As we bounced back down from Gallowgate on Saturday night into the warm, welcoming glow of one of the city’s many shabeens, my pal and I speculated when was the last time we’d enjoyed an away win at Man Utd and a home victory over Arsenal in the same week? Neither of us had a clue and if there are any budding Newcastle United historians out there who can enlighten us that would be great.
In seriousness that was a fabulous period we’ve had after the Dortmund defeat. The comprehensive 4-0 swatting of Palace (I’m regarding the draw at Wolves as a point gained despite being pinned back) followed by the 3-0, almost contemptuous dismissal of Man Utd at Old Trafford, topped off by the win over PL title pretenders Arsenal at SJP says so much about the impact of Eddie Howe at Newcastle United. It largely sailed under the radar but this last week was the second anniversary of Howe at United and what a way to mark it.
These were three great wins but on the back of a trio of very different challenges. With due respect to Palace, we are expected to beat The Eagles these days at SJP but travelling to Old Trafford with a back-line of Livramento-Krafth-Dummett-Hall, without a recognised striker in the side, but bossing the game so comprehensively had a massive away end purring in delight. I say purring in between slaughtering the opposition in exactly the way you expect Mags, many of whom have spent dreadful match-days in the away end at Old Trafford would.
Chewing over the Arsenal game pre-match the consensus amongst our cabal was a draw would be a great result (on the back of the injuries we’re suffering – as well as Tonali’s suspension of course) but that was counting without our game plan and the graft of this group of players for who courage, intensity and force of will is written through their DNA.
So many words have been expended on our goal that it has become something of a dead cat for Arteta. The truth is Arsenal barely laid a glove on United all night and played their football in front of us, created very little and flattered to deceive. United were so incredibly well-organised and committed all over the park. The relentless pressing, closing down and running the hard yards frustrated the London side and when all of the furore about our goal dies down, the conversation should turn to Arsenal’s inability to fashion real chances and their creative players largely having a massive B&W blanket thrown over them.
Strangely enough I wasn’t the only one to be baffled by some of their tactics which seemed preoccupied with diving all over the shop, feigning injuries and running the clock down at Nils apiece. Declan Rice is a fine footballer but he’s not going to do much damage when his major contribution is running around in his own half with the ball at his feet and United happily marshalled and waiting until he got into dangerous areas before nullifying him and his team-mates.
Title contenders? Pfft.
I suppose the key incidents need to be covered. I’ll get to them but not before pointing out the lamentable refereeing of Atwell throughout the game. The referee had lost a grip of the game before Havertz’s wild lunge at Longstaff but his panicked issuing of three yellow cards to Longstaff himself, Gordon and Schar defied belief.
The injustice however, galvanised the SJP crowd and the old place was at its visceral, ferocious best thereafter. How I love being inside our ancestral home when we feel a sense of injustice with our backs against the wall, holding out for a win against a club as storied as Arsenal. Fortiter Defendit Triumphans!
Placed alongside his different response to being corralled by Arsenal players while VAR searched in vain to find a reason to disallow our goal was another moment amongst many when you wondered what the fuck was going on?
Here are the key points for me – I don’t understand why Atwell had the yellow card out so quickly for Havertz who was out of control lunging at Longstaff, with both feet off the ground and the ball well gone. I completely agreed with Lascelles that Havertz attempted to do Longstaff. Had he taken a moment, surely that would have been a Red.
Then our goal. There is no conclusive proof to demonstrate the ball had crossed the line. So, in the circumstances no official can say the ball was out of play. No matter how much anyone in Red bawls their eyes out. No-one has offered conclusive proof the ball was not in play at all times. Then there is talk of an offside but there’s no detailed proof of that either. I’m not even sure who they think was offside to be honest. Finally, a foul from Joelinton on the defender. I can see why that’s the biggest claim but it wasn’t a clear and obvious error so can’t understand how that could be disallowed.
Is that what has fed the fury?
It is self entitlement running riot and Arteta has form. He is quickly becoming the most unpleasant and unsympathetic coach in the country.
Arteta should realise just because he behaves like a spoilt child, rages incoherently in his post-match media appearances, making pathetic claims about being embarrassed and other barely coherent drivel, it won’t make much difference really. He is becoming a laughing stock and official statements from his club are just enabling this petulant man. Please.
Maybe coaching his goalie so he can deal with the basics in coping with a cross as opposed to flapping around like a landed fish might work better than his tedious histrionics.
He has fashioned a team in his image – petulant, entitled and ungracious and summed up by the Arsenal captain refusing to shake hands with Lascelles at the final whistle – it is covered here by Simon Bird of The Mirror – click here. Our captain is not impressed and neither should he. Put Jorgino’s name in the book.
Arteta’s claim his side was the only one looking for the win is typically puerile and gratuitously insulting given how little his main creative players in Saka and Martinelli achieved against an under-strength Newcastle United. Howe and his staff will have noted the insult. Vengeance will be a dish best tasted cold and I’m relishing the trip to the Emirates later in the season.
Not that we were completely innocent. Bruno Guimarães, perhaps frustrated by the dire refereeing took to throwing his hand and forearm about. He was perhaps lucky to get away with a yellow card and whilst we adore the lad and his passion, he does need to control himself. We’ll miss him for the game at Bournemouth through his suspension. Bah!
That’s history now, though I’ll be interested to see if cry-arse Arteta gets a call from the FA and face a disrepute charge. I was delighted at how Howe rose above it all. It reminded me of SBR ticking off Arsenal twenty years or so ago for their failure to handle themselves with grace when we beat them at Highbury, when Wenger, Henry et al believed wrongly they had suffered an injustice. That was another dark night when those representing Arsenal took to barking at the moon.
Enough of them.
One huge week for Newcastle United ends and another begins. Already thousands of Mags are making their way to Dortmund via weird and wonderful routes. This is a trip likely to be part of our history and spoken of in decades to come.
I make Borussia the best side we’ve played this season at SJP. We will have our work cut out in Germany but we travel for the second away fixture in our group buoyed by a fantastic run of three results. The great spirit in the squad is obvious and we can go there and get something. Howe will have learnt so much from the game at SJP, we’ll have a game-plan to cope with a strong Dortmund side. I expect us to set up not dissimilar to what we saw at SJP on Saturday night.
We return to these shores and travel to the south coast for the PL game with Bournemouth on Saturday. This is a fixture we really have to win before going into yet another international break. I’m convinced we can be in the top 4-5 at Christmas but we can only do that by putting sides like Bournemouth to the sword. Apologies if that sounds arrogant. It’s not meant to be conceited but rather is a realistic expectation given who we are and our targets this season.
It is another big week in a season of big weeks.
Looking further ahead, the League Cup draw away to Chelsea might have been kinder. Travelling to London the week before Christmas is a challenge but I have zero doubt whatever allocation we have for Stamford Bridge, it will be sold out and then some. We believe in these players.
I’m hopeful by the time the quarter-final comes round we’ll have progressed to the KO stages of the Champions League and have some players back ready for selection. With that in mind we should give everything for the League Cup and look to go one better than last season and win the trophy.
We can do it. We can beat anyone.
Off the park last week it was interesting to read the words of Dan Ashworth, Sporting Director, discuss Sandro Tonali’s 10-month suspension, how the transfer was completed and what possibly happens next. Personally, I find it difficult to accept that none of the player himself, his agent and AC Milan were unaware of the investigation when the transfer discussions concluded. This one has far more legs in it in my opinion.
The possibility of a further investigation due to potential infringements while Tonali has been a Newcastle United player is all a bit depressing too.
Tonali’s absence has opened up discussions as to what United might do in the January transfer window. Most of that talk has focussed upon ex-Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves coming to United from his Saudi Pro League club, Al Hilal on loan.
Obviously, given our ownership model that is attracting media interest and provides a glorious opportunity for some journalists to punt out wild speculation for clicks. I can’t see it happening because I don’t think Neves will be fit enough for an Eddie Howe team given Saudi football is nothing like the standard of the PL. I’m keeping a closer eye on Onana (Everton) and Phillips (Man City) but it won’t stop the chatter.
These are great days to be following Newcastle United and the team is giving us everything we could hope for right now and more.
Two massive games in very different ways this week. We can do it. Howay United!
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892