Earlier today, Liverpool took the pitch against hated Sunderland, fielding Jose Enrique Sanchez (and Andy Carroll) in the Starting XI. Similarly, Kevin Nolan lined up in midfield for West Ham United and scored the game's only goal. Newcastle entered play today sorely missing a striker and a left back, among other things, and still managed to steal a point against a top four side. No matter what else comes of this game (be it suspensions or something else), gaining that point is important, mostly because if you were to listen to this club's supporters this summer, you would think they were entirely incapable of obtaining any kind of result.
Of course, there's more than the result to talk about here. Tim Krul was chosen over Steve Harper in goal, who didn't even get the privilege of riding the bench today. Ryan Taylor started at left back, and although his performance left much to be desired, he wasn't awful. Demba Ba was absolutely manhandled by the much-maligned Gunner defense, and when Gabriel Obertan came on as his replacement at the half, it was as different as night and day. His pace opened up the game, and Newcastle were more possessive and more effective from that point on.
The big story, though, is going to center around Joey Barton, who was involved in two separate altercations. The first came when he was fouled and subsequently stepped on by Alex Song, an act which went unnoticed by both Peter Walton, who had his back turned, and the fourth official, who was right in front of the play. In any case, Song got away with it and Barton went into referee mode, doing his level best to point out any and all indiscretions to the official. It culminated in a shoving match in Newcastle's box. Gervinho, who had been light on his feet all day (to put it mildly), went down easy in the box once again following a Cheik Tiote challenge, and Barton took exception, forcefully pulling him off the ground, resulting in a scuffle and a slap on the head from the Arsenal striker. Gervinho was awarded a straight red for his efforts, and somehow Barton escaped with only a yellow. With only 10 minutes left, there wasn't a whole lot of action following the incident, save for Newcastle's best chance of the game in stoppage time.
It was another match with Arsenal that will end with the visitors' supporters crying foul, and they have a case. Still, neither side seemed to hunger for a positive result. Newcastle got their point, which is much more than I expected coming in. It will be interesting to see how the squad reacts to this match going into the Derby next week.