One of the best games of the 2010/2011 season was undoubtedly the game between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James’ Park (I do not care what Mike Ashley has renamed it to. It is and always will be St James’ Park) when Arsenal raced into a 4-0 lead only to be pegged back to 4-4 in a thrilling second half. So when it was announced Arsenal would face Newcastle on the first day of the new season, at St James’ Park, it’s fair to say everyone was expecting another cracking match. Yeah. Not so much. Instead, it ended a very drab 0-0. The term stalemate was thought up for games like this one.
The game had nothing to shout about. There weren’t too many clear-cut goal chances, no last-gasp goals, no flow to it, nothing. It was crap, as Robbie Savage said. One of the dullest games ever. They’d have been better off picking a different game and sticking this in the 3pm kick-off slot. Although we were probably expecting too much. Arsenal are without Fabregas and Nasri, who have one foot out the proverbial door and Wilshere is injured so Arsenal don’t really have anyone to give them any oomph. No one to kick-start them. Newcastle were alright, I suppose, but there was no creativity or anything, so the match was just so dull.
There were a few sparks, but nothing to do with the football aspect. Gervinho dived in the first half, which is worth noting for what he did in the second half. Then in the second half, after a tackle between Song and Barton, Song stamped on Barton. No provocation, he just stamped on his leg. Nobody saw it, though, and Song got away with it. Then Gervinho dived again and Barton hauled him up and Gervinho slapped him. Barton went down as if he’d been shot (then again, if he’d stayed on his feet the ref mightn’t have known he’d been slapped!) and there was a lot of handbags. Gervinho was sent off, Barton got a yellow card and although the match threatened to ignite, it sadly didn’t.
Barton got a lot of flack from the commentators for hauling up Gervinho after he dived, but I’m with Barton – Gervinho dived and I’m sorry but if I was a football I’d be hauling him up as well. Diving is abhorrent. It should be a ban in and of itself, frankly. I don’t agree with Joey going down as if he’d been shot, either. That’s disgraceful, too, but like I said: If he’d stayed on his feet, would the ref have even known anything had happened? He was slapped whichever way you look at it so whether he stood up or dramatically collapsed it doesn’t matter. You can’t slap another player, end of. Song should be banned for three games for the stamp. That, too, is disgusting. I cannot abide players who stamp on other players, unprovoked or not. It’s yob behaviour and Song just cannot get away with it. I’d be surprised and saddened if he did.
The Newcastle vs Arsenal game rounded off the day’s proceedings which saw Liverpool and Sunderland draw 1-1; QPR were handed a sound 0-4 beating by Bolton; Wigan and Norwich drew 1-1; Fulham and Aston Villa shared a 0-0 scoreline; Wolves beat Blackburn at Ewood Park 2-1. I must admit, I do worry for Wigan. They play the three promoted teams for their first three games and it will define their season, so much so that I think they may well end up relegated. Ditto QPR. I thought QPR would survive, but the drubbing they got from Bolton made me think otherwise. My relegation picks could have been way off the mark… Who knows? The Premier League starts proper tomorrow as we get our campaign under way against West Brom. I can’t wait.