Sunday, February 6, 2011

Newcastle Draw Highlights Arsenal's Frailties

In recent years, calling Arsenal out due to their lack of toughness has become one of the Premier League's most notable cliches. But in recent weeks, Gunners fans have seemingly witnessed their team move away from this classic Arsenal stereotype. A come from behind 2-1 win over Everton was used as proof that Wenger's side had  finally found the strength of character to go along with their silky football, but all this good work was undone in 30 minutes of chaos at St. James' park. Coasting, having thoroughly dominated Newcastle in the first half and seemingly sitting pretty on a healthy four goal lead, Arsenal were dealt a blow as Abou Diaby saw red, following a disgraceful reaction to a Joey Barton tackle. Despite this, their still seemed to be know real panic in the Arsenal camp, perhaps unsurprisingly as with only a half hour to go they held a four goal lead. And even after Joey Barton slotted home a penalty several minutes later, the chances of a Newcastle comeback appeared remote. But the whole look of the game was changed on 68 minutes, when Leon Best, making the most of a chance inside the box, pulled another goal back for Newcastle. Without midfield enforcer Alex Song to break down Newcastle attacks, the 10 men of Arsenal became more and more vulnerable and in the eighty-third minute they were made to pay again, as another Joey Barton penalty, this time blasted straight down the middle, cut the deficit to one. With the entire of St. James' Park on their feet, it seemed only a matter of time before Newcastle equalized. On 88 minutes the Newcastle fans erupted as Cheik Tiote blasted home his first goal for Newcastle United, a one-time volley into the bottom corner. A shell-shocked Arsenal were almost made to pay even more as a Kevin Nolan shot skidded just wide of the bottom corner, deep into stoppage time. After the game Arsene Wenger admitted that the draw would have a serious psychological affect on Arsenal and one wonders now whether Arsenal will be able to pull themselves to their feet and mount a serious title charge.  Next up for Arsenal is an innocuous looking home tie against Wolves, but Arsenal will have to tread carefully in this game, especially after seeing the way the Midlands side forced Man United to capitulate at Molinieux.

So can Arsenal bounce back, and return to the summit of the Premiership?

Or is this draw the start of a complete capitulation from the Gunners?

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