ‘Spuds’ and ‘Wigan’ still make my spleen vent. You can now add the word Newcastle to the lexicon.

Alan Shearer described it as his favourite game of all time on Match of the Day last night. You know what Al, I might beg to differ.

The difference between our slickness, dominance and all-round excellence in the first half, and the wheezing wreck that was desperate for the final whistle to blow in order to retain at least a modicum of dignity, was so extreme that there have to have been some catalysts. Well, there were three.

Firstly, Djourou’s knee injury in the 49th minute. He hobbled off to be replaced by Squillaci. Now, whatever you think of Squillaci as a fourth-choice centre-back (some think he’s ok, some look at him with the same vacant, bloodshot eyes with which they viewed Silvestre), it’s pretty clear that he and Koscielny are our least effective centre-back pairing.

Secondly, Diaby’s red card. Barton came thumping in on him, and while he got the ball, he also could have buckled Diaby’s leg. Diaby not surprisingly took offence, handbagged first Dolly Barton and then the Nolan Blister, and promptly received his marching orders. A soft red card in terms of the harshness of the offence, but a red card nonetheless and a slice of idiocy from our number two.

This was the bugle call for a general collapse, and all the ingredients were there. A weaker back line and just as crucially, a weaker defensive shield. Without Song, and now Diaby, it fell to Fabregas and Wilshere to hold the line and it was just too much. Eboue and Rosicky did absolutely nothing of value when they came on. Two players whose days are, I would wager, very much numbered at Arsenal.

Thirdly, the referee, Phil Dowd, who was horrendous. The first penalty he gave was softish but giveable, but for the second one, when we were still 4-2 up, he magicked an offence out of thin air. Barton got away scott-free all afternoon, and when the Nolan Blister put Szczesny in a headlock for getting the ball out of his own net, he booked Szczesny. He had a shocker and when you are up against phantom decisions too, it’s always going to be harder to keep your cool.

After the invisible penalty, events took on an inevitability of their own and when Dolly won a free kick (having flung his arms skywards just to make sure the referee saw it), Tiote lashed the equaliser home from a clearance. In the end, remarkably, we could have lost it but there it ended.

Catalysts notwithstanding, it was far from our finest hour. Or to be precise, our finest forty-five minutes. We simply could not withstand the onslaught – this from a team that had just sold its best striker. All of our cohesion and organisation went out the window, we panicked. It was awful to see. But sadly, not unprecedented.

Mercifully, we actually ended the day clawing a point back off Man Utd, who finally lost, but what will this do to our confidence, just when our tails were up? It was a bitter and embarrassing blow. Wenger was livid aftewards, stonewalling questions with “My opinion is not important”. But he did say:

“Psychologically the damage is bigger tonight because everyone is very disappointed in the dressing room. Only the future will tell.”

We play Barcelona in ten days.

One final thing: East Lower now has a Facebook Page. Do with it what you will. Blog entries should come through via a feed, and I’ve stuck up a photo of some old socks. If that doesn’t entice you in, nothing will.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Adrian L

    Agreed. All the people saying that Dowd wasn’t important and that the collapse was of our own making are wrong; two of the goals are down his appalling decisions, and Newcastle could easily have been down to 9 men by half time. However, we need to know how to kill off a game, slow it down, frustrate the opposition and not give them the ball. We keep failing to do this. And then juggernaut United starts to falter? I’m not sure anyone wants to win this league…

  2. East Lower

    We’re so frustrating too. Build up a head of steam: collapse. Build up a head of steam again: collapse again. Such is the way…

  3. East Lower

    Should have also mentioned, but forget: The gulf between our formidable first XI and the rest grows wider every day.

  4. arseblog

    Diaby not surprisingly took offence, handbagged first Dolly Barton and then the Nolan Blister, and promptly received his marching orders.

  5. arseblog

    Diaby not surprisingly took offence, handbagged first Dolly Barton and then the Nolan Blister, and promptly received his marching orders.

    I love this.

    Mental game, and fully agree re: the gulf. The worry is that injuries mean too many of the ‘outsiders’ have to play.

  6. East Lower

    Two or three of them in the first XI works, mostly. But some of them are talking themselves into a transfer. Denilson, Rosicky, Eboue. Would anyone miss them, other than numerically?

    I wouldn’t.

  7. Anonymous

    There seems to be a common consensus at the minute that Squalliaci is doing terribly but Koscielny for me is actually worse. The amount of totally needless freekicks he gives away is shocking. There’s no point complaining about the first pen because any defender who is stupid enough to try to put his leg through a striker’s legs from behind to try to win the ball inside the box deserves to give away a pen. If anyone reviews the goals we’ve conceded this season the amount of them that he’s involved in is frightening.
    Having said that Dowd was shocking. If Diaby goes then Nolan has to go too. No question. And the third pen is one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen.

    But the fact is we were 4-1 up. Why the need for panic ? We showed no composure, there was no leadership. It was just terrible. And then when what we needed was composure we broguht on Eboue ? And he got himself stupidly booked with his first touch. Why not bring on Chamakh to try to get hold of the ball up front ?

    Thank God MU lost. It has proved yet again that this side will never, ever have a better chance to win a title. This is a woeful league. We can still win it but if we don’t I really think it’s time for Arsene to go cos I can’t foresee him ever getting another chance this good.

  8. Anonymous

    “All the people saying that Dowd wasn’t important and that the collapse was of our own making are wrong;”

    Dowd was clearly a cock, isn’t he always, but let’s face it, if we had the right mentality and attitude after the break, they wouldn’t have come close to our area. At 4-2 they should have realised the danger, taken control of the ball and slowed the game down, we are actually good that! Discipline has always been the problem with this side, and I don’t mean the wrong placed aggressive type, I mean the complacency of thinking we are arsenal – we don’t need to try.

    Remember 1-0 to the arsenal? Opponents used to give up when we scored just 1! With this current Arsenal that just will not happen they make sure of that. They are their own worst enemy!!!!!

    They got away with it yesterday, cause manure can’t be Arsed either. This league is fast becoming very winnable to the first team that knuckles down and takes every minute of every game seriously – and doesn’t fuck about, showboating or relaxing cause they think just turning up qualifies them for three points.

    Ref decisions do balance out over time, Diaby was rightfully red carded. Pen 1 was soft, but we have benefited before, pen 2 was a strange one but again, we have benefited… 4 goals we shipped in the second half, t was down to our own incompetence, not the ref.

    Come on Arsenal, we are better than this!!!!!!

  9. Jeff

    I struggled to read that, and I’m not even going to bother with any other blogs. This was my one. I’m sick. I don’t even blame the referee.

    I was digging the hostility vibe today. Rosicky out!

    Eboue? Are you kidding me? Eboue?

    I’m hurt, truly. Ohhhhh the pain. Ohhhhhhhhhhh.

  10. Jeff

    Clawing a point back at the top to within 4 never felt so shitty.

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