Frustration, frustration, frustration! At Newcastle, at match officials, and at Arteta’s lack of game-changers

Madley loses control
Well, that was a hugely frustrating match. In fact, frustration is my overwhelming emotion after being held to a goalless draw at home by, let’s not forget, a Champion’s League challenging team, in Newcastle.

I am sure we are all frustrated at Newcastle’s footballing approach, which in all honesty, changed completely after we totally dominated the early exchanges. After 10 minutes, I honestly felt Arsenal would win comfortably. Sadly, Eddie Howe saw what we all saw and dramatically changed his team’s approach, to one of pure anti-football. The time-wasting and injury-feigning were hard to take, along with the subtle – and occasionally less than subtle – foul play. So, yes, this was frustrating but Arsenal are that good that even a very strong Newcastle side needed to resort to those tactics.

The frustration, therefore, and mine certainly, is more directed at the referee, who simply lost control very early, with senseless bookings made, whilst missing obvious ones, and he honestly never regained it. The anti-football at the Emirates is something Arsenal will have to become accustomed to, but they should expect more support from officials. Bobby Madley was far from on top of the opposition’s rather blatant time wasting and obvious continual ‘injuries’ to players for sure, but VAR failed him too when he missed Dan Burn’s undebatable shirt pull at the end. A penalty that might have give the home team the points they deserved.

However, Arsenal cannot influence the opposition tactics or the appointment or performance of the referee, or VAR team in Stockley Park. They can influence how the team responds to the adversity on the pitch however, so my main frustration this morning is that Arteta was unable or unwilling to do so.

It is seldom, in this column, that I have criticised or even questioned Arteta but after the game, on the underground and in my car, with time to think, I kept asking myself who could have changed the dynamic or the match, from Arsenal’s bench? We are all excited by the potential arrival of Mudryk and his presence may well influence future matches. We all miss Emile Smith Rowe, who is close to a return to first team action and undoubtedly last night we needed a dribbler like him, who offers an alternative to our constant probing passing.

Neither Mudryk or Smith Rowe were on the bench, but Arteta did have Fabio Vieira and Sambi Lokonga. Watching his A team toil and struggle to break down a stubborn and well organised Newcastle defence, Arteta only made one change, a right back for a right back. This frustrated me enormously at the time, and more so, on reflection.

Xhaka discipline

Granit Xhaka looked exhausted and for the first time in ages, I feared his ill-discipline was returning, after his awful first half challenge earned him a booking. The fact that Arteta will not give Lokonga any minutes to try and offer some freshness and young legs is surprising, and it seems more and more obvious that his manager does not believe in him. For me though, the Vieira situation is baffling and more frustrating.

I looked up Arteta’s quotes early in the season on his Portuguese playmaking addition –

We were looking for players that could play in three positions in the front line and in the attacking midfield positions. We were looking for very specific qualities in the market and when I saw him, I really liked what I saw. Straightaway, I was convinced that he was a player who can help us go to the next level.”

So, what has changed Mikel? Fabio Vieira has somehow changed in your mind from a player who can help us get to the next level, to one who cannot help us unlock the Newcastle back line. On Tuesday night, in the latter stages, the team needed to try something different and without the dribbling skills of a Smith Rowe or a Nelson, with Martinelli in the experienced Trippier’s pocket, in the main and with Saka exhausted, it needed a man capable of the unpredictable.  Arteta certainly led us to believe Vieira was that player, and in all honestly, we have all seen it, mostly in cameos later in matches.

Fabio Vieira is effectively at present, our main understudy, to Xhaka, Odegaard and Saka. That may change as this transfer window progresses but against Newcastle, with all 3 of these players exhausted and devoid of new ideas, Vieira was an obvious alternative. Arteta has defended his lack of substitutions but on this occasion, his lack of activity or obvious attempts to change the tactical approach was frustrating.

So, yes Arteta, for once you frustrated me, almost as much as the referee and Newcastle, but it does show us the need for new reinforcements. The return of the Croydon de Bruyne will truly be like the proverbial new signing, but I do have grave doubts after the other night if our manager believes in Vieira, as I am certain he does not believe in Lokonga.  Time will tell…

This article first appeared in my Fan View football column for The Sun.


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10 Responses to Frustration, frustration, frustration! At Newcastle, at match officials, and at Arteta’s lack of game-changers

  1. Craig Chisholm January 5, 2023 at 9:19 am #

    Well, as a Newcastle fan I can get your frustration a little but as with everything, there are two sides. The first pen was defo a pen I agree and the desision to not give it was wrong. However we need to look at where that potential wrongdoing came from-a free kick which was given against joelinton for taking man before ball…on the replays it’s clear that he did infact take ball first.. so it should not have been a free kick to start with.. so I therefore think that the two ref mistakes cancel each other out. The second pen was not a pen, only Arsenal fans will say it was and it would have been harsh to give it. So that boils down to Eddie Howe switching tactics after fifteen mins… your point of view is to not like that style of footy and I agree, however… it’s not our normal style and it’s due to your great attacking and passing team that we had to switch to frustrate. From my point of view, Eddie pulled a master stoke which shows the quality he is. Anyways don’t worry lads… I still think you will win the league and good luck too.

    • Dave Seager January 5, 2023 at 9:26 am #

      Agree and you did it rather well.

  2. Al January 5, 2023 at 9:22 am #

    Decent article as always. Most chatter leaving the ground was on our lack of options on the bench and that Arteta clearly didn’t trust Veira in a physical match like this. Minor point, the ref was Andy Madley, apparently no relation to Bobby Madley but just as poor a refe judging by this inept performance!

  3. Paul January 5, 2023 at 9:22 am #

    It’s funny how myopic you Arsenal fans are. As a Newcastle fan, I saw a team (my team) being completely outplayed and so we did what every other team would do (including Arsenal) and looked to slow the game down. Your team score goals with quick technical play and defence splitting balls so we looked to stop that by blocking spaces. Were we meant to just let you score goals to keep you happy? If Xhaka had been playing for us, how do you think he would have played? I’ve always had a soft spot for Arsenal, mainly due to Wenger, but I’m old enough to remember Charlie George and Frank McLintock – part of a great team. You have always had great traditions but Arteta is a disgrace. Maybe a great coach but a festering ball of tension who throws his toys out of the pram if things don’t go his way. He tries to dictate every pass – your players must hate it. Your team is good enough to win the league without this embarrassing whining – it just detracts from the good things your team does. As for us, doing far better than I’d hoped with the best coach in the League after 14 years of deterioration under Ashley. Just enjoy what you have.

    • Dave Seager January 5, 2023 at 9:30 am #

      I too am that old and I think Arteta needs to calm down on the touchline. His antics are not helping the team but right in front of me, Howe’s assistant kicked the ball away from our player who was just about to pick up the ball to take a throw in. Now that is disgraceful to use your word.

      • Paul January 5, 2023 at 1:49 pm #

        Yes, I’d agree with that. Not sporting and I don’t like to see it.

  4. Silentstan January 5, 2023 at 9:50 am #

    An irritating night is how I found it. Mainly at our tactics
    1) the slowness of our playing across the back linewhilst Newc just got themselves settled before most of our attacks attacks
    2) The monotony of Martinelli cutting inside
    3) the lack of any one overlapping Martinelli
    4) the lacking creativity
    5) the lack of and poor crossing
    6) Nketiah lack of pressing and ball watching. At one free kick late on he stood 2yds offside as they always do but didnt make a step forward when the fk was taken. He simply loses focus during games.
    7) absolute paucity of our bench. Jesus and ESR are our only 2 mainstay absentees. Nelson is a bit part player
    8) lack of any plan B
    9) Artetas embarrassing pitch side performance
    10) finally , abject refereeing

    • Dave Seager January 5, 2023 at 12:43 pm #

      A tough evening for sure my friend.

  5. allezkev January 6, 2023 at 1:19 pm #

    I get the disappointment Dave but we forced a Newcastle team who were hotly fancied to really test the Arsenal defence to retreat into a parked bus, it’s easier to get 10 men behind the ball than to create so it was no wonder that the Arsenal players looked fatigued.

    Arteta made changes at Brighton and that didn’t go to plan, a comfortable 4-1 lead almost becoming 4-3 but for a stray leg, tbh I’m not sure that Lokonga is a player for that scenario with his habit of loose passing leading to turnovers. Not using Vieira is harder to defend but I’m not sure who I would have taken off and with the game finely balanced would our level had dropped with that change, or not as the case maybe?

    Maybe Mikel played safe and took the point whilst trying for the win but not taking a risk that could have seen us mugged, if you get my point…

  6. John Mclean January 6, 2023 at 7:37 pm #

    I thought Zinchenko should have either been subbed or tactics changed for him to go down the outside of Martinelli rather that playing inside constantly where it was very congested. Martinelli needed help down his side as he got nothing out of Trippier. Was a bit of a throwback to Wenger type game. Pass pass pass, not shooting from range etc. Still enjoying the season so far tho 😉 ….

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