Alan Pardew was back where he believes he belongs tonight, out of the stands and back in the technical area, although for how long he stays there is by no means certain after the Newcastle United fans turned on their manager with unprecedented hostility.
There was a smile and a handshake for Arsene Wenger at the start of the game and, quite frankly, it was downhill from there on a brutal night for Pardew. As Arsenal cruised to a victory that was never in doubt, you could take your pick from the series of scathing chants directed by the away support at their manager, including the poignantly sarcastic, “Oh, Alan Pardew, it’s never your fault’”
The fault for Newcastle’s remarkable decline on this, his return from a seven-game touchline ban for head-butting David Meyler, and his club’s sixth defeat in a row, is an interesting question. The owner Mike Ashley would appear barely to listen to the protests any longer and having sold their best player, Yohan Cabaye, in the January transfer window the fury of the Newcastle support is firmly focussed on Pardew.
The Newcastle manager has not been permitted to make a permanent signing in the past two transfer windows, and it showed last night. His team were out of ideas and far too accepting of their fate, with a five man midfield that was dominated by Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey and a back four that was all over the place. Only Tim Krul emerged with any credit and conceded three.
It has been a remarkable slump for Newcastle and it seems that Pardew will pay for it with his job, leaving Sam Allardyce, another manager in a precarious position, as the second-longest serving manager in the Premier League after Arsene Wenger. The “Pardew out” banner was conspicuous in the away end at the end of the game, although Pardew himself had long since departed down the tunnel by that point.
In their final home game of the season on Saturday, Pardew’s side face Cardiff City and should they lose that it would be hard to see the manager in charge for the visit to Liverpool on 11 May, although matters may well come to a head before then.
Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Oliveir Giroud scored the goals which place Arsenal in prime position for the fourth Champions League place. They need only to beat West Bromwich Albion on Sunday to be sure of it and even that will not be necessary if Everton lose to Manchester City the day before. This victory secured Arsenal a 19 consecutive league finish above their neighbours Tottenham, an outcome that did not go unmarked by the home support.
By half-time it was only Krul who had saved Pardew from worse, although it does not get much worse than a manager’s own fans singing that they were “going to have a party” when he got the sack.
The Newcastle goalkeeper kept it to a barely respectable two-goal deficit when the two teams went in to boos at half-time from the away support and directed at their own players. The Dutchman ended the half flinging himself at Santi Cazorla’s shot from the right channel and tipping it around the post and he might have prevented the second were it not for the doziness of the defence in front of him.
The first Arsenal goal arrived on 26 minutes from a free-kick conceded by Moussa Sissoko, who dragged back Giroud when the Arsenal striker had a clear view of goal. Sissoko escaped with a booking and from the free-kick his side failed to get anywhere near the ball allowing Koscielny to lunge in to get a touch to direct it past Krul who was stranded on the line. The Frenchman celebrated with an old-fashioned drop-kick into the stand for which he was booked.
From then on, it scarcely looked as if Newcastle were in it. Lukas Podolski might have scored when he was played in down the left by Ozil, who had taken the ball from Giroud’s knockdown. There was another one-handed save from Krul from a Podolski header that came direct from a corner. Going forward Newcastle were offering precious little.
The second goal arrived when Mathieu Debuchy played Giroud onside as he ran through the middle of the Newcastle defence. He was denied twice by Krul, who did well to get up and stop the second shot from Giroud. It should be said that the French striker never looks like a certainty to score in those situations. At the point that Giroud struck the second shot, Krul was in advance of Ozil, and the German, with just one defender between him and the goalline, was offside. Nothing was going Newcastle’s way.
There was only one chance of any note for Newcastle, when Loic Remy played in Yoan Gouffran who had a run at Wojciech Szczesny’s goal on 58 minutes but never seemed able to clear from his mind the prospect of the pursuing Koscielny catching him. He hit his shot straight at the Arsenal goalkeeper and that was as close as they got.
Giroud scored the third with a powerful header from close range from Ozil’s cross on 67 minutes. It was around that time that the Newcastle fans unfurled the banner “Next excuse Pardew?” Towards the end the same supporters responded to the jubilation of the home fans with the chant ‘”You’re nothing special, Tottenham scored four” in reference to another defeat at St James Park.
Pardew could have been forgiven for thinking that he would be safer in the stands. He must certainly take his blame for his part in Newcastle’s demise and in some respects it is remarkable that he has lasted as long as he has. Yet catastrophe never feels far away at Newcastle and so it arrives on their doorstep again with a poisonous atmosphere in prospect on Saturday. Were both Allardyce and Pardew to go this season, Brendan Rodgers would be the league’s second-longest serving manager, which tells you all you need to know about the life of the modern football manager.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Areteta, Ramsey; Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski; Giroud.
Subs: Flamini/Ozil 73, Rosicky/Ramsey 73, Sanogo/Giroud 84
Newcastle (4-5-1): Krul; Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Gouffran, Gosling, Tiote, Anita, Sissoko; Remy
Subs: Sammy Ameobi/Gosling 69, Yanga-Mbiwa/Debuchy 84, Armstrong/Gouffran 88
Booked: Arsenal Koscielny, Sagna Newcastle Sissoko, Tiote