Newcastle United 0 - 0 Arsenal
There wasn't much excitement or optimism before the start of todays game. We were happy to have the football season starting up again, but quite disheartened with the imminent departures of two of our best players, who have not been replaced yet, and the lack of a centreback signing.
The line up was alright and expected, although you may have expected Walcott to start over Arshavin.
Szczesny Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Gibbs Rosicky Song Ramsey Gervinho VanPersie Arshavin
We started the game alright, with new 10.5 million pound signing Gervinho making skillful, effective runs and looking dangerous. The defence was solid enough, with Vermaelen and Koscielny looking like a good partnership. Gibbs was also bright and was giving us a constant option on the left hand side, as well as being solid in the tackle.
We may have been solid defensively but there was very little creativity coming form the midfielder three of Ramsey, Rosicky and Song - something we may have to get used to in the coming season. In matches like todays we need someone of Cesc's calibre to find that key pass and unlock the defence.
There were only minimal chances in the first half. In the first minute we had a half chance after some neat footwork by Ramsey in the box, he layed it back to Rosicky who sliced it wide. Then in the 18th minute after a Gervinho run the ball ricocheted into Van Persie's path, but the dutchman's effort was blocked.
The familiar short passing around the centre circle was evident and the team looked clueless going forward at times. In the second half not much had changed, if anything the team looked worse than earlier. There was no urgency, or even effort to score and with the thoughts of last seasons match you always had the feeling we might regret it.
Rosicky was very disappointing. He was meant to be the creative hub of the squad yet he kept giving up the ball, or giving our players dodgy passes. As an experienced player, you'd have thought he'd know the importance of keeping possession in key areas but he reminded me of Denilson by constantly passing sideways and backwards and still losing the ball.
The only real chance of note in the second half was a Van Persie freekick, which almost dipped in at the far post. Walcott entered the game in place of Arshavin, who picked up form last season in being seemingly inexistent for most of the game. Walcott had a chance but Tim Krul was more than capable of saving the shot.
Then came the main point of interest, all surrounding the one man Joey Barton. Alex song seemed to have stamped on Barton after a strong challenge. A few minutes later, Gervinho cut in form the left and went down - quite easily - from some contact in the box. A penalty was not given but Joey Barton, yes The Joey Barton dragged up the player off the floor and was strongly gripping his shirt. Gervinho responded with a tame slap on the "hardman's" head and, after a couple of seconds standing on his feet, Barton went down like he was shot. So much for English players being honest and not diving.
Subsequently Gervinho was sent off, yet Barton was only yellow carded. A complete joke. Barton showed how much of a twat he is and I hope that no Arsenal fans still want him at the club. For all his "qualities" on the pitch, he is still a classless thug, and not somebody we want representing our team.
The incident completely changed the game, and left us hanging on for the remainder of the match. Wenger ended up bringing on Djourou and Frimpong, a defender and holding midfielder respectively as the game stuttered out into a bore draw.
The main problems our team was supposed to have in defence were unnoticed, but you can argue that we are yet to face a side of decent attacking quality. Gibbs showed why he was preffered to Traore and put in an excellent shift at left back. Similarly Szczesny showed why he was first choice with an excellent performance, coming for crosses, sweeping up after the defence and doing everything that was needed from him.
Last year we visited St James' Park on two occasions and came back with 4 goals both times. This year we only managed 4 shots on target and never looked like scoring. For that I don't blame Van Persie - who never got a chance to continue his record of scoring in every away game - or Gervinho, who was our best player before his red card.
Rosicky and Arshavin were very disappointing, especially as they are our most experienced players. Ramsey didn't convince me that he can be a Cesc replacement and play every game. Fabregas and Nasri need to be replaced before next week's fixture against Liverpool, who will want to bounce back after drawing with Sunderland, and we still need an extra defender. Hopefully this team - with maybe Wilshere returning after injury - will have enough to beat Udinese, but we cannot doubt the importance of that game.
We showed that the weaknesses everyone thought we have were not apparent, and i'm sure that Arsene will argue that we'd have gone on to win the game had Gervinho remained on the pitch.
However it was a disapointing performance, and showed exactly why fans are disapointd with the lack of movement in the transfer window. This squad is nowhere near complete, and you cannot expect it to even challenge for the title in our current state.