View From The North Bank: Newcastle 0 Arsenal 0

First things first, apologies that this post is later than one of Joey Barton’s tackles but still, I think it was Plato who once said “it is better to wait a couple of days for a post from than not to get one at all”.

The first game of the season after a turbulent summer always promised to be a tricky one. As is often the case, we dominated the possession yet wasted the few opportunities we created. At this stage of the campaign it’s probably just about fair to put the lack of sharpness down to a mixture of first game nerves – especially given the events of the preceding couple of days, and the capitulation that took place the last time we played at St James’ Park – and cobwebs which have yet to be blown away.

The new midfield, which won’t be first choice throughout the season, looked solid enough but lacked spark. Song put himself about and looked to be trying to take on a bit more responsibility however this meant at times he was getting dragged around the park a bit. Ramsey looked industrious and pressed well in tandem with the Cameroonian however the Welsh skipper’s radar looked a bit out of tune when trying to shoulder the creative burden. In fact, the lack of incision in our passing ran throughout the team. Arshavin, Gibbs and Djourou were all guilty of finding great positions yet not having the accuracy to create a genuine scoring opportunity.

Defensively, we looked assured, albeit against the anonymous Demba Ba and the willing but hardly threatening Shola Ameobi. Most encouragingly, we dealt well with set pieces, and Laurent Koscielny, for me, was man of the match. My thought has always been that we could do with a dominant defender who leads and organises, however one man will never be able to solve fundamental flaws in our game. Many of our problems have to be ironed out as a team on the training field. The early signs at least would suggest that the effort has been made at London Colney with suggestions that Steve Bould has been working with the first team defence during the summer. About time too.

And so, on to our debutant. Gervinho looked direct and pacey. There were times when his pace was perhaps too quick for his team-mates as he broke out of midfield only to lack support. Robin van Persie, our new leader and talisman, looked to be off colour and only offered the outlet for our new Ivorian on relatively few occasions. Van Persie manufactured some decent positions but unfortunately seemed to make the wrong decisions. A through ball in the first half should have been hit first time with his right peg whereas a good one-two towards the end of the game offered him time and space yet he chose to strike tamely from a prohibitive distance.

As a side note, it was good to see Arshavin filling some dangerous spaces in the middle of the park. When we signed him he was a key central creator for Zenit and Russia. Since he’s played for us he’s been overshadowed by Cesc so it would be nice to think, now that Fabregas has gone, Arshavin will be let off the leash a bit and can revisit the dazzling skills that attracted us in the first place.

‘It takes a very confused person to accuse an opponent of simulation and mete out his own brand of rough justice, only to then simulate himself having been ‘slapped’ just five seconds later!’

Regardless of our solid if uninspiring team display our ability to keep Fleet Street in headlines was confirmed when our new boy got caught up in an unseemly spat with everyone’s favourite retweeter of out-of-context philosophical quotes. My first thought on the subject is that it takes a very confused person to accuse an opponent of simulation and mete out his own brand of rough justice, only to then simulate himself having been ‘slapped’ just five seconds later!

Many had suggested that Barton wasn’t entirely in the wrong as he’d just been trodden on by Song, however these were two separate incidents. Song should have been sent off for what he did, even though he was only reacting – perhaps over reacting – to Barton flying through the back of him. He lost his discipline and was lucky that the officials missed it. Song’s avoidance of the law will almost certainly be dealt with retrospectively (we’re now likely to miss Song and Gervinho for the next three League games – although Wenger has stated he will possibly appeal against the red card), it didn’t require Sheriff Barton to go around instructing others what was and wasn’t acceptable, or Steven – Tubby – Taylor to cry to the ref that Barton has been elbowed!

Seriously, Joey Barton doesn’t like people who dive. You would have to say that he may want to revisit his moral outlook considering he thought it entirely justifiable to use a child as an ash tray. His actions, much like the man himself, were pitiful.

It was big of Barton to discuss his antics on BBC Radio Five Live yesterday where he stated that ‘after seeing it on Match of the Day I have to take back calling him a cheat’. Maybe he would like to write a letter to the FA to bring some justice to the situation? Can he write? We know he can cut and paste and retweet!

The first game is now out of the way and there must be a bit of relief at least that we aren’t going into tomorrow’s massive game with Udinese off the back of a defeat. The fact that we aren’t looking particularly threatening in the final third is a concern, but we know we’ll get chances against the attack-minded Italians (is that an oxymoron?). More importantly than anything else; Football is back, so let’s get behind our team after a forgettable summer!