Arsene Wenger would have been enraged by the manner in which Arsenal surrendered points against Newcastle after going to a four goal lead within the first half an hour. Goals from Theo Walcott, Johan Djourou and Robin van Persie seemed to have sealed the points for the Gunners against a Carroll-less Newcastle United who looked short of inspiration in the first half.
But the Magpies showed tremendous resilience to fight back and get something from the game. They were undoubtedly helped by the poor refereeing decisions from Phil Dowd but it is undeniable that they showed great character. They always looked dangerous from set pieces and Arsenal’s weaknesses at the back was exploited well by Newcastle who sealed a remarkable draw through a sensational goal from Tiote.
Arsenal faced no problems in the first half when all things were working for the Gunners, but they seemed visibly shaken when Newcastle decided to rough them up by fouling them on numerous occasions. The game was threatening to break out of control after numerous robust challenges from Newcastle players and with absolutely no protection from the referee who refused to produce yellows. It was inevitable that at least one Arsenal player would react to it.
Joey Barton’s tackle on Diaby was quite a bad one. When it went unpunished Diaby over-reacted and was red carded by Dowd. What followed next would probably never happen again in a long time. Newcastle, who looked toothless, were all over the Gunners who conceded four goals in the game.
It is more likely that if the man on the bench had been on the pitch for Arsenal, this would have been avoided. Sol Campbell was an unused substitute for Newcastle and would have wondered where his former club lost the plot. Players like Campbell add a lot of leadership to the team and will bring more stability.
Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas is certainly one of the best midfielders in the world and is arguably the most important player for the Gunners. But the question that arises with every performance like this from the team will be whether he is the right man to lead the Gunners.
He is a determined fighter on the pitch and his commitment to the cause is unquestionable, but Fabregas is not too vocal on the pitch. Though Fabregas and Van Persie are the two most senior players on the team, they have a tendency to be passengers in the momentum and cannot assert their authority in precarious situations.
Cesc Fabregas has been inspirational on a lot of occasions and orchestrates the majority of Arsenal’s attacking play, but when Arsenal need to be resilient and defend for their lives, he is not actively involved. One clear example of where he failed against Newcastle was after Diaby was sent off. When Arsenal were reduced to 10 men, they lost their orientation and stopped passing the ball.
It was mainly the keeper playing long balls in the hope of finding the lone striker and more often than not, it piled more pressure on the Gunners. Fabregas should have stepped up and said to his teammates that they had to pass the ball and try to retain possession as much as possible. This Arsenal side has enough quality to retain the ball despite going a man down and here is where the Gunners sorely miss the leadership skills of Patrick Viera and Gilberto Silva.
The Newcastle draw was not too dissimilar to the loss against Tottenham at the Emirates where Arsenal had a horrible second half performance to complement their dominance in the first 45 minutes. Fabregas was again lost in the momentum and could not inspire the Gunners to be resilient.
Though the Spanish midfielder is capable of producing brilliant moments to inspire the Gunners to victory, it is still debatable whether he can make his teammates perform better in times of adversity. Denilson was quoted questioning Fabregas’ credentials as a leader and though he said that his comments were misinterpreted, there might be an element of truth to what he said.
There are still doubts with the Arsenal supporters as to whether Cesc Fabregas can lead the way for the Gunners like the way John Terry does for Chelsea or Steven Gerrard for Liverpool and performances like these will only enhance these questions. However, with Manchester United also dropping points, Arsenal are in with a good chance this year and should Fabregas hold the trophy aloft in May, all questions will be banished from the minds of supporters forever.
More articles can be read on The Invincible Gunners, a blog on Arsenal and other football news