If ever there was an act of swift penance, this was it from Emmanuel Adebayor. His brace, both of them splendidly executed goals at either end of a second half in which Arsenal brutally exposed Newcastle's shortcomings, has brought an uplifting end to a dark week for Arsène Wenger's men, who also benefited from a late Nicky Butt own goal.
At the whistle, the Togo striker was hailed by home supporters still bemused by his contretemps with Nicklas Bendtner at White Hart Lane on Tuesday night. Having used his head, apparently – we must add that because Wenger still appears curiously in denial – in an unacceptable manner against his own team-mate during the 5-1 Carling Cup defeat by Tottenham, Adebayor employed it to rather more positive effect here.
"A year and a half ago, you looked at him and you thought there were a few things missing. But there's not much missing now," Keegan hailed the match-winner in the absence of Wenger doing so. "He's taken over the mantle of Thierry Henry. I didn't think anyone could do that, but he's doing it – in his own way."
Before the interval, Newcastle gave it all, as we knew they would, under Keegan's motivation, but then capitulated in the second period. "We had the courage to go forward and we were going along nicely," said Keegan. "If only the second half had been the same. But they [Arsenal] stepped up, and in the end the gulf was quite big."
Keegan, aiming to bridge that gap, had been buoyed by the possible return of Jonathan Woodgate from Middlesbrough. But the Newcastle manager had to admit afterwards: "It looks like we've lost him, and I'm very disappointed." Woodgate appears to be heading for Tottenham.
With tracksuit sleeves rolled up, the manager exhorted his men to advance at every opportunity and they responded initially. It was a nervy first 45 minutes for Arsenal, notably when Gaël Clichy headed off the line from Alan Smith with Jens Lehmann beaten. On the half-hour Jose Enrique had a clear header but he cleared the bar.
But having failed to make the breakthrough, his team demonstrated that ambition in itself is not enough. Not against even a somewhat below-par Arsenal whose manager, in his inimical way, was later in contrary mood about the actions, or otherwise, of his warring factions Adebayor and Bendtner. Yesterday, Wenger kept them apart. Adebayor, who appeared to head-butt his team-mate during Tuesday's match, started and ended the game; Bendtner never left the bench.
On one hand, Wenger maintained: "Nothing happened – everybody has tried to prove that Bendtner was hit by Adebayor, but they can find no evidence". On the other hand, the Frenchman conceded: "It happens in every team. There is not one where that kind of incident does not happen."
He then added: "We have dealt with it internally, and we are quite severe when we feel players have to be punished."
He compared this incident with those in the 15-man code. "People play rugby in this country and that is where people get hit every week, it is normal. Then we have an incident where someone might have been touched a tiny bit and everyone is shocked. Both of them apologised because it didn't project the right sort of image and it shocked your [the media's] virgin view of the game."
Arsenal also had their chances in the first half, with Shay Given denying Clichy and substitute Eduardo da Silva. On the stroke of half-time, Abou Diaby was foiled when his curling, dipping shot was tipped over by Given. But then six minutes after the break, Cesc Fabregas struck a beautiful curling shot which cannoned back off a post. The ball fell to Adebayor, who though in an unpromising position, and with no fewer than four Newcastle players advancing, managed, with some deft footwork, to produce a superlative finish.
Six minutes from time, substitute Alexander Hleb released the Togo striker again. He left the United rearguard for dead before beating Given.
That seemed to be it, but from a Fabregas free-kick, Butt headed into his own net. For Keegan, who finished the match being mockingly hailed by the Arsenal supporters, there are few signs of promise. It is all back here on Tuesday in the Premier League.