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Arsenal's premiership opener against Newcastle United, at St. James Park, was a drab, boring encounter as far as football in its puritan sense is concerned. However, there were some off the ball incidents which made up for the lack of goals.
The match in itself ended 0-0, but Joey Barton did win a personal battle. He managed to get Arsenal debutant Gervinho sent off for a slap on him, a vengeful comeback after Alex Song's stamp on him had gone unnoticed by the referees.
With 14 minutes to go, Gervinho appeared to dive in the box in a bid to win a penalty. An infuriated Barton stormed over grabbed his shirt and raised him up. A melee ensued in which Gervinho appeared to slap Barton, upon which the Englishman theatrically fell to the ground. The ref, Peter Walton, deemed a red for Gervinho for raising his hand, while Barton, who had instigated the incident, escaped with a yellow.
Newcastle couldn't capitalize on the man advantage though, as Arsenal were barely threatened. The otherwise dull game ended goalless. Both teams will have to up their games if they're to meet their respective objectives.
Arsenal, starved off the creativity offered by Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, both of whom were left out of the squad due to their wishes to play elsewhere, struggled to create chances and one can't help but think that without ample strengthening, they'll fail to secure that essential Champions League spot.
Newcastle's new signings did show in patches, but it'll take time before they can gel into a threatening unit. A mention has to go to their defensive performance, marshalled by Steven Taylor, as they restricted Arsenal to limited chances, and that too without a recognised left-back.