They should have warned Gervinho about the nuances of English football. For much of his Arsenal debut, the Ivorian striker looked an exciting addition to the Premier League, galloping down the right wing, repeatedly threatening Newcastle. And then came Joey Barton.
Perhaps the former Lille striker is not familiar with the convicted criminal, Nietzsche-quoting Twitter phenomenon that is Barton. He is now.
Barton deserved red! Wenger upset after Gervinho sent off in clash with bad boy Early bath: Gervinho was shown a straight red card after he slapped Barton around the face
MATCH FACTS Newcastle: Krul, Coloccini, Simpson, R Taylor, S Taylor, Cabaye (Lovenkrands 81), Barton, Gutierrez, Tiote, Ba (Obertan 46), Sh Ameobi (Best 73)
Subs not used: Forster, Williamson, Gosling, Sa Ameobi
Yellow cards: Coloccini, Barton, Tiote
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky (Frimpong 85), Ramsey (Djourou 90+3), A Song, Arshavin (Walcott 61), Van Persie, Gervinho
Subs not used: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chamakh
Yellow cards: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Rosciky, Song
Red card: Gervinho
Referee: Peter Walton
On 72 minutes a scoreless draw erupted in anger and recrimination when Gervinho collapsed a little dramatically under challenge from Cheik Tiote in the penalty area, though TV replays showed that contact was made and a penalty would not have been unthinkable in the circumstances.
Barton took issue with that interpretation of events, aggressively dragging the striker to his feet.Only Stephen Taylor's physical restraint of his team-mate prevented something more serious but foolishly Gervinho took the bait.
He slapped the protagonist, who then demonstrated his own capacity for exaggeration by collapsing as only a professional footballer can, as if floored by a knock-out blow, resulting in a red card for Gervinho. Welcome to England.
Presumably the DJ who chose to play 'This Charming Man' at the final whistle was possessed with a delightful sense of irony.
This, of course, is the same Barton who provoked the sending-off of Abou Diaby here last season in the infamous 4-4 draw that came to symbolise Arsenal's broken season.
'Perhaps we should sign him and that would solve all our problems,' said a remarkably sanguine Arsene Wenger afterwards.
Come here you: Barton drags Gervinho to his feet after the new signing fell down in the penalty area
It was, it should be stressed, a joke. Alan Pardew then resorted to the tired clich? of Barton being a 'character' in a bid to defend him. He was on safer ground when commending the footballing contribution Barton made to the draw.
And yet there was more to that cameo than a mere old-fashioned footballers' ruckus. The fact that Gervinho had resorted to a dramatic reaction to minor contact was indicative of Arsenal's age-old problem of breaking down resilient defences.
Fight night: Barton confronted Gervinho after he appeared to dive in the penalty area
For Newcastle, this will be a scrap of a season and for that reason alone they would do well to keep Barton.
In mitigation, Barton had survived a stamp from Alex Song a few minutes before the melee he provoked. Had thereferee spotted that it is possible (though unlikely) Barton would havebeen calmer; and it is also certain that Song, already cautioned, wouldhave been sent off.
Seeing red: Peter Walton gives the Ivorian his marching orders
Arsenal are often caricatured as being too soft to win; in reality, they lose their heads far too often, as was evident in Diaby's reaction here last season and Song's performance yesterday. Gervinho, too, looks to be vulnerable in this regard.
Indeed, for Arsenal, embarking on thepost-Fabregas and post-Nasri era, normal service was resumed. They dominated possession with intricate passing and rapid attacks.and Pardewadmitted: 'For the first 20 minutes it was the Arsenal that I feared. Ithought the criticism that they wouldn't do anything this year would fire them up and they gave us a really hard time. But we had tremendous resolve today.'
Up for the ball: Transfer-listed Barton started for Newcastle in their Premier League opener against the Gunners
With Newcastle happy to defend deep and admirably organised, there was little incision from Arsenal and midway through the second half, the travelling Arsenal fans had seen enough, breaking into a profane chant that demanded Wenger spend some money. There is a risk this disillusion becomes a contagion.
'We missed something in the final ball, the speed of our passing,' conceded Wenger, though he insisted that the supporters should maintain their trust in him.
You've got to hand it to them: Wenger and Pardew shake hands before the game
'We are not scared to spend big money, don't worry,' he said. 'But over 15 years I have been at this club, look at the quality of the players I have brought in and you can see that I didn't do too badly.'
Nevertheless, the closest Arsenal came to scoring was a curling shot from Robin van Persie on 22 minutes, afree-kick from the edge of the box by the same player on 54 and a blocked strike from substitute Theo Walcott just past the hour.
Final balls from Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin let them down too often. When Arshavin did find Van Persie,he stumbled. Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini and Steve Taylor were rightly praised by Pardew while Tiote scuffled admirably. However, Barton remained the topic of the day.
Cheik mate: Arshavin takes on Newcastle midfielder Tiote
In Toon: A Newcastle fan greets Pardew before the match
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