Arsenal went away to Newcastle in Saturday’s televised late game – TV producers no doubt hoping for something approaching a repeat of the fantastic 4-4 draw in the corresponding fixture last season. Sadly there were no goals, but plenty of talking points. Newcastle came out in a rather predictable 4-4-2, what wasn’t predictable was the inclusion of everyone’s favourite violent philosopher Joey Barton. True to reputation Barton was involved in the major flashpoint – a scuffle with Arsenal debutant Gervinho which resulted for a yellow and red card respectively.
Arsenal – preparing for life without Fabregas and Nasri – set themselves out in a 4-1-2-2-1 formation. If that’s not clear by numbers, it’s essentially how Barcelona play. Flat back four with two attacking full backs in Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna; Alexandre Song with a fearsome new haircut playing as a shielding defensive midfielder in front of the defence, – the Busquets role, if you will; two central midfielders – Ramsey and Rosicky; Gervinho and Arshavin cutting in from the wings; and Van Persie with the captain’s armband leading the line up front. Man for man they’re not as good as Barcelona, but to be fair without exception no team are. Last year Arsenal more often than not played a 4-2-3-1.
The game was tight, and bad tempered. Song perhaps taking his destructive duties a little too literally when he cynically stamped on Barton’s calf with Barton on the floor. The referee didn’t see the incident, otherwise he would have surely seen red. It may be that he would’ve been better off getting punished on the spot though, incidents like this are reviewed by the authorities and Song is in line for a ban. Joey Barton later had his moment of madness, reacting badly to what he perceived as simulation by Gervinho (replays showed contact) and pulling the Arsenal player up by his shirt. A melee ensued, and Barton threw himself to the floor after Gervinho gave him a slap. Let’s put that in the simplest terms possible – Barton, incensed by a dive, took a dive. It’ll be worth tracking him on twitter to see whether he can google a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche or George Orwell to explain that!