ARSENAL: Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Hleb, Fabregas,Julio Baptista (Walcott 64), Flamini, Van Persie (Henry 46),Adebayor.
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Senderos, Song Billong.
NEWCASTLE: Given, Taylor, Bramble, Moore (Sibierski 89),Ramage, Solano (Milner 74), Butt, Parker, Duff (N’Zogbia 86),Dyer, Martins.
Subs Not Used: Harper, Rossi.
Supposedly there were over 4,000 disappointed Toon fans (who regularly travel to away games) who were snubbed for tickets for this fixture. And it was made all the more frustrating because we spoke to scores of ‘new faces’ in the bars around the new Arsenal stadium, saying they were on a ‘corporate package’.
Far be it from me to suggest there were dodgy dealings in the ticket office when allocations went out, but some of these ‘clients’ weren’t just making their first appearance of the season … some were seeing Newcastle for the first time!
The trip to Arsenal has always been a good day for the travelling Toon Army, and nothing much has changed. The new ground is not ‘a kick in the arse’ away from Highbury so we were all familiar with the pubs to visit. And once inside the Emirates Stadium, it is plain to see that the Gunners got it right, and the FA got it sadly wrong picking the workforce to build Wembley.
This is a very impressive piece of architecture, laying to rest the theory that all Cocknies can build in ‘Blair’s Britain’ is the Millennium Dome.
The team news was very encouraging. No Thierry Henry, so obviously Mr Wenger thought his boys could do a demolition job on the Geordies without much effort. And how such arrogance will come back and haunt him.
The Gunners skipper was left on the bench for the first half, but his side under-achieved without him, and once again he proved to be their talisman.
The Frenchman was introduced as a second-half substitute when his team were trailing 1-0. And after Steven Taylor gave away a free-kick that was totally unnecessary, Henry left Shay Given helpless to level on 70 minutes.
Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas had the first chances of the match, but the Magpies stole the lead on the half-hour. Arsenal were caught on the break. A flick-on from Obafemi Martins put Kieron Dyer into space on the edge of the area. He took control of the ball, turned and coolly dispatched a low strike into the bottom right corner.
Newcastle sat back on their lead, letting the home side huff and puff but never looking like blowing Shay Given’s house down.
Robin van Persie tried his luck from 25 yards, but his shot was never going to trouble Given.
Adebayor sent a looping header over from Fabregas’ chip into area, before van Persie curled an angled shot-on-the-turn just wide of the far post after darting in down the right. The Dutchman had to go for treatment on his ankle minutes later, to be replaced by Henry at half-time.
Adebayor tested Given again, who made a smart reaction save, but there were still moments of concern for Arsenal at the other end.
On 55 minutes, Dyer again found space at the edge of the area, and sent a curling effort from the Newcastle left just wide of the far post.
Fabregas’s snap-shot was superbly beaten clear one-handed by Given. But with 20 minutes left, Taylor was cautioned when he bundled over Henry, who seemed to be going nowhere. Taylor did the same at Watford and cost us points, and his stupidity again gave the opponents the edge.
Henry scored off the underside of the crossbar for his seventh goal of the season.
Defender Craig Moore almost put through his own net and Henry had an effort deflected onto the post before Given pulled off another fine flying save from the Arsenal skipper.
The Gunners continued to press but failed to find a winner.