While arsene Wenger was left to wax lyrical over Theo Walcott's return to form while reflecting on a place in the last eight of the Carling Cup, Chris Hughton's main task in the aftermath of a particularly harsh scoreline was to ensure everyone he'll still be in charge this weekend.
Newcastle saw fit to issue a statement to such effect late last night in the wake of a frenzied round of betting that the manager wouldn't see out the day, hardly ideal preparation to face a side the North-East club remain without a knock-out victory against since the 1952 FA Cup final.
"I assume the statement was put out due to the unjust speculation, it's speculation I don't welcome," Hughton insisted after his side had been undone by near carbon copy second-half finishes from Walcott, who continues his rehabilitation after injuring an ankle on England duty earlier this season.
Hughton added: "I have a remit to do the best job I can for this team and to keep us in this division. The league table at the minute says we're doing okay. Nothing's different from yesterday or the day before. Anything re my contract you'll have to speak to the club."
Wenger, his future on rather less rocky ground than his counterpart, with whom he shared 18 changes in playing personnel, lauded Walcott for keeping a cool head in front of goal, especially for the contest's decisive second goal eight minutes after the restart. Nicklas Bendtner, returning from an offside position, compounded the sin by appearing to baulk Mike Williamson in the defender's attempts to reach the speedy Arsenal midfielder.
"Theo's more composed in front of goal, he's worked hard on his finishing and you could see that he's ready to go to another level," Wenger said, his only concern the latest injury suffered by Kieran Gibbs, which forced the defender off before the interval.
Surprisingly, Wenger failed to get a clear view of Bendtner's bodycheck on Williamson, a pivotal moment in what until then had been a close contest. He added: "I'll have to see if Bendtner blocked the defender on purpose, but for me Walcott was well in front so I don't think that's influenced the goal."
Hughton was happy to put the myopic Arsenal manager right: "We thought the second goal was offside, as well as Mike Williamson being impeded. After that we had to go in search of a way back and that can be hard against a side as good as Arsenal."
At the Emirates Stadium, they count their trophy hiatus in years, at Newcastle, it's so long now they deal in decades. In both cases, it's five, but on this evidence the former look ideally placed to end their unwanted run. "This is a competition we're taking seriously," Wenger insisted.
The first goal, crucially, arrived as the interval loomed to give Wenger's side a vital psychological advantage courtesy of the back of Tim Krul's head, when the keeper inadvertently got in the way of Ryan Taylor's goal-line clearance from Bendtner's header.
Bendtner showed his more creative side eight minutes from time as Arsenal embellished their margin of victory, dispossessing Danny Guthrie to curl home a memorable third. Walcott once again turned on the afterburners to add the fourth with a minute left, the final scoreline rather harsh on the hosts, who go into derby battle at home to Sunderland winless in their last four games at St James' Park.
After Carlos Vela and Bendtner spurned early openings, Wojciech Szczesny's fingertips diverted Alan Smith's long-range effort onto the bar, while Arsenal's third-choice keeper was fortunate not to bring down Nile Ranger as the forward burst through, the Pole's intervention sufficient to allow Laurent Koscielny to clear the youngster's weak follow-up a off the line.
"It was a harsh result," Hughton insisted after he had finished fielding questions about his immediate future. The Newcastle manager added: "Arsenal are a top-class side and for long periods we tamed them but you can't afford to concede when we did which allowed them to come out for the second half in the ascendency. We will put this one behind us because what we do have is a very big game on Sunday – and I can guarantee you that come Sunday, the lads will be very focused."
Newcastle United (4-4-1-1) Krul; R Taylor, Williamson, Perch, Kadar; Routledge (Gutierrez, 56), Guthrie, Smith (Barton, 71), Vuckic; Lovenkrands; Ranger. Substitutes not used Coloccini, Enrique, Carroll, Tiote, Soderberg (gk).
Arsenal (4-3-3) Szczesny; Eboué, Djourou, Koscielny, Gibbs (Sagna 19); Denilson, Rosicky, Eastmond; Walcott, Bendtner, Vela (Fabregas, 70). Substitutes not used Fabianski (gk), Arshavin, Emmanuel-Thomas, Lansbury, Nordtveit.
Referee A Marriner (Birmingham).Reuse content