NUFC 0-4 Arsenal: Arsene’s kids on fire

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Blogs
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Arsenal started and ended the night in first. First gear that is, and they rarely either wanted or needed to move into second. Both sides made 9 changes to their starting line up from their weekend victories at Upton Park and The City of Manchester Stadium and both fielded a mixture of first team fringe players and ‘kids’. With Wenger admitting earlier in the week that he was going to field a fairly strong lineup, combined with his counterpart’s reliance on the youngsters and bench warmers in the Carling Cup this season, hopes were never high on Tyneside of progressing to the Quarter-Finals, despite an encouraging 4-3 win at Stamford Bridge in the previous round. Whether or not this weekends Tyne-Wear derby altered Hughton’s team selection is open to debate, yet the reality is that it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

Arsenal could have been ahead in the first minute and out of sight after just quarter of an hour. A Newcastle side still seemingly in the dressing room, in mind at least, were torn apart by a rampant Arsenal side that flew out of the traps, breaking down a makeshift Magpie’s back four (Kadar, Williamson, Perch and Ryan Taylor) with incredible ease. That Newcastle were still level after 20 minutes was as much to do with Arsenal’s poor finishing as it was some fine saves from their Dutch Under-21 captain Tim Krul.

Newcastle had Tim Krul and some poor Arsenal finishing to thank for still being level after 20 minutes

Newcastle adopted a strategy that has paid dividends for them away from home so far this season. Sit back, pack the midfield and attack on the counter. Yet for all of Arsenal’s early dominance the best chance of the first half fell to Newcastle when their young striker Nile Ranger, playing against his boyhood heroes, latched onto a long ball to nip in between Koscielny and Arsenal’s young Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny (apparently the highest scoring Premiership player’s name, when used in a game of Scrabble) only to get the ball stuck under his feet before regaining composure to find two Arsenal defenders blocking his path to goal. His lack of experience showed as instead of either laying the ball off to the advancing Lovenkrands or moving the ball to create a better angle for his shot, his weak first time effort was easily blocked by the legs of the Frenchman Koscielny, scurrying back to make amends for his mistake that gifted Ranger the opportunity to break the deadlock.

Ranger’s chance, although spurned, acted as a wake-up call to the rest of the United side and offered Arsenal a reminder that they may have a game on their hands. And they did. For the remainder of the first half, Newcastle more than matched their youthful opponents, going even closer moments later when Alan Smith struck a Steven Gerrard-esque half volley from fully 30-yards, that required the slightest of touches from Szczesny to push it onto the bar and into the Gallowgate end. Newcastle looked steady and when 2 minutes of stoppage time were added at the end of the first period, both sides looked content to go in at the break all-square. However, it was not to be, as United fell behind to a stroke of bad luck on the verge of halftime.

Ryan Taylor headed his goal line clearance into the net via Tim Krul for the opener

Krul did well to punch clear an Arsenal corner, yet it fell straight to a red shirt and the Gunner’s pumped it back into the box, with Nicklas Bendtner rising highest to send a header towards the target. With Krul still scrambling back to his line, he missed a straightforward catch and the ball continued toward goal. Ryan Taylor was on hand to make the necessary goal line clearance, yet was only able to find the back of the Dutchman’s head with his weak header. The ball ricocheted backwards and into the Leazes end net; a timely boost for an increasingly sluggish Arsenal side and a killer blow to the Magpies who knew that they would have to take the game to the Gunner’s in the second half.

Newcastle started the second period brightly, fully aware that an early equaliser could rattle the young Arsenal side in front of a healthy attendance of over 33,000 at St James’ Park. However, it was the Gunners that scored first in the second half, controversially doubling their lead in the 53rd minute. A long kick upfield by Krul was instantly headed back into the Newcastle half by Djourou and with Newcastle’s defensive line pushed high up the park, a slightly offside Theo Walcott raced onto the loose ball and past an offside, but not interfering (!) Bendtner to chip neatly over an advancing Tim Krul. That neither Walcott’s offside, nor a blatant bodycheck by the big Dane on returning Newcastle defender Mike Williamson were spotted by the officials added to the sense of injustice amongst the home fans that was only just receding from the opening goal some 9 minutes (of playing time) earlier. Newcastle responded by making two attack-minded changes, bringing the fleet-footed Gutierrez on in place of Routledge and Andy Carroll for the once again ineffective Lovenkrands.

The introduction of Carroll and Gutierrez saw a spell of Newcastle pressure but they failed to take any of their numerous half chances

The changes prompted a more direct approach from the Magpies, which led to a succession of decent half-chances, none of which were taken. With time running out, the realisation dawned on the home fans and players that a result was not forthcoming and as Newcastle relaxed, complacency set in. First, Danny Guthrie was easily dispossessed by substitute Cesc Fabregas who laid on Bendtner to fire home brilliantly from the corner of the box to make it 3-0 with seven minutes remaining. Minutes later and Arsenal made it four, with Laurent Koscielny’s heavy pass, intended for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, finding Walcott who, in similar fashion to his first of the game, capitalised on Newcastle’s high line to burst through and slot home his second of the night past an onrushing Krul from just inside the area.

4-0 seemed a slightly unjust scoreline, particularly with Newcastle mustering more corners and shots than their London-based counterparts, not to mention the cruel misfortune of the own goal and Walcott’s first, offside effort. Nonetheless, Newcastle did not expect to be in Saturday’s draw for the quarter-finals before the match and the experience gained from playing against one of the top teams in the country will be invaluable for Newcastle’s youngsters, with Ranger and Slovenian starlet Haris Vuckic both showing promise in a game where possession was dominated by the away side.For Newcastle, the disappointment of going out of the cup will be well and truly forgotten come 1.30pm on Sunday when the Tyne-Wear derby returns to St James’ Park following the club’s promotion last season. The game could not be more finely poised, with both teams occupying positions in the top half of the Premier League table, separated by a single point. Newcastle will ring the changes and it will be a surprise if Chris Hughton does not name the same team that beat West Ham on Saturday evening. The Mags will need to improve on their recent home outings, however, if they wish to claim the North-East bragging rights and avoid a serious scare on Halloween.

  1. Tim says:

    A good performance, a great result. The only real downsides for me were Gibbs – injured again! – and Vela, who continues to look like someone who isn’t putting in anywhere near 100% … Arshavin, but with zero end product. To me, he looks like someone who knows he is way down the pecking order and expects to be shipped out in the summer.

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