Andy Carroll had left for Liverpool at the end of the January transfer window, allowing the club to bank £35m; an astonishing amount of money for a player who at best was as good as David Kelly (£250,000 from Leicester) but potentially as good as Duncan Ferguson (£7,000,000 from Everton). It turned out to be one of the worst transfer deals of all time as far as Liverpool were concerned but it seemed to make good financial sense from those on the other side of the Pennines. The squad however seemed to be suffering from the loss of an integral part of their makeup. Not quite the same as losing Andy Cole in January 1995, Carroll had been a shining light in the post-Shearer days and had been shown the door despite the manager telling everyone he would be going nowhere. The hang over was clear for all to see when a simple through-ball baffled Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini to allow Theo Walcott to latch on to it, outpace the defence and slide the ball into the corner after 40 seconds. Two minutes later, Danny Simpson pulled Cesc Fabregas to the floor and gave away a free kick ten yards outside the penalty area on Newcastle’s right hand side. Andrey Arshavin floated an innocuous ball into the centre, no Newcastle player even jumped to challenge and Johan Djourou planted his header into the top left corner. Three minutes gone, Newcastle 0 Arsenal 2.
In the aftermath of the goal, Szczesny wouldn’t release the ball back to Nolan who grabbed the keeper round the neck and caused him to fall to the ground. Amazingly, it was the ‘keeper who received a yellow card. (Nolan was also booked in secret after the Newcastle midfielder had returned to his own half).
Theo Walcott had faded as Arsenal spent the last twenty five minutes on the back foot so he was replaced by Emmanuel Eboue who gave away a free kick and was yellow carded within two minutes of his introduction. The resultant free kick was floated over to Williamson who was subsequently fouled by Rosicky. Phil Dowd, the referee, didn’t see anything untoward but the linesman on the nearside flagged and the referee put the whistle to his lips and gave the penalty. Barton again took two steps and rifled the ball into the roof of the net. Szczesny released the ball immediately as both Barton and Nolan converged on him to get it which allowed Newcastle to kick off again 3-4 down, the crowd as loud as they’d ever been and seven minutes left to play. Then came one of the moments you hope for when you pay your money to enter the ground. One of those moments that no matter how many times you rewatch it, it still gives you Goosebumps. One of those goals that gives you shivers just by thinking about it.