A CultFootball Roundtable: Demba Ba, Agents, Money Business–How Loyalty May Miss the Point

January 5, 2013 — by Rob Kirby


Some CultFootball roundtable reactions to a Telegraph piece on Ba leaving Newcastle for the money (and why shouldn’t he?):


Roman and Demba, cut from similar cloth?

The Cunning Linguist:

No way!

That article reeks of the old love of the game mentality and “where are English players in the EPL” rant. Ba went to a club that may play Champs League and will get paid more money while slotting into the lone striker role in a 4-2-3-1 set up as opposed to the 4-3-3 of Newcastle.

Football’s a business, a money business. 7.5mm quid for a 13 goal scorer is good business. That said, I’d have preferred to see a recall for Lukaku as I think he can spell a clearly tired and out of confidence Torres.

Lally (aka Political Footballs):

Also, Newcastle put the release clause in the contract whilst not guaranteeing him money if he didn’t play because of his suspect knees. He didn’t engineer the move, merely agreed terms when Chelsea matched the price Newcastle had set for him.


I agree with Cunning Linguist that football is a money business, up to a point. If we can get all Clintonian up in here, it depends on what your definition of “is” is. (This also recalls, I think, a class THC & I took together at UofC in analytic philosophy…remember that Tyler? More on that topic to come soon.)

I’d agree if you say professional club football at this moment in time (what some people call “modern football”?) is a money business. but certainly we can agree (can we?) that it’s not been true of club football at all times, and certainly not of our Saturday morning “Mario’s Incredible Liga Fabulosa” matches.

So actually I suppose it depends on what you mean by “football.”


Of sense and reference“,  Frege I believe. Can’t recall the course title.

No arguments against any of the above. Could have easily replaced “Roman” with Walcott/RVP/Nasri. Ba seems risky to me but I think that’s due to his poor form second half of last season. It’s certainly not a bad deal given the relatively low price for him (depending on one’s definition of “low”).

The link was in an Arsenal blog about transfers and I had only skimmed before posting it. After reading further, there seems to be a decent amount of conjecture about team dynamics at Newcastle. Not mentioned in the piece, unfortunately, was that Ba reportedly has 5 agents that will benefit from the deal, which I think was the “what the fuck” moment that made me want to send the link to begin with.

Cunning Linguist:

That’s actually a pretty fair point. The side “business” of holding shares in an individual and multiple business consortiums engineering moves to churn fees is pretty disgusting. Remember the Mascherano and Tevez deals that were churned through West Ham by Kia Joorabchian? Wasn’t Pardew boss at WH back then, or am I misremembering? That agent shit is outta control. Didn’t Big Sam’s son have some involvement with agent fees or some shit?


Arseblog has mentioned repeatedly that Theo is being led astray by his agent. He’s getting everything he wants, he’s been the striker and scored or assisted in each of the last four games, he’s the team’s leading scorer, and he’s paid pretty well. But still no new contract. No legit title contender (Manchesters) will sign him, he probably wouldn’t start for Chelsea, and Liverpool will barely miss out on the top four this season. So it’s not about trophies, it’s about money. He’s a decent and honest guy it seems, but he’s young and marketable, so the money-grubbing agent influence is believable.

Digress… I like the Lukaku idea, and I will be paying attention to Ba’s integration into his new team. After all, isn’t Chelsea the soccer world’s favorite science experiment?

Gu, I think the course was actually called, “Introduction to analytical philosophy”. Is the morning star the same as Venus, unicorns do and don’t exist, etc.


The deal with the agents is that there’s not much incentive in them telling the player “you’re happy here, there’s no reason to move and generate a fee from which I’ll take a nice 10% cut.” They can’t do it so often that they run afoul of the player through particularly bad advice, but the move argument is certainly good for a couple paydays.

Then with Ba and others where there may be more than one agent (he’s the only one I’ve heard of, but I imagine there are others), one is a family member, one is the guy they brought in because what real experience does the family member have except for the ear of the player, and so on–I can see where it gets really convoluted really quickly.

Then for Arsenal players, they bring on Darren Dein (of Henry, Cesc, RvP & Song departure fame, and son of someone or other), and it’s history.

Piggybacking on what Cunning Linguist said earlier about an old view of club loyalty vs. a modern view, when it comes down to it the globalization of the Premier League in terms of audience, but especially in terms of talent pool, it means that few of these guys are playing for their boyhood clubs. They won’t be retiring after many years of service and reentering the town community, running into fans at pubs for the rest of their lives–or running the pub–as once it may have been. Ba is from Senegal, he’s probably supporting/subsidizing a huge contingent of family, he grew up neither a West Ham nor a Newcastle fan, and if his knee had detonated on him, he would have been cut loose on the spot. I get wrapped up in my hopes for what certain players will do for Arsenal, but with Adebayor, for example, I now respect the fact that he refused to lower his wage demands or fall for any sympathy plays. I think he’s delusional on some levels, but on a money level, he’s right on. I didn’t like it when he did it to us, but I understood his position more when he messed with City (which, really, was just awesome to witness). He wasn’t going to make it easy for them, because he knew he didn’t have to. He has a couple years to make cash, his country is a mess, he knew his negotiating position. Even if he’s not a grade-A humanitarian, building hospitals around Togo (although I think he did fund one), he knows where his allegiances lie: to himself, his extended family, and then far later in the list people like Wenger, Mancini etc.

I used to really dislike Drogba until I learned more about his off-the-field persona. He’s actually an awesome dude. And then I could see how awesome he was on the pitch after shedding my dislike of his diving or continual single-handed reaming of the Arsenal defense year after year.

Anyway, this is a rare moment of perspective. I’ll be fuming about how disloyal some departing player is soon enough, I’m sure.


One quick note–the bit about “few of these guys are playing for their boyhood clubs. They won’t be retiring after many years of service and reentering the community, running into fans at pubs for the rest of their lives, as once it may have been” echoed, ironically, Jonathan Wilson’s column about the Zenit fans’ open letter.

The opening paragraphs, in case you didn’t read it before:

Let’s imagine that fans of Sunderland (and I use the example purely because that is who I support), tiring of the constant churn of the transfer market, decide that enough is enough and they want their team to do things differently. They get together and hammer out a manifesto which they then post as an open letter to the club hierarchy. Among a number of points about the need for absolute commitment and an abhorrence of cheating, they suggest they would rather the club focused on local players.

How would the world regard that? Some might argue that is not the most efficient way to run a club in the modern game but most would surely accept that, if nothing else, a strong local identity can help foster a sense of common purpose. Athletic Bilbao select only Basque players while Barcelona are proud of their Catalan core; why shouldn’t Sunderland fans dream of a team built around half a dozen Wearsiders?


I have just one question.  Without Ba’s presence already at Newcastle, does Cisse sign there?


Y’all can think wishfully all you want to, hark back to the good old days of club and community loyalty, but the political economy of modern football will ensure a tiered class system of wealthy clubs amassing known talents, mid-level clubs with canny ‘value’ hunting managers (like Wenger) punching above their weight, and the rest pitifully swearing to virtues of local talent as an excuse for their empty coffers. But rather than lamenting this unequal state of football affairs, I forfeit bourgeois sympathy for the underdeveloped clubs and embrace the opportunity for beautiful football that unfettered markets create in the elite level. Who cares about Leeds role in Yorkshire talent development – I wish a rich sheikh would buy it and fill it full of Drogbas and Messis so I can watch the best football that money can buy.

Cunning Linguist:


Political Footballs:

You guys did that. It was called the 2000/2001 season. Fat Aussie wanker.


But does a class system not truly offend us at some level?  Yes, sport is not intended to celebrate mediocrity. As much as the super rich clubs have injected quality into the game by assembling an  array of talent until then only imagined in school yards (or fantasy soccer leagues), the gulf between the haves and have nots is so large that it’s a fantasy to think someone other than the big 3 will win it.  “Hey, you never know”. That tagline sells a lot of tickets–and I guess the EPL hopes so too.

I don’t know what happened/went wrong with the likes of Preston North End and Huddersfield Town. Perhaps this current crop of champions will be a memory in years to come. I can only hope.


Without going back through each and every post, I don’t think there has been much yearning for the good ole days in our posts. Cunning Linguist and Rob have made valid points with regard to agents and self-preservation/securing one’s and one’s family’s future.

I too used to HATE Drogba the Gunner Killer, then read about what he’d done for his country, saw him mature on the field, watched him beat Munich, and now he’s a sporting hero of mine. The only problem I have with him moving to China is that now I can’t watch him. Maybe I’d be more upset if I supported Chelsea, but I doubt it. He left at his peak.

That says something about loyalty, I suppose. I shouldn’t like him, right? But at the end of the day sport is, among other things, entertainment and glory and he provided ample amounts of both.

What is loyalty? I chose Arsenal because I discovered FSC and the first thing I saw was Henry change direction and cause two defenders to lose their footing and fall. Then I saw that year’s squad was Invincible. I rooted for France and recorded every WC game of theirs because of Henry, I had recently been to France, I watched more Arsenal the next year and loved what I saw. I know nearly nothing about North London; the most time I’ve spent in England was sleeping on the floor of Gatwick airport, but that’s my team and it always will be.

(I’ll pause and wait for the scoffing to end.)

When some of us complain about player loyalty in this era, we might feel scorned because we expect that the player knows us like we know him. We forget he’s not our buddy, we spend money and set aside our time to watch him while he makes more and more money and has so much time to enjoy a rich and famous lifestyle while never knowing us. We think he should repay our loyalty but he has his own loyalties.

So I sent the Ba link with no comment save for a comparison between him and Abramovich. At least we know where they stand as individuals who want to be successful financially and competitively no matter who gets in their way. The issue we Gooners have with Nasri is that he used the team to get where he is then trashed the team and its fans. So he’s a disrespectful juvenile who we thought was our buddy but he wasn’t, and we moved on (but we love that he was ejected last game because we thought he was once our buddy). Our problem with Adebayor is similar; he has character and temperament flaws and he really provided a reality check for sure–oops, not our buddy! We moved past it and now he just seems sad.

RVP, Theo, Wenger, Arsenal as an organization, the problem we have with them is that they say one thing and do another, but they want us to stay their buddy. Or, they actually say nothing and let us guess, pretending to hope we are their buddy while secretly not caring? Yet they give us just enough to hold on to and because we want entertainment and glory we put up with it, rationalize it, and somehow love it no matter how dysfunctional it gets. We hope!

The reason we’ll never question Cesc or have a problem with him is that we knew where he stood. He proved his loyalty by chastising Spanish press for misquoting him against Arsenal. Henry won everything he could with Arsenal and left to win that one last trophy. We understood and he proved loyalty by returning. They gave us beginning and end and were a bit clearer about it than the others.

Years ago I decided, only half-jokingly, that for fairness and entertainment’s sake, the MLB and the Olympics should offer two separate competitions, one for the purists and one for the dopers. Entertainment and glory would abound, and we would know where they, and we, stand.

A “super fantastic Blatteristic Euro league” full of the big money teams? Why not? (Ahem, next roundtable topic?) Entertainment and glory for sure, talent and competition through the roof. Just don’t expect anyone you’re watching to be your buddy.

Loyalty… I once hated Peyton Manning simply because he was THAT good, a Broncos killer. (For the same reasons as Kobe to the Nuggets but not nearly as vile. Sports heroes are villains because they’re heroes to someone.) But now Peyton is totally my buddy! He’s curious about what I’m having for breakfast and I’m pretty sure we’re going to see “Les Mis” after the Super Bowl. I’m sure of it!


What to Watch This Weekend, Part 2: Newcastle-Manchester City, Derby della Madonnina

May 6, 2012 — by Suman


Sunday, May 6

EPL, Newcastle United vs Manchester City (8:30amET, FSC & Fox Deportes): A massive game in the Premier League, both for the title race and Champions League qualification.

Following Man City’s tense 1-0 victory in last Monday’s much-hyped Manchester derby, this match becomes the new title-decider. If City win this one, they’ll need only a final day win over Sunderland at home to claim the title (assuming Manchester United win their final two–versus Swansea at Old Trafford later today, and at Sunderland on the final day).

But Newcastle will be fighting for a win here as much as City. They’re even with Spurs on 65 points, who play Villa today–only 2 points behind Arsenal, who slipped up badly this weekend with a 3-3 draw at home against Norwich.

And Newcastle is equally in form, especially January signing Papiss Demba Cissé.  He’s the talk of the league after scoring 13 goals in 12 appearances since coming over from the Bundesliga’s SC Freiburg (where he was also prolific–his 22 goals last season, in his first full Bundesliga campaign, were 2nd only to Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez).  But he’s especially the talk of the league after his spectacular exta-time goal Wednesday at Stamford Bridge–frontrunner for goal of the season. If you haven’t seen it, watch it now; if you have, watch it agian:

Key matchups: Cissé and his Senegalese strike-parter Demba Ba against the City’s center back pair of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott; and in midfield, Newcastle’s creative Frenchman Yohan Cabaye and Ivorian hardman Cheikh Tioté against the likes of Yaya Touré, David Silva, and Samir Nasri. Watch also for another creative Frenchman on Newcastle’s wing, Hatem Ben Arfa.

Interesting historical resonance: City are looking to win their first title since 1968–when they clinched the title with a 4-3 victory over Newcastle at St. James’ Park, allowing them to squeak past crosstown rivals Manchester United.  In addition to the photo above of the opening goal, see the rest of the Telegraph’s gallery of photos from that day.

Serie A, Inter Milan vs AC Milan (2:45pmET, FSC, Fox Deportes & La Derby della Madonnina , i.e., the Milan derby.  Not only one of the most storied and heated rivalries in the game, but also, as if often the case, a match with big implications for the Serie A table. Like the Newcastle-ManCity match, this match simultaneously impacts the race for the domestic title as well as Champions League qualification.

AC Milan sit one just point behind still-undefeated Juventus.  So they’ll need Juve to slip up, either today against Cagliari or next week at home against Atalanta. But they’ll certainly need to keep winning to give themselves any hope of winning another Scudetto.

On the other hand, Inter have had a roller coaster of a season.  They’ve been on the rise again over the past month, after Claudio Ranieri was sacked and Andrea Stramaccioni was promoted from manager of Internazionale Primavera to manage the senior squad.  But they now sit in 6th place, one point behind 5th place Lazio and 3 points behind 3rd place Napoli and 4th place Udinese. With the top 3 finishers in Serie A going to the Champions League, while 4th and 5th go to Europa, Inter will need at least one of those teams to falter in order for a return to European competition next season.



A Walk in Bahia

January 7, 2012 — by Edhino


Prologue: Salvador, up in northern Brazil, is so unlike Rio and Sao Paulo, the rest of the country refers to Bahiaians rudely as "slow". As I trudged through the late afternoon sun looking for the Newcastle - Man Utd game, it struck me that the heat may have something to do with it.


Newcastle Bubble To Soon Burst

November 8, 2011 — by Rob Kirby

With the Manchester teams and Chelsea the next three fixtures, Demba Ba won’t be celebrating another hat trick anytime soon.

Not long ago, Newcastle United found itself relegated to the Championship and Mike Ashley couldn’t pay someone to take the team off his hands. (Ok, that’s going a bit far.) Yet now the Magpies find themselves in third, one off the pace from Manchester United. For a few hours on Saturday, they even occupied second place. The team remains unbeaten in the league. In what reality does this make sense?

Three fixtures immediately after the international break will determine whether Toon are in the top four to stay or have been living in a boom-style bubble. If I had to bet–and I think I may check a betting site to see if I can put some money on this–the latter will prove true and they won’t get a point of the next 9. The bubble won’t simply pop, it will explode.

Newcastle are about to get their asses handed to them in swift fashion. Thus far, they’ve played three teams in the top half of the table, draws with Spurs, Aston Villa and a depleted Arsenal side even before it went down to 10 men. Their next three matches are the Manchester teams away, followed by Chelsea at St. James Park, and they no longer have Joey Barton to kickstart a red card bonanza. When facing Chelsea is your best chance of getting a point–as in singular, one–you know you’re in trouble.

Newcastle is enjoying an 11-match unbeaten run in the league, equaling its best-ever unbeaten run. Manchester City will see to it that the run ends, however. And City will very possibly execute this dreamcrusher by a mega-goalfest margin, as is their wont.

If Newcastle can make it through the Manchester City-Manchester United-Chelsea gauntlet even relatively unscathed, they will have done much to earn their position. (And I will have lost that money, wiping egg off my face as I await the hit squad sent out by the Toon Army.)

Newcastle did well to strengthen the team with Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye, especially given the departures of former captain Kevin Nolan, José Enrique and Barton. Ba scored a hat trick against Stoke, taking his league tally to 8. Unfortunately for the Tyneside faithful, Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux picked up injuries in Saturday’s match against Everton, and now must keep Cheik Tiote company on the sidelines.

Central defender Steven Taylor and rest of the back four have only conceded 8 goals in league play. However, in the Carling Cup, fielding mostly first teamers, they conceded 8 in three matches against lowly Scunthorpe, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn. They may very likely concede 8 to City and Manchester United alone.

Newcastle sit three points above Chelsea and Tottenham and six over Liverpool and Arsenal. Taking none from 9 could see them in an entirely new spot in the table. Liverpool will be waiting for their turn to inflict some pain, as well. When it gets to the halfway mark and Newcastle has faced everyone in the top half of the table, we’ll have a better idea of bubbles and burstings.


What to Watch This Weekend (Aug 20-21)

August 19, 2011 — by Suman

It was shaping up to be a packed weekend, with some interesting EPL matchups and the start of the La Liga season in Spain.  But alas, Spanish football is still in shambles, with the players on strike over unpaid wages.  Hopefully that will be resolved over the coming week so that we’ll see those interesting fixtures next weekend.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at the EPL games that we’ll be watching–along with the FIFA U20 World Cup final:

Saturday, August 20

EPL, Sunderland-Newcastle (7amET, An early kickoff for this edition of the Tyne-Wear derby.  Last year this fixture resulted in a Sunderland suffering an embarrassing 5-1 thrashing–though Kevin Nolan scored 3 of those goals, and Andy Carroll was on the pitch for Newcastle as well.

This year Sunderland is probably picked my most to finish above their cross-town rivals.  See Coach Larry’s thoughts on Sunderland following their draw with Liverpool last Saturday.

Arsenal fans would be happy if Arshavin scored even 1/4 as many tomorrow

EPL, Arsenal-Liverpool (7:45amET, ESPN2/ Another early morning game for those of us in the US–is it worth waking up for? Liverpool supporter & observer Coach Larry weighs in:

I think for the fans of the two teams it is. Both teams are trying to adjust to their new players still, and with the high stakes involved for the two, I’m not sure either will be too adventurous.  They did do this in 2009.

Suarez might just have the full run of the middle of the pitch with Arsenal without Wilshere (injured) or Song (suspended) in the midfield. Stuart Downing and Enrique taking on Sagna should also add some fun. We should get more info on whether Dalglish has in mind rotations/matchups or starters/subs for his eight MFs at least.

RVP will give Carragher and Agger a rough time, and the Gunners should try and attack in spaces behind both left and right back. But the usual question remains, if they do, will they convert the chances into goal attempts. And they also have to solve a left back issue considering Gibbs’ and Djourou’s balky hamstrings.

From the numerous Arsenal-supporting branch of the CultFootball family, Tyler opines that Gunners fans and pundits are overly pessimistic. (Case in point: longtime Arsenal supporter Eddie wrote in: “I have to say, this is the most depressing start of season for Arsenal. I will feel compelled to watch the game, as I would video-clips of a tsunami disaster..”  Last week while watching Newcastle-Arsenal together at the Chip Shop, Eddie mentioned how he started following the Gunners as a young lad in Singapore–actually he converted from supporting Leeds United, back in the days of Don Revie and Brian Clough.  Naturally we immediately commissioned him to write the 2nd installment of our “They Reminsce” series.  Look for that in the coming weeks.)  On the other hand, Kirby joins Tyler in his cautious optimism: “I truly believe that it could be both a good match, and if Arsenal wins, a huge boost for the challenges ahead. A depleted squad goes in, but Robin, Vermaelan, Sagna. Who knows, maybe Arshavin will decide the time is right to be kickass again and bag 4 goals. Looks like Nasri may be playing tomorrow, btw.  That just made the game a bit more star-powered.”

EPL, Chelsea-West Brom (12:30pm, FSC): Our resident Chelsea supporter, who prefers to go by the nom de plume The Cunning Linguist, writes in with these thoughts on the Blues after their lackluster scoreless draw opener against Stoke: “I hope people start giving ManU some stick for spending money. I’m sure no one will forget the 50mm quid on el niño, who looked very sharp and dangerous. Too bad his supply line is crap; Salomon still hasn’t got a kalou and Malouda is, well, he’s French. I prefer Anelka on the right as a wide man and would like to see Benayoun in the mix. Chelsea don’t impress me and doubt they’ll do much this season. May have to start cheering for QPR.”

FIFA U20 World Cup Final, Brazil-Portugal (9pm, We have to admit, we haven’t been watching the U20 World Cup.  So we might as well tune in for this all-Lusophone final.  We’ve variously heard over the past week that the best teams in this tournament were ones that didn’t make the final (Spain, according to Jonathan Wilson, and Mexico, according to Tommy, who also had some unflattering comments about Portugal: “they start that flopping crime in Portugal early. I’ve been watching a lot of the U20 Cup, and the final 30 minutes of Wednesday’s Portugal showing vs France was humiliating. Apparently France had several snipers posted in the stadium because the Portu-gals were going down like they were on an adult film set.  Bad news for the US – the Mexican U20s look great. They may have lost to the Brazilians in the semis, but they were the best team I saw. Gddmmit.”)

Sunday, August 21

EPL, Bolton-Man City (11am, FSC): Both teams put in 4 last weekend, albeit against newly promoted sides (QPR and Swansea, respectively), and hence are at the top of the table after one week.  All eyes will be on Kun Agüero’s after his Premier League debut performance–two goals sandwiched around a spectacular assist to David Silva, all after coming as a substitute in the second half.


Joey Barton Highlight Reel

November 11, 2010 — by Sean

The Telegraph has a nice list of Barton’s misbehavior over the course of his professional career, which we reproduce here:

Dec 2004 – stubbed a lit cigar into the eye of young team-mate Jamie Tandy during Manchester City’s Christmas party. Fined six weeks’ wages by City. Forced to pay four weeks’ salary – approximately £60,000 – immediately, with a further two weeks suspended for a year.
Barton says: “If I was to do something similar, I’d be the biggest fool ever.”

May 2005 – breaks leg of 35 year-old pedestrian while driving his car at 2am in Liverpool city centre.

July 2005 – involved in an altercation with a 15-year-old Everton fan at City’s team hotel in Bangkok, where the team are playing in the FA Premier League Trophy. Fined eight weeks’ wages by City after being found guilty of gross misconduct. Accepts punishment and agrees to undertake a programme of rehabilitation.
Says: “When people talk about my dark days, when I sit down and think about it – the misdemeanours I’ve had, with the things that go on in the real world – the things I have done are stupid and foolish. But they are not war crimes.”

Sept 2006 – drops his shorts in the direction of Everton fans following City’s 1-1 draw at Goodison Park. Charged with improper conduct and/or bringing the game into disrepute by the Football Association and fined £2,000.
Says: “The shorts thing was only intended as a light-hearted joke but some people didn’t take it that way unfortunately. I don’t know whether the fans see me as the Evertonian that got away or what. I was there when I was a youngster and have had a couple of chances to go back and it’s never been right.”

Feb 2007 – wins his first international call-up despite public criticism of the England team’s performance at the World Cup and subsequent releases of autobiographies.
Says: “England did nothing in the World Cup, so why are they bringing books out? ‘We got beat in the quarter-finals, I played like s**t, here’s my book’. Who wants to read that? I don’t.”

March 2007 – arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage in an incident involving a taxi driver. He is later charged with criminal damage, which he denies.
Says: “He (the taxi driver) didn’t seem to be in control and seemed to be going really mad. I said ‘Let’s forget about the money and get out of the cab and get to safety’, but he wouldn’t stop the cab.”

May 2007 – suspended by Man City for the rest of the season after a training ground altercation with Ousmane Dabo. He is charged with assault and appears in court but is spared jail.
Says: “I am very thankful to the media of this country. If it was not for them vilifying me I may have p****d my career up the wall. ”


Newcastle Impose Their Will on Arsenal

November 7, 2010 — by Sean

Man of the Match: Andy Carroll (please cut off your ponytail, thank you)

Newcastle came into their game at the Emirates significant underdogs, though in good spirits coming off a strong win last weekend against aggressive long-time rivals Sunderland. The first half was one of frustration for Arsenal, with Fabregas’ strike against the crossbar the only time the 22 year old Dutch goalkeeper Krul let a ball past (a triumphant return against the team who put 4 past him in recent Carling Cup play). Walcott was unlucky against the woodwork in the second half, but overall Krul made some top-notch saves to kept Newcastle in the lead.

Arsenal tried and tried, but couldn’t penetrate a compact and organized Newcastle defense. The team in black and white collapsed around the Arsenal playmakers as they crossed midfield, cutting off distribution through the center. They also did well to quickly pressure the Gunner’s wingers when they had possession, isolating them and forcing turnovers.

Of particular note was Andy Carroll. The big leaping forward who scored the winning goal for the Magpies was all over the filed, winning balls in defense and forcing the issue in attack.

For this week’s chalkboard project, let’s take a look at the first 17 minutes of the second half. A crucial period for Arsenal (for any team really, ahead or behind), if they’d come out a changed, charged team they might have turned the game then and there and gone on to win. Pity to the home fans, their team were worse after the break. This little slice of the game is a fine example of how most of the match played out–in Newcastle’s favor.

As Newcastle plugged up the middle, then the wings, then the middle, and so on, Arsenal were forced to pass the ball laterally, with very few forays into more dangerous areas. They did try (132 total passes attempted) but Newcastle upset them enough to force 26 turnovers, concentrated dead in the center of the pitch where Fabregas’ magic would have otherwise been crafted.

On the chalkboards, Arsenal is moving left to right, and Newcastle right to left.