The Gunners went 4-0 up in 26 minutes with ease thanks to goals from Theo Walcott, Johan Djourou and two from Robin van Persie. But the complications for the visitors started early in the second half when Abou Diaby was dismissed for reacting violently to a Joey Barton tackle. The Magpies were given two contentious penalties and Barton converted both to complement a Leon Best goal and a stunning Cheick Tiote strike to level the score.
Arsenal got off to a perfect start when they took a one goal lead in the first minute and found themselves four goals up 25 minutes later. It seemed Arsenal’s every chance lead to a goal as they put the Newcastle defence under pressure straight from the off – as soon as the ball was at the feet of a United player the Gunners were quick to close it down. Walcott did well to shrug off Coloccini and slot past Steven Harper for the first goal and from then on it was poor marking which lead to the visitors’ massive lead.
The north London side attacked with great venom and some delightful passing. Arshavin and Walcott on the wings, van Persie at the forefront and Fabregas in behind as an extra option struck fear into the home side’s defence as they drove at them with great pace which the Toon found impossible to deal with.
The second half, however, was a different story. After Diaby’s dismissal, Arsenal lost the battle in the midfield. They could not move the ball around with such ease as they had in the first half, instead Newcastle took control.
The northerners gained some momentum after their first two goals with a constant flow of attacks, keeping Wojciech Szczesny and the Arsenal back line busy. The Gunners were slow to shut Newcastle down and they were slack in defending. Without Diaby to break down the home side’s attacks in the middle of the park they were left open and Koscielny failed to show the same confidence and understanding with substitute Sebastien Squillaci in the second half as he had with Djourou in the first.
The back line dealt with the majority of Newcastle’s attacks, but some poor marking lead to Leon Best’s goal and with 10 men cramped in the box they had no chance in closing down Tiote for the equaliser. As far as the penalty decisions go, Best felt a hand on his back and went straight to the ground but what the referee saw to give the second completely baffled most observers.
The Arsenal attack had a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde performance, charging at the Newcastle defence constantly throughout the first-half but tame and sluggish for the most part in the second period.
Arsenal tried very hard to keep their four goal lead but with thanks to Diaby’s bad temper, a few questionable refereeing decisions, some poor marking and a great fight back from Newcastle, they could not hold on to that four goal lead which would have closed the gap between themselves and Manchester United even further.
3 Sagna – 6 Koscielny – 20 Djourou – 22 Clichy
2 Diaby – 19 Wilshere
14 Walcott – 4 Fabregas – 23 Arshavin
10 van Persie
48 – 18 Squillaci on for 20 Djourou
69 – 7 Rosicky on for 23 Arshavin
79 – 27 Eboue on for 14 Walcott