Newcastle can’t seem to function without their former star player. Only 47 seconds in, Theo Walcott found the net. Just two minutes later, Johan Djourou sunk one in. In the tenth minute, Robin van Persie hit a long shot. Fifteen minutes later, Bacary Sagna hit a cross to van Persie, who sent the ball right into the net once again. By the 25th minute, the Gunners were four up. Some Newcastle supporters were leaving St James’ Park already – was it for a halftime pie and a pint, twenty minutes early, or were they going home, disappointed and frustrated that their side weren’t functioning without Carroll?
They’ll have to get used to it. Carroll isn’t coming back. As he stated in an interview with BBC Sport, ‘…when I finally make my debut with the number nine that’s when it will hit home that I’m here and I’m here to stay.’ Sorry, Tynesiders – it doesn’t sound promising for you. You can only hope for Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, or Leon Best to step up and take the lead.
In the 39th minute, Leon Best got what looked like a very painful knee to the head. He came off looking disoriented and nauseated. Alan Pardew had a similar look, though his was more nausea than disorientation. Fortunately for both Best and Pardew, Best was able to return to the pitch after just a moment off. However, Best still had a look of confusion about him; it would have been better to keep him off and bring Nile Ranger on in his place.
Alan Pardew has to work with what little he has anymore. The first half showed that Andy Carroll was the glue that kept Newcastle together, even though he had been on the bench with a thigh injury for the past several weeks. Just his presence seemed to be able to inspire his teammates. Now that he’s gone…well, everyone has seen what Newcastle has done – or, rather, hasn’t done – without him.
In the 49th minute, Abu Diaby was ejected for his reaction to a challenge by Joey Barton. It looked as though a proper fight was about to start – Diaby grabs Barton around the neck, and then shoves Kevin Nolan. For once, Newcastle fans could applaud Phil Dowd for a call. Several earlier free kicks were given to Arsenal when they obviously ought to have been given to Newcastle – is Dowd blind, or just biased? I’m not even a Newcastle supporter, and I thought that nearly half of his first-half free kick calls were biased towards the Gunners.
What is Alan Pardew to do? He has to improve his team’s defence. There was absolutely no one in front of Theo Wolcott when the first goal was scored. Two minutes later, Djourou scored. It could have been prevented if Newcastle had a stronger defence. Perhaps not all of the Arsenal goals could have been avoided; van Persie is a strong scorer, and Sagna’s cross was sharp. But if their defence was better, maybe the scoreline wouldn’t be as painful.
He must also improve his team’s offense. Andy Carroll was Newcastle’s only proper striker. Pardew must train secondary players – perhaps not first-team players – as strikers. Pardew cannot be without strikers, or it’s likely that Newcastle will slowly drop down the table, and fall into the relegation zone, joining West Brom and West Ham. No successful team can survive without several proper strikers.
Two penalties to Newcastle, and they’ve brought it to 4-3. Both penalties taken by Joey Barton, and both shot directly in. The second penalty was a very soft penalty; were I the official, I wouldn’t have given it. However, Dowd gave it, and Barton sunk it. Szczezny tapped Barton’s second penalty, but it still hit the net.
And then…Cheick Tioté scored. He equalised. Did you ever expect Newcastle to come back from a four goal deficit? I must admit, I was sceptical. In the 87th minute, Tioté brought the Magpies level with the Gunners. But could they maintain that score until the end? Or would the Gunners add another point to win 5-4?
No. The Magpies proved themselves – although it took two penalties – and drew 4-4. It wasn’t a win, but it wasn’t a painful 4-0 loss. At least they got a point, right, Geordies? Newcastle’s next match is against Blackburn. Can they beat the Rovers without Carroll? Without penalties? We have to wait until next Saturday.
But until then, let’s wallow in the glow of one of the matches of the season for the neutral supporters (and Newcastle fans).