Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Goon Squad

Three of Arsenal's Defenders Take a Break at Half Time
photo by GoonSquadSarahvia PhotoRee
One of the most gripping games of the season deserves another look, so we'll spend a moment or two dwelling on each of the eight goals that led to Arsenal ripping up two points and setting the pieces on fire:
  • Theo Walcott opened up Toon like a can opener in the game's first minute, splitting the Newcastle defense right down the middle. Walcott has turned deadly with his finishing this season, and his 11th goal of the season showcased two of his many talents: pace and composure.
  • Less than two minutes later it's Djourou on the scoreboard, steering Arshavin's dangerous cross into the back of the net. The game can't have started much worse for Pardew's boys, as Arsenal are two goals to the good before the game hits the three minute mark. The Magpies appear shellshocked, but they ain't seen nothing yet.
  • Before ten minutes are elapsed it's 3-nil. This time it's Van Persie doing the damage, found through a sweet Walcott cross pulled back into the middle of the box. Alan Pardew claps his hands as if to wake his team up, and to this point in the game Arsenal are absolutely ripping the Newcastle defense to shreds. 
  • When Van Persie scores in the 27th minute, Toon fans are despondent, and the game is all but over as some fans head for an early halftime cuppa. Coloccini and Williamson have the best seats in the house for the big Dutchman's second goal; unfortunately for Newcastle, they're supposed to be playing the game and not watching it. At this point in the game the television announcers have already conceded victory -- their only question revolves around how large the final margin will be.
  • Squillacci replaces Djourou just after the restart, but surely Arsene Wenger can;t have a hint of what's to follow. Abou Diaby begins the Gunners downfall by needlessly pushing Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan after reacting to a very tough tackle. When Phil Dowd correctly shows red to the Arsenal midfielder, the sides appear more equally matched -- Newcastle's eleven to Arsenal's ten.
  • The first signs of an Arsenal crack appear in the 67th minute, when Best is spilled by Koscielny in the box. Dowd doesn't hesitate in pointing to the spot, and Joey Barton dispatches the penalty with ease. When Sczcesny attempts to waste time he's bundled over by Nolan and Barton, and properly carded by referee Dowd for time wasting.  This might be considered a worrisome trait in a 'keeper with a three goal advantage -- what does he know that we don't?
  • When Nile Ranger comes on with just seventeen minutes left, surely it's way too late for a comeback. Although a second goal by the Magpies is incorrectly flagged as offside, their momentum continues to build and untlimately cannot be denied.  It takes only a minute or two for Best to properly gain the goal he was wrongfully disallowed, and this time there's no denying Newcastle and the Toon Army. It's 2-1, and game on.
  • Wenger can hardly believe it when Dowd points to the spot again, this time as Rosicky pushes over Williamson in the box. Arsenal appear to be cracking under the incredible crowd noise, and when Joey Barton knocks the penalty in off Sczcesny's foot, the Toon Army raises the decibel level yet again. Arsenal appear increasingly petulant as the game has tightened, wasting time and committing foul after foul in an effort to slow Newcastle's momentum.
  • When Tiote equalizes from twenty-some yards out, it's fitting that the tying goal is the game's best. Caught off the volley, Tiote hits a laser that beats the Arsenal keeper on his near post. It's a stunning comeback for the Magpies, and Arsenal's fragility is on full public display yet again.
The game may be officially recorded as a draw, but that Newcastle actually have an opportunity to find a winner beggars the imagination. Arsene Wenger will be back to the drawing board in search of an answer, any answer, as his players look inward to see where the two points they lost have disappeared to.

This is farlieonfootie for February 8.

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