Arsenal 3 Newcastle United 0: Barton's cameo causes offence as Keegan appeals for clemency

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The Independent Football

>Newcastle's manager, Kevin Keegan, did not want all the after-match discussion to centre on his miscreant midfielder Joey Barton, which prompted the obvious question of why he was brought on in the 89th minute, when the visitors were 3-0 down.

On Friday Barton, who spent more than two months in Strangeways prison this summer, will face a Football Association charge over a separate incident, the one in which he assaulted Ousmane Dabo, a Manchester City team-mate at the time. Having also been convicted in court for that offence, he could be looking at a suspension of something between the eight games suffered by Ben Thatcher for his infamous challenge on Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes in 2006 and the nine months Eric Cantona served for assaulting a spectator at Crystal Palace in 1995.

As the FA has set so much store by its new "Respect" campaign, and as this is the first high-profile case since it was instituted under a new chairman, Lord Triesman, Barton can hardly expect the sort of clemency for which Keegan appealed on Saturday night. "He's served his punishment," the manager said – which is not the case, as the court's verdict was a suspended sentence – "and he's probably got some more to come from the FA, though I hope they're not too harsh on him."

Why, though, give Barton three minutes' football on an away ground a week before an inevitable ban, during which time Barton was abused by the home crowd as "scum" and clattered into Samir Nasri, who then tripped him in retaliation, prompting Keegan into a bout of finger-wagging at the final whistle.

"He's going to have to play somewhere," Keegan said. "Habib Beye has an achilles problem and Jonas [Gutierrez] had run every blade of grass on the pitch. I was scared of him pulling up like the left-back [Jose Enrique]. So I put Joey on because I look at my bench and he is the next player, as opposed to a 16- or 17-year-old kid."

Such a paucity of options may not have justified Barton's provocative little cameo, but it did illustrate why Newcastle are so desperate to bring in at least two new players today. If they get them, then Keegan believes: "We've got a chance to take this club forward to where it should be. Not to where Arsenal are. That's a big hop."

A third 3-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium in eight months suggested the "hop" is of Jonathan Edwards proportions and more. Arsène Wenger's team were back to their fluent best after stuttering to defeat at Fulham a week earlier, Robin van Persie, who scored twice and shuddered the crossbar, this time flitting perfectly between Emmanuel Adebayor and a midfield that Wenger may still try to strengthen before the transfer window closes.

Usually accused of being blind to his team's disciplinary defects, the Arsenal manager did not condone Nasri's trip on Barton, saying: "Even if you're provoked, you have to control yourself."

How many more times does Barton need to be told that?

Goals: Van Persie pen (18) 1-0; Van Persie (41) 2-0; Denilson (59) 3-0.

Arsenal (4-4-1-1) Almunia; Sagna, Touré, Gallas, Clichy; Eboué (Walcott, 72), Fabregas, Denilson (Song, 69), Nasri; Van Persie (Vela, 63); Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Ramsey, Djourou, Bendtner.

Newcastle United (4-4-2) Given; Beye (Edgar, 89), Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique (Bassong, 44); Gutierrez (Barton, 89), Butt, Guthrie, N'Zogbia; Ameobi, Owen. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Tozer, Donaldson, Ranger.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Arsenal Fabregas, Nasri. Newcastle Coloccini, Given.

Man of the match: Given.

Attendance: 60,067.

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