The way I see it - Arsenal v Newcastle United

Last updated : 25 January 2008 By Jason Hogan
As Arsene said himself, the margin of defeat was brutal. But then, taking both legs of this ill fated Carling Cup tie into account, we got our just desserts in the end.

How do I personally feel about it as a proud Gooner? Well, my feelings are a little mixed to be honest. Whilst it's true to say that I was initially nonplussed about the emphatic nature of our demise on the night and mindful of the fact that no Arsenal fan will hear the end of this from the Spuds until the 12th of never, the fact is I'm not going to allow myself to get all bent out of shape over it.

And why should I? Yes, we were poor the other night but in contrast to the Spuds, it was hardly a season defining game for the Arsenal, was it? Let's remember that going into the game, the Spuds have generally underachieved once again this season. They are hardly in pole position to gain a place of any sort in Europe via the league and they only have an each way chance of getting back into Europe next season by winning the UEFA Cup. And with ManUre lying in wait for them at Old Trafford this weekend in the FA Cup, is it any wonder that they pulled out all the stops in the Carling Cup.

Does that go any way to justifying the performance we put in on Tuesday? No, of course it doesn't. But given our current league position for starters, I would say, without any shadow of doubt, that the 15 games we have left to play in the league are infinitely more important to us than Tuesday's game at Shite Hart Lane.

Because unlike the Spuds, we are not only in a very good position to qualify as of right not just for Europe but the Champions League once again as of right, we have a base from which to have a tilt at winning the title.

In other words, in spite of what happened the other night, the fact is that is we are still operating on a different plane to them. And despite the fact that they have booked themselves a rare appearance in a cup final, the fact is that we still have the chance to ensure that we are still operating on a different plane to them, certainly in Europe at least, by the time next season starts. Allowing for all the hype last summer, what would the Scum and their fans give to be able to say that?

At the end of day, the Scum are not my problem though and, looking at Tuesday's game in a more subjective light and taking the immediate future into account, the fact was that the limitations of certain personnel on the fringes of the Arsenal squad were shown up big time.

Once again, young Theo was exposed as being out of his depth. I said, in my last piece ahead of the Fulham game, that this boy could do with going out of loan and finally, if media reports are to be believed, there is a suggestion that Arsene is coming round to a similar way of thinking.

As I said last week, I think that the boy is playing like someone who is mentally under pressure. It may be a subconscious thing but the fact is that it is there for me. When you are under pressure it leads to anxiety and if you are in that state of mind, it's nigh on impossible to operate anywhere near optimum effectiveness and efficiency.

I'm not writing the kid off and I know a vast majority of Arsenal fans would love nothing better than to see this kid earn his stripes at The Grove. But, when you are on the books of the one club that people like to see fail more than any other (a point I make out of fact and not self indulging pity) you have to be mentally tough to deal with being in that environment.

I really think it would do him some good to have a spell at a club where there is less scrutiny and where he can just enjoy himself and be judged for what he is at the end of the day - a young, well mannered kid who is trying to make his way in the game.

Somewhat at the other end of the scale we come to Gilberto. As we Gooners all, the Brazilian is a man who has been there, done it and got virtually all of the most sought after T-shirts you can get. For his professionalism and integrity alone, he deserves every damn one of them.

But the truth is the Brazilian is now the equivalent, in boxing terms anyway, of a shot fighter. When I look at Gilberto now (a man who is not actually that far beyond the wrong side of 30) I see a man that doesn't have the pace, the skill or the dynamism to operate effectively in English football anymore.

Arsenal's policy of giving players over 30 rolling 12 month contracts may evoke controversy not least in the pubs and clubs around Highbury but when you see someone like Gilberto labouring the way he is these days, you can begin to make sense of the club's stance I think.

Tuesday's game also highlighted not only how much we missed Kolo's athleticism, vitality and doggedness but also our chronic need for another centre back.

It was always going to be a big ask for Justin Hoyte, to fill in at centre back and help curtail cute operators such as Berbatov and Keane. The thing is, that I doubt if Senderos or Djourou would have done any better had they been fit and available though. And to be honest, Hoyte didn't get an awful lot of help from Gallas who in my opinion had as big a night to forget as anyone else in an Arsenal shirt.

Still, if Arsene chooses not to spend some cash and plug some of the gaping holes we have in the squad in spite of all this, what can we, as fans, do about it? I'm not saying that Arsene should go out and start buying players for £20 million a pop but, in order to pep things up a little, I would like to see a couple of steady pro's come in at least on loan definitely at the back and maybe out wide or even up front.

Speaking of strikers, I'm glad to hear that no action will apparently be taken against Adebayor or Bendtner for their little fracas the other night. I may be doing an Arsene here but I honestly didn't see what went on between the two of them. Around the time it all went off between them, I was on the phone to my mate Gazza who was not a happy man at all and largely in haranguing mode.

I'm sure that Arsene will have more than a few words to say to them both about their conduct, particularly Adebayor. With the tie already dead, he shouldn't have really been brought on anyway. Nevertheless, whilst not making any attempt to defend either Adebayor or Bendtner, the idea of the FA sticking their oar in on this was bollocks as far as I am concerned and I believe that the issue should remain an internal one which has nothing to do with anyone else outside the club whatsoever.

Anyway, it's time to move on and look at our Fourth Round FA Cup tie against Newcastle.

With the return of Kevin Keegan, the world and its mother knew that renewed hope has suddenly sprung eternal on Tyneside and there is no doubt that his return has been the biggest story in domestic football this season since the departure of Jose Mourinho last September.

I'll shamelessly admit that I am delighted to see Keegan back in the game myself. If Christmas isn't Christmas without turkey and all the trimmings then things in the football world aren't quite the same without Keegan being in the mix somewhere.

The leading question that everybody in football is asking is whether Keegan can adapt to a game that has moved on even in the three years he has spent away from the game since he was at Manchester City. Well, as Matt Le Tissier of all people pointed out quite rightly, Keegan spent eight years out of the game once upon a time and turned Newcastle around then so why not now?

Personally, I think if Keegan is going to bring the good times back to Tyneside he is going to genuinely need what Fat Sam didn't have - time. I was talking to my old buddy Geordie Steve on Thursday night. He works in a newsagent just round the corner from where I live and I hadn't popped in to see him in a little while.

Steve told me he was feeling a little uneasy about the double header we have against his beloved Magpies. I told him that whatever happens in our games against them this coming week, what matters for Newcastle now is getting to the summer and seeing what moves King Kev makes in the transfer market then and at this moment in time, there is no way of truly judging the impact he will have second time around as boss.

What I didn't mention was that Newcastle will come into this game with nothing to lose and with the whole nation on their side. And to be fair, they do have one or two players who could give us problems at their best.

Long term injuries or not, Michael Owen really needs no introduction to anyone least of all me. James Milner is another lad that has shown in the past that he is a capable performer in between days as well. And though he hasn't shown anything like the form at Newcastle that he showed at the PRF, Damien Duff is a foe not to be dismissed lightly.

But, fitness permitting, the man that I am really wary of in the Newcastle ranks is Mark Viduka. I have said this a million times over the years but if he is feeling fit and mentally on his game, this lad is good enough to win a game for any team, at any time against anyone, anywhere. Even with him in his twilight years as a player, I would be happy if this boy is not on Newcastle's team sheet both this Saturday and next Tuesday.

The Arsenal are going to be under close scrutiny this weekend after the fiasco at the Lane and they need to respond positively against Newcastle. I will be at The Grove in person on Saturday to see how things pan out. I may have been philosophical about what happened last Tuesday but I will not be in as tolerant a mood if we fail to get the job done on Saturday.