Classic matches revisited: Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal - Gunners stunned in incredible Premier League comeback

Arsenal managed to blow a 4-0 lead as the Magpies came back to earn a memorable point at St James Park.

Classic matches revisited: Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal - Gunners stunned in incredible Premier League comeback
Cheick Tiote's volley completed Newcastle's comeback | Photo: Getty Images/Graham Stuart.

Following Arsenal's shameful collapse against Watford this weekend, it seemed almost too appropriate to pick a classic match this week where Arsenal completely bottled proceedings. 

Each season there seems to be a game where the Gunners offer up the best blunder imaginable, and in 2011 that was no different.

Taking centre stage is a throwback to when Arsene Wenger's side drew 4-4 with Newcastle. If anything summed up the club in the last decade, it would be their inability to win despite being 4-0 up.

It was a game which really defined the 'banter years'; a term which has become increasingly popular with Arsenal fans. Sebastian Squillaci at the back, Wojciech Szczesny wearing the 53 shirt in goal, and Abou Diaby grabbing Joey Barton by the scruff of the neck. It was Premier League football at its very finest. 

Arsenal make lightning-quick start

What makes this game even more ridiculous than it already sounds is the fact the Gunners went 3-0 up within the first ten frantic minutes of play. 

It was a passage of the game which left the home crowd stunned. So much so some sections of the St James Park faithful had already taken to the exits. 

Theo Walcott gave Arsenal the lead after just 44 seconds. Andrey Arshavin played the ball in behind and Walcott raced clear of Fabricio Coloccini before slotting the ball home.

It was a nightmare start for the Magpies, and it was made even worse when Johan Djourou headed home after three minutes to make it two. Arshavin again grabbed the assist, as his free-kick was met by the Swiss defender who was left with a free header. 

On ten minutes Wenger's men found themselves three goals ahead. Newcastle lost the ball on the edge of the area which allowed Diaby to play the ball out to Walcott on the right. He took the ball under control before pulling it back for Robin van Persie to fire past Steve Harper

The Newcastle players were rocked, and sixteen minutes later further wounds were inflicted. Bacary Sagna found space on the right to deliver an excellent cross. His ball found the head of van Persie, who made it four with his second of the game.  

On the stroke of half time the Dutch striker almost made it five. Jack Wilshere found van Persie inside the area but Harper was there to prevent him from scoring a first half hat-trick. 

Things begin to go wrong for Arsenal

You may be wondering at this point how on earth Arsenal managed to drop points in this game. The fluidity of an attack involving Van Persie, an inform Walcott and prime Arshavin was excellent.

However the players behind the attackers will offer an insight into why perhaps the Gunners shouldn't have been comfortable even at 4-0 up. 

At the time Laurent Koscielny was as far from the strong centre half he is today, and alongside Djourou it didn't offer the safest of defensive pairings. It was a partnership that was soon to be split apart and somehow made worse with the introduction of Squillaci on 48 minutes.

He replaced Djourou who limped off with an injury and from that moment it seemed to go wrong. 

Two minutes later the visitors were reduced to ten men. Barton went in aggressively on Diaby, and the latter reacted badly. He first grabbed Barton by the neck and pushed him to the floor, before also shoving Kevin Nolan who decided to get involved. The result was a red card for Diaby. 

Alarm bells raised

It took until past the hour mark for Newcastle to finally rally the troops and begin to get back into the game. Danny Simpson offered the first piece of intent, getting in behind before forcing Szczesny into a save on 66 minutes. 

Just two minutes later the hosts found their route back into the game. Koscielny tangled with Leon Best in the penalty area and referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot. It was Barton who stepped up, and he sent Szczesny the wrong way. 

With 74 minutes played Newcastle thought they'd scored a second goal, as Best found the back of the net only for it to be ruled out for offside. Warning signs were there, but Arsenal failed to deal with them. 

Newcastle embark on comeback 

With 15 minutes to go Best did indeed get on the score sheet. This time there was no question or not about whether it should stand. Jose Enrique crossed from the left, and Best was there to prod the ball home from close range to make it 4-2. 

A minute later Nile Ranger almost scored the Magpies third. He found space on the edge of the area to work a shot, which stung the palms of Szczesny and went behind for a corner. At this point it was all Newcastle, and the possibility of earning a point wasn't out of the equation.

As the game began to reach its conclusion, the Gunners conceded another penalty. Mike Williamson got between Koscielny and Tomas Rosicky from a free-kick and then went down to earn a spot kick.

Barton again stepped up, and despite the best efforts of Szczesny who got a foot to the ball, Newcastle made it 4-3 with seven minutes left. 

Arsenal were now all over the place, frantically trying to hold on to three points which had looked a certainty at half time.

Step forward Cheick Tiote. The Ivorian tragically passed away earlier this year, but his thunderous strike to make it 4-4 with three minutes remaining will be what he is remembered for. 

A Newcastle free-kick was headed clear but only into the path of Tiote who let fly from distance and found the bottom corner. It was a sumptuous volley, and one worthy of earning his side a memorable point from 4-0 down. 

The home side almost found a winner though. Deep into injury time Nolan collected a knock down and then fired a shot inches wide of the goal. As if Tiote's strike wasn't enough, a winner would have signalled an even more incredible end to the game. 


This article is part of a regular series, 'Classic Matches Revisited'. Check out the last entry, also featuring Arsenal and a whole lot of goals, here.