Newcastle buy a point

It was a shit game. We played like shit, they shitted the game up, the ref was shit, and the result was shit.

Newcastle came to Highbury to get a point and they got it. They double-teamed Arsenal’s wide players and stuffed the midfield to prevent Ode from working his magic.

With Newcastle playing 4 fullbacks and 4 center backs, Arsenal’s forward line, which had all scored in each of the last two matches, scored zero and recorded just 1 successful dribble (Saka 63rd minute) in 15 attempts. This will probably be the blueprint for teams who want to stop Arsenal from scoring: double up on the wide men, clog the middle, make it hard for them to beat you. And fair fucks to them for doing it. I wouldn’t have expected that as a game plan from Eddie Howe or from the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia.

I’m probably more than a little peeved, however, at the shithousery. They played a lot like Stoke, Burnley, and other clubs who try to negate the game as much as possible. There are a number of ways that clubs try to negate a game but the most common way is to play the clock. Get lots of stoppages, rotational fouling, pretend that you have cramps. I can tell you from decades of playing football (most of the time incredibly hungover and dehydrated) that I have never, and I mean never, seen a player get an actual cramp. If professional footballers are getting cramps they should fire their physios and nutrition coaches immediately.

But it is of course their right to play that way and it’s the opposition’s job to break them down, which Arsenal did more than a few times but we were just a bit shit in the final moment.

The referee Andy Madley somehow managed to both insert himself into the game and also make sure he didn’t decide the outcome. He inserted himself by handing out yellow cards for all sorts of infractions but when those exact same infractions happened in the 18 yard box, he swallowed his whistle. Saka was carded for a tiny tug on the shirt: Arsenal were denied a penalty for an obvious shirt grab in the box.

You just never can tell what’s a penalty these days.

Arsenal also looked a bit sluggish and off by just a step. More than once, the ball was played to a man who just didn’t even try to get to it. And just as bad, the ball was often played behind Saka and Martinelli as they were making their runs. Probably the result of three games in 8 days.

Still we had 17 shots and Eddie could have won it for us but for a great save by Pope. Arsenal are also still 8 points clear at the top of the table. Next up is Oxford in the 9th and then Spurs on the 15th. Nice little bit of rest for Arsenal after that gruelling week back at the football.

As for signings, there may be trouble with the Mudryk purchase as Shakhtar want 88m and Chelsea seem willing to put the money up. He’s been twerking for us for a month so it’ll be funny to see him backtrack now and say he loved Chelsea all along. If we don’t get him, I hope we have a backup in mind.

Also a midfielder.



  1. I cant think of a single player who cost more than 80m that has been deemed a success. At that price, let them have him. Raphinha might be back on the market, given Barca’s nonsense. Decent wide players aren’t exactly a rarity.

  2. VVD to Liverpool and Ronaldo to RM were about that, and both were almost certainly worth it. But yes, not too many very high-dollar deals have paid off, and it’s far from clear to me that Mudryk is worth that kind of astronomical price.
    But we do need someone that can help with the parked bus. Something closer to a traditional #9 might be more in order.

  3. In my days coaching high school there were a few times where kids on opposing teams got cramps towards the end of a match and had to get their calves stretched. This only happened against schools full of elite $$$ club team players. I always figured that they were acting out what they’d seen on TV, and doing what, in their minds, serious players did (along with being a sh*t to the ref).

  4. Well, one way to view this result is that this is now what it takes to get a point at the Emirates by the third place team:

    -A gameplan exclusively dedicated to stopping Arsenal
    -Tireless running and closing down from absolutely everybody
    -Mistake free defending
    -Special attention to Odegaard
    -Timewasting shenanigans

    And you still concede 17 shots.

    At least the Newcastle fans liked it. I don’t think anyone else enjoyed that game or how they set up against us.

    From an Arsenal point of view, two things were missing. One, dribble penetration from midfield. Of Xhaka, Odegaard and Partey, only Partey has the burst for this but his remit is not to get ahead of the ball, basically ever. Newcastle knew this and sold out to stop the pass from Xhaka, Zinchenko and espeically Odegaard by building a wall of bodies directly in front of them. In this situation if you have a CM with dribbling ability (i.e. Jack Wilshere), he can just dribble the ball aggressively to one side of the midfield screen if they get too close, which forces that whole structure to collapse. We just don’t have that in our squad.

    Two, variety of threat in the final 3rd. Saka and Martinelli are absolutely two of the best in the business but even they can’t pick the lock every single game. They have their tendencies and defenders can settle into a rhythm playing against them. We need to be able to add variety by bringing on a player with a different style, different proclivities, someone that can introduce a bit more chaos and uncertainty. There was no such option on the bench today with the possible exception of Fabio Vieira, but it’s clear Arteta doesn’t trust him yet in high leverage situations.

    1. Not sure I agree we don’t have dribbling ability in the squad. If he was fit, Smith Rowe for Xhaka would have been perfect. While Fabio Vieira and Zinchenko could have neatly fitted that left 8 and offered us more dribbling and penetration. Fabio Vieira actually won us the game vs Wolves from the left 8 channel. It seemed to me Arteta was a bit risk averse after what happened against Brighton after his subs turned us into a sieve.
      Newcastle’s main plan was block up the right side and let Xhaka have to ball.
      Imo, as improved as he is, he will never be a true fit for that position. Hence I will keep dreaming about Bellingham for the foreseeable future until he moves on.

  5. It’s Arteta and the players’ task to find solutions to low blocks. Side ways passing isn’t it.

    Spraying long balls to Saka to compete with Burns who is the tallest player isn’t it.

    It sometimes pays to swap your wingers and let them stretch such a defence all the way to the byline so that when passing laterally you’ve gained a lot of territory. Also Martinelli and Saka MAY have gotten more change from the opposing full back.

    He later figured out that passes to xhaka were were helping creating good chances. Why we didn’t do this more is absurd. We were creating good chances by line braking passes through the middle. This also shows the need for midfielder who can be more nimble and direct in his dribbling the way diaby/rosicky/wilshire would run with the ball at feet.

    None of our midfielders have this profile. Hope that is something we are targeting.

    Just hope we can get our number first or second choice targets. Mudryk should be told to just make a public plea to force shaktar if he truly has only Arsenal in mind but if not let him do as he pleases. Hope A&E have good second choice targets if the deal collapses.

  6. Newcastle had a near-perfect defensive day and a helpful referee. We had opportunities when the final ball was not quite there, the rain helped the conservative team as well. There will be times in a season when you play decently and get denied – overall I thought the balance between attack and defense was good.

    Arteta refusing to make subs was just him putting more pressure on the ownership when the transfer market is open – if we’re in the same situation in March, I’m sure Vieira and Marquinhos (and ESR and Nelson) will be deemed playable, and might even get us some results. Still, I’m all for pressure on the owners to spend when there’s a possible title at stake.

    The danger is falling into this trap of “we’re the ones trying to play *real* football” and become a parody of an attacking team. That doesn’t help. They’re trying to win the league, so sometimes they just have to take the draw on a difficult day, wiping the slate, and approach the next game with the same attitude that got them to the top of the league.

    The punditry is desperate to reinstate the trope that Arsenal “don’t like it up them”. 9 times out of 10, this team – playing the way they have so far – will find ways through what they saw yesterday. As long as they don’t change the template based on one day.

  7. To the comments saying we need a dribbling Mfer to penetrate, remember we’ve already got ESR on the verge of a return which I think could make a difference there once he’s fully fit.

    I also don’t think many other teams in the league could sustain a low block for 95 mins against us it’s just that Newcastle have been very very effective at not conceding this season, like it or not, they haven’t got the lowest goals against for nothing.

    Regarding Mudryk, I can’t see why he can’t just tell his agent to tell Shaktar to fuck off with their inflated price or he’ll just refuse to join anyone else and force the price drop. That’s more or less what Cesc did when he left for Barca.

    1. The problem is ESR hasn’t played the midfield role and all that that requires defensively and positionally.

  8. We played well, I thought.
    Second half we tired, naturally, playing 3 games in a week.

    We completed less dribbles because our wingers were 1v3 a lot of the time.

    Saka was up against not just Dan Burns but also willock and joelington tracking back.

    Same in case of Martinelli.
    This meant there was space opening up centrally between the lines but xhaka and Øde’s lack of dynamism showed in those times.

    For all of the praise Newcastle got for their defensive performance, it’s a bit sad we couldn’t test them fully unfortunately, due to injuries.
    Our plan, when we need a late goal is really good, I think people have forgotten.

    If you remember the fulham(h) game.
    We tried it out multiple times in pre season and United (a) too.
    We went 3-5-2.

    Something like
    Martinelli- odegaard- Partey- ESR – Saka
    Gabriel-White- Saliba

    Would have destroyed them.

    If you overload our wingers, can you deal with Jesus-Nketiah together along with ESR’s late runs from deep?
    It would have been fascinating to see.

    Can’t wait for our players to come back, man.

    The referee….The powers that be, don’t want arsenal running away with the title, they want a proper title race, well I have to accept it I guess.

    Let’s go and win the next 2 games.

    1. Wasn’t it 4-4-2 with Saka at LB? I have vivid memories of him driving into space from deep and Fulham being at a loss for how to deal with him from there. I also remember Arteta trialling that formation in preseason against that German team, Nurnberg, maybe?

      The thing with Newcastle in this game is, it wasn’t just a low block where they let anybody pick passes all day. That would be suicide and Howe knows that. They let Partey do that, and Gabriel, but as soon as Saka or Martinelli or Odegaard touched it, they were hunted down. It was selective pressing. That’s how they limited Odegaard to 29 touches and 69% pass success. A true passive deep block would have seen him get a hundred touches or more. In order to beat that he would have needed to drop deeper to collect possession, but Arteta’s system is big on positional discipline and he had to stay high to maintain the zones of control in their final 3rd. I guess we needed to be less predictable, more flexible in some ways as we were short on other solutions.

      1. No, saka was LWB that game iirc. It was a 3-5-2 and yeah it was trialled in pre season games too.
        Nobody plays a passive low block nowadays, even what we did at the end of Brighton game was only to save energy.
        The front 5 are always going to get pressed.
        But in Arteta’s 3-5-2, he attacked with 6 players. There will be a free man in the final 1/3.

        Nice point about Ode.
        Ode could have dropped deeper and it would have helped in an indirect manner.
        I think Ode dropping deeper would have dragged willock to him.

        That would isolate saka 1v1 with Dan burns / 2v2 with white vs Burns and joelington.

        1. He did try that in the first half – Neville pointed it out – but it didn’t work; they wouldn’t bite.

          One of those games, but Newcastle won’t win much playing that way.

  9. I actually thought it was a good game, it had Barcelona v. Atletico Madrid in the Champions League vibes. Unstoppable Force v. Immovable Object. If Newcastle defend and put forth the effort like they did against Arsenal in all their games against the so-called Top 6, they are going to do very well. Arsenal were the better team, the more proactive team, Newcastle definitely had a cynical game plan, but Newcastle also exposed our midfielders’ inability to carry the ball – how many time were Odegaard and Xhaka stripped of the ball by a back-tracking forward? If we had a credible right wing alternative, I might have taken Xhaka off and moved Saka into that centre left-mid spot to drive at their defense in the half-channel. Zinchenko’s lack of speed was exposed too, Tierney may have been better able to get behind them on the overlap, but I don’t think Tierney and Martinelli have the proper chemistry for big games. I thought Nketiah was good, especially when he came deep for the ball, because he could carry the ball past a man or two – Jesus would have been even better, unfortunately. I don’t think Fabio could have offered much capacity to break down Newcastle either, that’s not to say he’s a bad player, but he’s just more in the Odegaard mold than not.

    This is probably why Mudryk is Arteta’s first priority. Don’t know much about him, but looks in YouTube clips like a lightning fast, dribble-first player that might have forced Newcastle to reconfigure their priorities on defense. That said, no way should Arsenal even try and match Chelsea on the bidding – if Chelsea win this battle and buy Fernandez too, then I’d like to see Arsenal keep their powder dry and steal Declan Rice from under their noses this summer. In the meantime, if we’re that intent on keeping the title push going, I’d pay 10-12m for a Joao Felix loan, he scratches a lot of itches.

  10. Newcastle have been a very good team for about a year. A point against them is a good, and not unexpected outcome.

    I want to restate a call — oft made here — for stopped clocks in football. Reduce games to 80 minutes, and stop the clocks. They’d still take much longer than 90 min games with added time.

    On Mudryk, I dont know what Shakhtar’s chairman is smoking. He’s not worth treble Gakpo money. But most importantly, I hope they get their city and their lives back.

    1. Yeah, if Chelsea are willing to pay 80M we should let him go. He’s not shown enough to be worth that. They are 20 pts behind us…not worth worrying about this season.
      A Joao Felix loan would be pricy for that short a time, but probably worth it, if we can’t come up with another alternative attacker in short order.

  11. I’m pissed that we only got a point. I’m pissed that NUFC succeeded in kicking and bullying us to the degree they did.

    I’m happy that we did not wilt and cave to $h!thousery and lose the game.

    I’m happy that we are still eight points ahead of Abu Dhabi and whoever else is chasing us.

    That equals a point.

    How we will respond $p&rs at their toilet bowl? I’d be happy with another point.

    Man U however? I think I hate losing to them as much as losing in the NLD. Maybe more. It’s a toss up.

    Intense month but I’m up for it. Off to play a bunch of gigs. I’ll catch you all next month.


    1. Yes I’ve heard him profiled as a #10 with 1 v 1 ability which is insane.

      I think our trump card is that he wants to join us and not Chelsea. I don’t blame him either. The Chelsea project looks years from competing at this moment. That will be what ultimately drives the price down to a reasonable range.

  12. Also did anyone else think for a moment that the title was “Newcastle buy a pint”?

    I cracked up thinking about that.

  13. i’m not so down about the newcastle result. let’s not forget, the last team that actually threw arsenal a proper beating were newcastle last spring, derailing the top 4 finish.

    as for mudryk, he’s not a bad player but i think he’s overpriced. i’m glad most of the fellowship here agrees.

    as for january signings, i’m quite jealous of man united if they sign wout weghorst. first, they’re getting him on loan, meaning he’s a short-term option they don’t have to buy. second, he’s a proper center forward standing 6’6″. third, he gives them depth and a completely different player option. lastly, the man can flat out play football. we saw him come in during the world cup against argentina and score two goals late in the game for netherlands, including that cute little dead ball routine. that game went to penalties because of his two goals. emi martinez did what he does……but i think weghorst scored his pk.

    i’ve been a fan of weghorst for about 5 or 6 years; became a fan when he was at wolfsburg in the bundesliga. when newcastle got their money, one of their first signings was burnley’s chris wood. burnley took the chris wood money and signed wout weghorst. at the time, i believed burnley got the better player and i’m a fan of chris wood too; i was jealous of burnley last year.

    if i were arsenal, i’d be trying to hijack this move. as far as i’m concerned, gabriel jesus is out for the season. eddie can’t play every game and arsenal need another center forward. weghorst on loan is cheap and completely different from nketiah. if teams decide to park the bus, weghorst gives arsenal another option from the bench that can make a huge difference. he would have an option of playing in an arsenal side competing for the league so he’d be game. it’s an option arsenal should consider it, but that’s not my call.

Comments are closed.

Related articles