Advertisements

Carroll steamrollers flat Arsenal

Arsenal 0 Newcastle 1

Carroll 45

Arsenal‘s traditional November curse struck once again as they succumbed at home to a newly promoted side for the second time this season. Newcastle avenged their Carling Cup defeat with a battling but not undeserved 1-0 win as a lethargic Arsenal failed to offer any consistent threat to the visitors’ defence.

After fielding an under-strength side in the mid-week defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal reverted to a full-strength XI. Jack Wilshere returned to the centre of midfield after serving his three-match domestic suspension, while Andrey Arshavin dropped to the bench to be replaced by Theo Walcott.

In a first half played largely in the congested spaces of midfield, Arsenal repeatedly looked to send Walcott, Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri running directly at the heart of the Newcastle defence, without success. Meanwhile Newcastle, with Shola Ameobi frequently dropping deep to supplement midfield, aimed to get the ball forward quickly to Andy Carroll and bring Ameobi and Kevin Nolan into the game.

In an opening 35 minutes bereft of genuine opportunities, the home side created the only noteworthy chance. After Wilshere was fouled 30 yards out, Fàbregas’s free kick took a slight deflection off the wall and cannoned back off the crossbar. Arsenal continued to prod and probe but with Newcastle working hard to close down space, opportunities were hard to come by.

Six minutes before half-time, as Arsenal finally started to generate some menace, Fàbregas broke into the box but shot into the side netting. Seconds later Nasri’s fierce first-time shot from the edge of the area was acrobatically tipped away by Dutch under-21 goalkeeper Tim Krul.

Andy Carroll headed the only goal of the game just before half-time

And then, in the final seconds of the half, disaster struck. Bacary Sagna conceded a needless free kick just inside the Arsenal half. Joey Barton floated a perfectly weighted ball into the area. Lukasz Fabiański charged off his line, but Carroll, allowed to run on unobstructed by Marouane Chamakh, reached the ball first and sent a looping header into the unguarded net. It was Newcastle’s first attempt on goal, and far from the first time Arsenal have been struck by such a sucker punch.

The hosts started the second half with renewed urgency. A clever reverse pass from Wilshere set up Walcott, who was unlucky to see his fierce drive rebound off the under-side of the bar. Alex Song found space behind the Newcastle back line and dragged the ball back across goal, but Chamakh was just unable to turn it in.

Arsène Wenger sent on Arshavin and Robin van Persie, making his first appearance since being injured at Blackburn at the end of August, in place of Nasri and Chamakh barely ten minutes into the half. But the reinforcements failed to have the desired effect, with the home side’s momentum petering out as Newcastle stuck to their task with admirable discipline.

Laurent Koscielny received his second red card of the season (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

With the game entering its last 20 minutes, Wilshere gave way to Nicklas Bendtner as Arsenal pressed on. Twice, Arshavin twinkle-toed his way through the Newcastle defence, being denied at the last second by Fabricio Coloccini the first time, then crossing only for Fàbregas to power a header straight at Krul. Time and again Arsenal squandered decent positions; too often let down by a heavy touch or a misplaced pass. In truth, Krul was the less busy of the two keepers in the second half – and Fabianksi was not exactly over-worked either.

Arsenal had run out of legs and ideas, and never really looked like finding an equaliser. To make matters worse, in injury time Laurent Koscielny was turned by substitute Nile Ranger and tugged the Newcastle striker back. Referee Mike Dean had an easy decision to make and produced a straight red card, Arsenal’s fourth sending off of the season. And that was that.

After the game, Wenger admitted to BBC Sport that his team’s performance had been sub-par, but also pointed out that Newcastle had scored from their only meaningful opportunity:

Overall our performance was not good enough against a good Newcastle side. On top of that I believe we were unlucky because we didn’t deserve to lose this game. They had one shot on target in the whole game and we lose 1-0. But we never found completely our flow and we made a mistake on the set-piece, where Newcastle is strong.

And when asked about whether the long mid-week trip to Donetsk had affected his players, he suggested it was one of a number of factors:

It was a conjunction of many things. We had some players coming back from injury who were not completely 100%. We had some players who played in midweek who were not the sharpest. And we put ourselves in a difficult position [conceding before half-time].

Although they rarely looked like scoring, Newcastle fully deserved their victory and should be paid huge credit for neutering Arsenal’s attacking threat, with Cheikh Tioté catching the eye in midfield. Carroll provided a textbook performance as a lone striker in front of the watching Fabio Capello. Nonetheless, it was as limp and lifeless a showing by the home side as we have seen all season.

Legs looked understandably heavy after the long mid-week round trip to the Ukraine – it is no coincidence that all four Champions League sides have struggled as their weekend opponents put their feet up in mid-week – but it will be the lack of fight and leadership on an afternoon where the talismanic Fàbregas was kept shackled for long spells that will most worry Wenger. Aside from a couple of flashes from Walcott early on and Arshavin later, the rest of the team simply did not pick up the slack, and the defence’s continual struggles to cope with Carroll’s powerful presence will be a concern with physical games away to Wolves and Everton to come in the next seven days.

The heady days of summer are long gone, and Arsenal now enter a long winter knowing they will face many tough battles just like this one. They will have to perform much, much better than this at Molineux on Wednesday night if they are to sustain a title challenge which is already starting to look wobbly.

Advertisements

About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

7 Responses to Carroll steamrollers flat Arsenal

  1. aardvarkian says:

    Hard luck, mate. But I can’t say I’m too sorry, though. With Liverpool beating Chelsea, and United squeaking through against an unfortunate Wolves side, it’s been a good weekend for us ManYoos.

    • Tim says:

      Indeed it has. We were a bit unlucky, and as is so often the case we conceded to our opponents’ only real chance of the game, but the performance was as flat as a pancake. Much work to be done at Wolves on Wednesday and Everton next weekend.

  2. Le Winger says:

    Hello !

    Do you guys know how Afobe performed in the FA Cup for Huddersfield?

  3. tophatal says:

    Tim

    It’d appear that complacency seems to be the norm for a number of teams around the Premiership .

    tophatal 🙂

  4. Pingback: Arsenal – Did they turn the corner? « My Football Blog

  5. Pingback: Arsenal self-destruct in St James’s shambles « The armchair sports fan

%d bloggers like this: