1) Losing a 4 goal lead is unacceptable at any level regardless of the referee’s performance. Forget the ref... we were in control of the game and, for various reasons, let it go
2) Once the first Newcastle goal went in, it was like watching an elaborate car crash unfold. I think most Arsenal fans will be with me in saying that you could see what was happening and there seemed to be little that would prevent it. We just couldn’t keep the ball. Maybe Chamakh for Van Persie would have helped us with holding the ball up and slowing the game down? Who knows… Wenger obviously thought not and we have to respect that decision.
3) The result is actually not as bad as everyone is making out. To put it into context - at half time, while 0-4 up, not one of us really thought we'd be making points up on Utd. However, events later in the afternoon meant that we did. It's a good thing. It could have been a better thing, but it's still good.
4) We're still in the title race and Utd have a very difficult run in from here.
Right, let's put some meat on those bones.
Understandably, a lot of the focus has fallen on Diaby and Dowd.
Diaby for his part in the defeat.
I've seen a lot of posts on Twitter saying that he should be excused his reaction due to obvious incidents in the past and the fact he doesn't get enough protection from referees.
Two points here…
Firstly, no, he should not be excused his rash and unnecessary reaction to Barton's challenge. My opinion is that the challenge was essentially fair, but at the same time overly strong. Newcastle had been sent out to ‘put it about’ in the second half and see what comes of it. The annoying thing is, with Diaby’s reaction, we’ve made a tactical decision from Pardew bear fruit. Diaby was always going to be sent off for raising his hands and by doing so he let the boys down, put us under a lot of pressure and created the atmosphere that gave Newcastle the belief that something special might be possible. Not good enough.
Secondly, maybe I'm being a bit thick, but I don't understand the whole, "not protected enough by referees" argument. Referees can give fouls and talk to players for bad challenges, give yellows for cynical challenges and send people off for dangerous challenges. What more 'protection' can they afford players? Genuine question. Would be interested to hear people's thoughts. (Twitter is the place for that @viewfromn5).
Terrible performance from the referee. The two disallowed goals should have stood. One for each side so I guess they cancel each other out, however two wrong's certainly don't make a right. Nolan should have been sent off for a similar offence to Diaby's after their first penalty and, most importantly, the second penalty was simply baffling. I still have no clue as to why it was given.
I think the second penalty is an interesting one actually. I'm of the opinion that Dowd was caught up in the moment. The noise of the crowd, the chance of a dramatic comeback, the potential to be involved in a Premier League Classic™. He saw a player go down within a melee of Arsenal players and, I think, reacted all too quickly.
I don’t think we can blame Dowd for the result entirely (most of the blame has to lie with the players), but his performance was poor and I hope will be looked at by the relevant authorities.
The third 'D' - Djourou.
Rather than the sending off, I think Djourou's injury was the main turning point of the match. The reason Newcastle were able to capitalise on the positive atmosphere Diaby’s sending off created.
Put simply, Squillaci is not up to it and his presence in the side creates panic in others.
His bright start at the club is forgotten. I feel the good start may have been a continuation of the late-season form that prompted Wenger to sign him. I fear that it’s only now we’re seeing the real Squillaci and it’s a real concern. He seems more and more likely to be following the path of Silvestre, Cygan et al... and the worrying thing is he drags others down with him. Koscielny is a different man next to Squillaci. Composed and confident with Djourou. Scatty and indecisive next to Squillaci.
Rumours that Djourou might be out for a month or more are worrying in the extreme. It seems Arsene’s centre back gamble may cost us. As long as the right cover is available, I'd probably be in favour of moving Song back in the interim. But who knows what Wenger thinks… we'll just have to wait and see.
Actually thinking about it, this whole business is typical - if there were two players we could not afford to lose for the game against Barcelona, they were Djourou and Nasri. Both out now. It's annoying as I just want us to play the Catalans with a full strength side.
Losing to Barcelona with everyone available is, in my view, somewhat acceptable. However, I still wonder 'what if' after the patched up 11 we had to send to the Camp Nou in the second leg last year...
Anyway - enough of the doom and gloom. The fact still remains that we made up points on Utd this weekend when we didn’t expect to. This can only be a good thing. It could and should have been better, granted, but ultimately it's been a good weekend for us in terms of the table and the title race.
I was positive Utd would lose at some point, and I remain positive that the first defeat will be followed by others.
Utd’s next four league games are against Man City (h), Wigan (a), Chelsea (a) and Liverpool (a). A tough run by anyone's standards. Compare this with our next four league games - Wolves (h), Stoke (h), Sunderland (h) and West Brom (a). All eminently winnable.
How Utd react to their defeat and how we respond to the disappointment of Newcastle over the next three or so weeks has the potential to be season defining.
Come on you reds!