NEWCASTLE midfielder Joey Barton has taunted Arsenal by branding Abou Diaby “stupid” for earning a red card in Saturday’s historic 4-4 draw.
The Gunners spectacularly capitulated, becoming the first team in the Premier League ever to squander a four-goal lead, after Diaby was sent off for lashing out at Barton following a challenge.
Title-chasing Arsenal’s collapse was reminiscent of their 2-2 draw at Birmingham in February 2008, when they conceded a late equaliser and went on to surrender in the race for top spot.
And Barton has rubbed salt in the wound by deriding Diaby and suggesting the north Londoners should try other, less physical sports.
“I don’t understand Diaby’s reaction. I went in one-footed, cleanly took the ball and my momentum carried me into him,” said the controversial former Manchester City player (right), who scored two penalties. “I think it was stupid from him. They were 4-0 up, there was no need for him to react the way he reacted. For me, it wasn’t an issue. If the Arsenal players don’t like being tackled, they should go and play basketball or netball or one of the other games.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Barton was “very lucky to stay on the pitch” for the challenge, and put Diaby’s reaction down to repeated fouls and mental scars from previous career-threatening injuries.
Despite only drawing at St James’ Park, Wenger’s side gained ground on United, after their shock defeat at Wolves, and Chelsea, who were beaten at home by Liverpool yesterday.
Of further concern to Wenger is an injury to defender Johan Djourou, who hobbled off at the start of the second half. The Switzerland centre-back, whose Arsenal career has been riven by a series of fitness setbacks, is due to have a scan on his knee today.
Wenger is already without one first choice defender in Thomas Vermaelen, and with the Belgian still more than a month away from returning, can ill afford to lose the in-form Djourou.