Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal

Newcastle 0 - 0 Arsenal

Arsenal striker Gervinho and Newcastle defender Ryan Taylor
Gervinho (left) was sent off after clashing with Joey Barton

Arsenal's difficult week continued as Gervinho was sent off on his Gunners debut and they were unable to break down a stubborn Newcastle side.

The Ivorian striker was shown a red card with 14 minutes to go when he slapped Joey Barton after the pair had tangled in the penalty area.

Arsenal, who left Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri out of their squad, had struggled to create meaningful chances.

Robin van Persie had their best opening but his shot was deflected wide.

Attention after the game is sure to focus on Barton, who was stamped on by Alex Song in an incident missed by referee Peter Walton, but went down far too easily when he clashed with Gervinho.

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Arsene Wenger bemused by Gervinho red card

The Newcastle midfielder also arguably instigated the incident when he remonstrated with Gervinho following a failed penalty appeal by the Arsenal frontman, dragging him to his feet.

But, although Gunners boss Arsene Wenger could claim it was harsh on Gervinho to see red while Barton was only booked, it must have been almost as frustrating for him to watch his side toil against an unambitious Newcastle side.

His preparations for the new season could hardly have been worse, with moves for Fabregas and Nasri, which had been rumoured all summer, beginning to look more concrete last week as the big kick-off approached.

Wenger's decision to leave out that pair, plus the absence of Jack Wilshere through injury, left the Gunners with a second-string midfield trio of Tomas Rosicky, Andrey Arshavin and Aaron Ramsey alongside Alex Song, and they quickly ran out of ideas.

Before his untimely exit, Gervinho had made a lively debut, running at the Magpies defence and causing them plenty of problems, although he did fluff his lines when presented with an early shooting chance.

But, despite the Gunners being camped in the Magpies' half and out-passing their opponents, they could not turn their vastly superior possession into clear-cut chances.

Probably their best first-half chance was snuffed out by a timely challenge by Steven Taylor, who did enough to put off Van Persie after his own clearance had bounced back off Fabricio Coloccini and back into the striker's path.

Danny Simpson hacked clear off the line after Tim Krul failed to deal with Rosicky's corner but a golden opportunity went begging when Arshavin failed to free Van Persie after catching Newcastle in possession.

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Pardew defends Barton

At the other end, only Simpson's mis-hit cross caused Wojciech Szczesny any real difficulties, with the young Pole scrambling to deal with it at his near post.

The Newcastle fans, who have also seen some big names depart St James' Park in the past few months, were clearly frustrated by the lack of endeavour shown by their team before the break but their side's defending continued to deserve credit into the second half.

A whipped free-kick by Van Persie was the closest Arsenal got to breaking the deadlock, and their hopes of an opening-day victory were all but ended when Gervinho was dismissed.

To leave the north-east with a point is by no means a disaster but the performance and outcome was hardly the shot in the arm Wenger's men needed ahead of a pivotal week.

They host Liverpool in the league next weekend, in between both legs of a Champions League qualifier with Udinese in which they can afford no more hiccups.

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