THERE should come a time when Andy Carroll will stop appearing on the front pages of newspapers for all the wrong reasons, but you suspect he will continue to grab back page headlines for years to come.
Carroll’s name was once again dragged through the gutter yesterday by a Sunday newspaper report which suggested he had been involved in a drug-fuelled orgy in the aftermath of last weekend’s thrashing of Sunderland.
In reality, Newcastle’s number nine appears to have done nothing more than enjoy himself as a single man can, celebrating one of the greatest derby results in the club’s history.
Certainly that is the view of the club, which was forced to release another statement in support of the young striker yesterday, denying any wrong doing on his behalf or any knowledge that the three girls who came back with him and Kevin Nolan to the latter’s house in Ponteland in the early hours of the morning were using drugs.
Whatever the news value of that particular story – and it is debatable if there was much at all – we probably should have expected this sort of reaction from a player who is rapidly becoming one of the most talked about front men in the Premier League.
Carroll never seems to play better than when he is under pressure and in front of the watching Fabio Capello, he gave a targetman performance which screamed England call-up against France next week.
Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger had tipped the 21-year-old for one in the build up to this game and the Frenchman knows a thing about spotting young talent. Nobody is better at it in European football, although that will have been of little comfort to him as Carroll scored the only goal of the game yesterday with a trademark header.
But it was not just Carroll’s goal which excited in North London. His all round display oozed potential and dripped class. It is something of a cliche to suggest big men do not normally possess a delicate touch, but Carroll successfully combines raw strength and finesse in a way rarely seen on these shores.
Nevertheless, it would be unjust to suggest he won this game on his own. For the third game in succession, every single Newcastle player did their jobs superbly. For the first time in nine years they made an Arsenal side look ordinary on their own turf and this was a victory which, in its own way, should be savoured every bit as much as last weekend’s humiliation of the Black Cats. The fact this was Newcastle first win over the Gunners since 2001 says it all.
There were plenty of fireworks over the weekend, but the powder must have been wet at the Emirates as the game failed to ignite in the first half with mis-placed passes ensuring there was no spectacular goalmouth action.
There were half-hearted penalty appeals from Newcastle when Jonas Gutierrez went over the box under pressure from Bacary Sagna, while a Cesc Fabregas free-kick hit the crossbar, but it took until five minutes before the break for the contest to explode into life.
First Fabregas was kept out at his near post by the feet of Tim Krul and the young Dutchman produced a brilliant save from the resulting corner when he acrobatically tipped Samir Nasri’s first-time shot over the bar.
Seconds later, though, Newcastle were up the other end after a direct run from Carroll had sent Jonas scampering down the left, his cross was a dangerous one with Joey Barton arriving at the far post, but Laurent Koscielny made a vital intervention.
Carroll was a constant problem for Arsenal’s foreign centre-back pairing and they were made to pay for a momentary lapse in concentration. Barton had not managed to get a set piece into a dangerous area all half, but as the seconds ticked away before the interval he launched a long free-kick into the area.
Koscielny completely lost Carroll and the flight of the ball and when Lukasz Fabianski made the decision to rush off his line, Carroll took off, beat the Polish goalkeeper’s mis-timed jump and nodded the ball firmly into the empty net.
It was a goal which did not exactly come with the run of play, but neither was it against it as such. Arsenal had plenty of possession, but for once they had failed to do anything with it.
Newcastle would have expected an Arsenal reaction and they got one, as Theo Walcott crashed a shot against the crossbar with Krul beaten four minutes into the second half.
That, though, was as close as Wenger’s side got to an equaliser. Newcastle defended brilliantly, while in Carroll and Ameobi they always had an outlet to relieve the pressure being applied.
Fabregas did put one diving header on target late on, but it was straight at Krul, while Mike Williamson’s header almost found the far corner from a Barton corner at the other end. Indeed, had Koscielny not hauled back substitute Nile Ranger in injury time, Arsenal’s defeat could have been an even heavier one.
Newcastle were clear and deserving winners and there are not many teams who come away from the Emirates saying that.