Neither Michael Owen nor Emmanuel Adebayor will be attending a major international championship this year, England and Togo having failed to reach their respective continental finals. Only one is assuaging the pain at club level.
With Newcastle United Owen has scored twice in 15 matches against Premier League opposition, the last in early October. For Arsenal, Adebayor has scored 18 goals in 28 games, all against either Premier League or Champions League opponents.
Goals 17 and 18 ended Geordie dreams of Kevin Keegan leading them to Wembley. They also helped Adebayor, and his club, to put behind them last week's unedifying spat between the Togolese and his team-mate Nicklas Bendtner at White Hart Lane.
Arsène Wenger, their manager, somewhat laughably, continues to insist nothing happened between the pair but if the Football Association lacks the evidence – or bottle? – to charge Adebayor, Wenger is hardly going to. Nor is he likely to upset his leading striker. If anyone suffers in the long term it will be the Dane, who is hardly a shrinking violet himself.
Ironically, perhaps helpfully, the pair sit side by side in the Arsenal dressing room as the seating plan is arranged by shirt number: Adebayor is 25, Bendtner, 26. "In the dressing room we sit very close," said Adebayor, who added: "What happened is already behind us. I tried to motivate him and he took it in the wrong way. Then I did a little bit – I have to work at that as well. We are big guys, so we talk about it. It is finished. A child can fight with his father, and they are still friends."
Wenger did admit he was worried that the incident might have affected team spirit but he was more concerned about potentially serious injuries to Tomas Rosicky (suspected cartilage), here, and Kolo Touré (groin) in Ghana. Of the "fight" he said: "It can have an impact, but we have good enough communication inside the squad to deal with that kind of problem." He added that he had spoken to both players.
The immediate upshot was a place in the team for Adebayor, and one on the bench for Bendtner. Two goals suggested that Wenger had made the right decision. The first was neatly tucked away after Eduardo had hit a post, the second was a fine individual strike.
At the other end of the pitch Owen could only watch in envy. He appeared to lack sharpness, but Keegan insisted that was not the case. "He's fit enough, he's sharp enough," said Keegan, who added: "Michael will be at my door saying, 'We are not creating anything'. That's what I would do if I was him because we aren't. If he gets opportunities he will score. He's always done that."
True enough, but the difference between Owen and the likes of Adebayor and Chelsea's Didier Drogba, with their additional strength and presence, is that he cannot create chances by himself. He needs service.
Well though Newcastle played during the first half on Saturday, with Damien Duff and James Milner providing a pleasing width and balance, Owen gained only one sniff of a goal when he failed to turn in Stephen Carr's low cross.
That will concern the 28-year-old, not least because Fabio Capello names his first England squad at the end of the week. Keegan is confident Owen will be in it, and the former England manager expects that to benefit Newcastle.
"I'm sure Michael will be in," said Keegan. "Maybe going to England, being part of that scene, will give him opportunities."
Owen's predecessor in the England and Newcastle front line, Alan Shearer, seems likely to have a consultancy role in Keegan's set-up, perhaps as a forwards' coach – though Keegan has previously tended to do much of that himself. This would seem to offer a smart compromise. Shearer has no wish to be a No 2, and Keegan no desire to devolve responsibility to him. This would enable Shearer to see management on the inside while continuing his media career. It would also reduce his looming presence as a manager-in-waiting by tying him into Keegan's success, or failure.
Keegan has arrived at Newcastle at a difficult time. New managers usually do, but the transfer window, which closes on Thursday, has accentuated the situation. Keegan has had barely a fortnight to assess a squad riddled with injury – and bereft of four players at the African Nations Cup – then buy reinforcements. One planned recruit, Jonathan Woodgate, looks destined for Spurs instead. "They can offer a [Carling] cup final, and European football," Keegan said.
He added: "I've said to Terry Mac[Dermott], it would be nice to have pre-season, have a good look, a few friendly games, but I knew the situation."
Since Newcastle are unlikely to go down and, in Keegan's own words, "the only way we are going to get in Europe is if we get on a ferry", he will probably spend the second half of the season judging what he has before spending heavily in the summer. What the squad lacks most cannot be purchased – confidence. Newcastle folded after the second goal, though the late third created a misleading scoreline, and was especially cruel on Nicky Butt, who inadvertently steered Cesc Fabregas's free-kick inside the excellent Shay Given's far post.
For all Keegan's motivational power only winning builds confidence. So who is next up? Arsenal away, again – and this time in the Premier League, which Wenger freely admits is a much higher priority than the FA Cup.
Goals: Adebayor (51) 1-0; Adebayor (83) 2-0; Butt og (89) 3-0.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Justin Hoyte, Senderos, Gallas, Clichy; Diaby (Silva, 76), Flamini, Fabregas, Rosicky (Eduardo, 9); Walcott (Hleb, 76), Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Bendtner.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Taylor, Cacapa, Jose Enrique (Rozehnal, 77); Milner, Butt, N,Zogbia, Duff (LuaLua, 82); Smith, Owen. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Edgar, Carroll.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Newcastle United Cacapa.
Man of the match: Adebayor.
Attendance: 60,046.Reuse content