It might have been just the Carling Cup where Arsene Wenger tests out his future stars. Yet the midweek loss to great rivals Tottenham at their own backyard by an unthinkable margin did hurt the Emirates faithful, no matter how loyal one could be towards the Gunners.
It doesn’t matter that Spurs have broken the North London hoodoo in such devastating style against one of the Premiership contenders. Well, it had to happen someday. What has shaken the belief at Ashburton Grove is the very sight that two Arsenal teammates going against each other to make fools of themselves in front of the laughing White Hart Lane fans.
Emmanuel Adebayor and Niclas Bendtner are young and must have got a mouthful from their manager after the game who prides himself in managing a tremendously disciplined team. To be fair, as an Arsenal fan I have never seen or heard of such ridiculous on-field incidents and the club’s history under Wenger reveals impeccable team bonding under difficult circumstances. Maybe this bunch of talented youngsters needs to be and surely would be taught the very essence of on-pitch harmony within the team.
FA Cup fourth round clash against Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle side (who themselves had fair share of on-field team indiscipline over the years) at home on Saturday was Arsenal’s chance to answer the critics who have doubted the club’s title charge after Tuesday’s thrashing. Arsene Wenger made several changes from the side that went down at White Hart Lane with Emmanuel Adebayor starting to redeem himself and how well the tall Togolese responded.
Two high-class finishes after a vulnerable first period gave Arsene Wenger’s men a hugely moral boosting 3-0 win over the Geordies. Some say the scoreline is flattering and they have points to back themselves. But the bottomline is that the Gunners needed the win for the club and the fans and let us accept, it had come the hard way.
Kevin Keegan is a brave manager and he tried to unleash an entertaining attacking football that his illustrious French rival is famously known for. That’s understandable. The highly revered former England manager knew that Newcastle’s chance in this fixture laid in attack and he took the gamble. The side from the North East did worry the Gunners on several occasions and the defense looked understandably fragile.
The immaculate William Gallas and the versatile Gael Clichy prevented Arsenal from falling behind while Phillipe Senderos and Justin Hoyte showed why Kolo Toure is such a prized asset for the club. Both Senderos and Hoyte are emerging players and fantastic professionals but class does matter. Their lack of confidence at the back meant full-back Clichy and captain Gallas had to come up with some match-saving tackles and interceptions. Clichy made a tremendous goal line clearance to deny Alan Smith from giving Newcastle a deserved lead and the pacy French full-back underlined his importance at the club when he made Shay Given pull off a smart save moments later.
The North London side did not have an ideal start with Tomas Rosicky making an untimely exit after just nine minutes, which saw Eduardo come in his place. Newcastle looked a different side from the one that drew with Bolton last weekend during ‘King Kev’s’ first game in charge and the men in black and white displayed an attacking mentality that made Arsenal work hard through the first-half. Having said that the Gunners were no less threatening and displayed the usual creativity only to be thwarted by some organized defending and the excellent Shay Given.
The second half saw Arsenal’s leading scorer take the match away from Kevin Keegan’s men with two sumptuous finishes. Five minutes into the second period the deadlock was broken. Brazilian-born Croatian Eduardo saw his effort hit the post but the rebound fell to Adebayor who showed fantastic skill to get past Claudio Cacapa before smashing the ball into the net. Keegan’s dream(his team’s first half display made it a genuine reality) of taking the tie back to St.James’ Park suddenly looked far away as the Arsenal midfield, led by Fabregas and the impressive Abou Diaby, called all the shots after being lifted by the goal.
The match was put beyond the reach of Tyneside when Adebayor made a purposeful run before firing past Given giving a desperate Steven Taylor no time to put the ball out of safety. An unfortunate Nicky Butt own goal made sure that the scoreline looked terribly undeserved on Newcastle’s part. But that tells you Arsenal’s permanent class. Flattering it may be but credit to a young team’s resilience in picking themselves up from a midweek mauling. Champions are made of such steel and they do script fantastic comebacks.