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Birmingham away: through a time vortex we bring the teams and the result all before it happens.

By Phil Gregory

Next up is Birmingham away, a match with more than enough plotlines for a football game, but more on that later.

I was talking to a mate about the league run-in (a United fan, unfortunately) and we agreed that it is rapidly resembling a knockout competition. The old cliché of “every game is a cup final” isn’t quite true, but it certainly seems that a loss puts a big dent in a team’s chances.

At the start of the title run-in (Stoke away) I had us winning the league by the slimmest of margins. Since then, we have outperformed my   predictions points-wise (I had us perhaps drawing at Stoke), which placed us two points closer to the top than I expected at this stage.



Chelsea have conspired to drop three points more than my expectations (I had them drawing with City and beating Rovers) while Manchester United have three points more than I expected after beating Liverpool. Which, all in all actually puts us a point further off the pace than I expected us to be at this stage.

This just goes to show that, for all the talk of having an easier run-in, no matter how well we perform, ultimately we are relying on rivals’ errors.

The crunch period is certainly on the horizon: Spurs away is a tough game, while when City visit the Emirates it could be either a walk in the park or it could be a tooth and nail affair, depending on which City side turn up.

United have the tough ties: Coyle’s men have a bit of form as well as home advantage while the Chelsea tie is sandwiched in between the Champions League. Chelsea are at a make or break stage: lose to United and they are almost certainly out of it, while Villa at the Bridge will not be an easy match, either.

I, for one, cannot wait.

But onto the Birmingham tie. Seemingly safe, Mcleish’s men have nothing to play for but we should by no means underestimate them.

Birmingham are a bit of an enigma: they built up an exceptional run of form not so long ago, predominantly built on a solid defence allowing narrow victories to be nicked, with a healthy dose of luck chucked in for good measure.

At St Andrews, they are a very resilient side, losing there only twice. They’ve also only shipped ten goals in fifteen home games, that’s only one more than Manchester United who have the the best home defence.

That said, they are a very low-scoring side too: a mere goal a game at home, the third lowest in the league and significantly less than the teams around them in midtable. Their goal threat is very much at the level of relegation contenders, so with a bit of luck our patched up defence will get through the day fine.

Which leads me onto the defensive situation. With Vermaelen suspended and Sol unlikely to play given the Barcelona tie in midweek, we are pretty much certain to see Silvestre and Song at the back. Much has been made of the loss of Song in midfield, I don’t deny the Cameroonian has been an absolute rock in the middle of the park for us, but I believe Diaby and Denilson have enough between them so that we won’t miss Song if he is played further back.

Predicted line-up:

Almunia

Sagna Silvestre Song Clichy

Denilson

Fabregas Diaby

Rosicky/Nasri Bendtner Arshavin

The rest of the back four, as ever, picks itself. I’d expect Denilson to take up the majority of the defensive duties, though Diaby seems to do his fair share alongside Cesc.

The attack is a little less predictable: Arshavin out wide left, while I’m hoping Bendtner shakes off ankle trouble to start through the middle, with any of Nasri, Rosicky or indeed the form man Eboue out wide right.



One man we need to watch out for is Birmingham’s Ecuadorian striker Christian Benitez. While his goalscoring record isn’t much to write home about, he combines a bit of pace and power to good effect. He’s not got the strength of a Drogba, nor the pace of our Theo, but he has a solid combination of the two gifts allowing them a variety of tricks in his locker.

Will we see Eduardo play? I certainly hope so, though I’d expect him to come off the bench. The Croatian is doing better than his attacker Martin Taylor, who is not even playing Premier League football any more, having signed for Watford since the Eduardo injury.

Ex Birmingham owner David Gold has, since becoming co-owner of West Ham, taken it upon himself to talk about football finance. He was even on a BBC radio broadcast about the business of sport and had some valid points to make.

That said, I couldn’t really take him seriously, since Birmingham’s most recent set of accounts showed an enormous debt accumulated while they were in the Championship. Why? Because Gold neglected to trim the squad and wage bill accordingly for Championship revenues, banking on an immediate return to the Premier League. While that gamble has in hindsight paid off, it is hardly a backstory from which to preach about football finance (and anyone who followed the Championship last season will know that Birmingham’s promotion campaign was no plain sailing).

I’m going to go for a 0-2 victory to the Arsenal. It’ll be a tight game, but I’d happily back us to score against anyone and even with a weakened defence, I can’t see us conceding to this low-scoring Birmingham side.

Enjoy the game, wherever you are watching it!

Phil

——————————————

  • There’s more scrumptious stuff in the index (well you know what these indexes are like)
  • Or you could just buy a copy of the book instead.
  • Or prepare for the game against The Wednesday, which took place 100 years ago today.
  • It’s all rather good fun, don’t you think?

25 comments to Birmingham away: through a time vortex we bring the teams and the result all before it happens.

  • Tim

    Wenger has guaranteed that Campbell will play tomorrow.

  • walter

    I think that Wenger will always plays what he thinks would be the strongest side to beat the opposition. And that is the only way to do it. If Campbell should not be fit for the Barca game than he could play the fresh legs of Vermaelen together with Song at the back.

  • GoonerGaz

    Please not Arshavin he is not worthy of a starting place on this seasons form.Maybe this will be the game that he remembers he was once a great player and gets his act together…………fingers crossed.

  • Davi

    The rest of the back four doesn’t quite pick itself these days.
    Eboue should start either at RB or further forward. His direct running is devastating against teams like Birmingham, and he’s on great form at the moment. I’d be disappointed and a little surprised if he didn’t start this game (and against Barca).

  • tim

    Evil and despicable do not even begin to describe Birmingham. Billy The Dog’s last piece was spot on.

    I’m sure people have seen this already:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/premier_league/article7078076.ece

    Let’s get these evil sons of bitches.

  • 3-0 to The Arsenal (would do our g/d some good). Arshavin to run riot today.

  • I see Campbell playing as Silvestre is a disaster waiting to happen against Benitez – lack of pace, easily shoulder aside by physical players, worst of all, he had lost it, long past expiry date, and usually out-of-position against quick and bulky striker like Benitez.

    Nasri is as deliciate as fine procelain in away games, never perform well away, always anonymous. A few hefty tackles, physically rundown by a thug a few times will keep Nasri quiet for the whole match. Nasri needs the whole of this season to come to grip with physical English Football…like Pires needed a season and a half before he blossomed into a quality player with Arsenal.

    I will prefer to field this team:

    ………………….Almunia

    ..Eboue…….Campbell……Song…..Clichy

    ………………….Denilson

    ..Rosicky…..Fabregas…..Diaby…..Arshavin

    …………………Bendtner

    We need to attack BRUM as certainly, they wil pack the Midfield to stop Arsenal from playing with plenty of physical challenges (why the f**K do all those Scottish manager knew only how to kick and hack Arsenal players to stop ’em from playing..@#$%@@).
    Then, the usual tactics to hit us on the break with a Hoof Ball to catch our Defence napping…1-0 to BRUM.

    Keeping a clean-sheet during 1st half is of vital importance; plus we must score during the first 20-minute to force BRUM to come out of their shell to attack us.

    For once, for once, I pray that Russian Hobbit got his shooting boots on and score today!!!!!

    We knew Bowyer is going to kick Fabregas black-and-blue to stop him from playing, from creating opening, and will not even give Cesc a split-second to select his passing channels.
    Then, Diaby, Rosicky and Arshavin must shoulder more responsibility in playmaking.

    I hope we will paly more one-touch one-pass football to nullify all these rotational fouling tactic.

    I hope DIaby wil look up and select his passing option instead of trying to beat 2 or 3 opponents at one go.

    I hope Arshavin and Rosicky will do more blind side running a la Freddy and Pires to get behind defence with Diaby or Fabregas slipping in those passes.

    And I dearly pray that in this match, the TEAM finally gelled, integrated with telepathic understanding; players knew when to run into space with the ball always delivering at their feet or in front of ’em; players instinctively knew when to pass without looking up, knowing that one of their team-mates will invariably run into the open space of passing channel.

    KEEP THE FAITH!!!!!

  • Couple of admin points, then back to the real stuff. Apologies for the way the references at the end of the article turned up in double size. As you will well know I am not an IT man, and cock-ups are commonplace.

    But on the positive side, figures this morning show that Untold has been read by over 200,000 people in March 2010. A new record. Thanks everyone.

    And last, the McLeish statements about this match are a disgrace in my view. A near racist attack on non-British managers, and a statement about the need to forget about Eduardo by “moving on”.

    Utterly appalling, showing that this horrible club has not even attempted to reform itself since the departure of the pornographers to West Ham.

  • goonergerry

    Tony, I agree with you, McLeish is starting to show his true colours with these comments and has about as much class as his former mentor-i.e. none at all.
    Apart from the tackle on Eduardo, I remember the tackle on Walcott earlier this season which put him out of the game for several weeks- and the intention behind it. We can expect more of the same.

    Birmingham are thugs- when McLeish talks in the media about a strong ref- he means a permissive ref who will allow them to kick us off the park….But we still have to win. That means scoring more goals than them and making sure we are the strongest in midfield.

  • AnonymousGun

    As it has been in the past few weeks.. All I wished for is 3 points.. and no more injuries to the team.

    Dudu scoring would be bonus tho.

  • Cosmojon

    If your wondering why so many gooners are now reading your site then maybe you can use me as an example.
    As an Arsenal junkie, I would search the web for some hot gossip/news to give me my next fix. Unfortunately, every blog/newspaper seems to publish the same story just twisted to suit their alliegence. Finally this season my team is showing its potential and challenging for the title. With a handful of games to go I search on google – ‘Arsenal remaining fixtures’.
    Bearing in mind, I searched this back in February when all the papers were still writing us off. I came across this ‘rehab’. Probably the most optimistic Arsenal blog on the net, which is very refreshing. Especially as I grow tired of hearing my own fellow fans dismiss all the positives this team has shown this season. I feel truly ‘rehabillitated’ and now look at other articles/ blogs in a different way. This is my story, this is our season! Goo on Goooooners!

  • Cosmojon

    Just read over that. Didn’t finish what I was saying.
    If other people are searching what I’m searching then your still on the 1st page through Googles organic search. It might be worth checkin your analytics to see what people are searching. Other than that – great site, great read, great team.

  • Phil

    From what’s emerged in the media since I wrote this piece, it does seem that Sol is likely to start, which to me is strange, unless Wenger deems him capable of playing versus Barca too, or Gallas is a surprise inclusion for Barca despite Arsene’s recent comments to the contrary. We’ll just have to see!

    It was tricky leaving Eboue out, but I felt Sagna was the better option at rightback, and that we’d go for the possession option at right forward. All personal preference and guesswork, so I look forward to seeing what Wenger goes for.

  • AnonymousGun

    Maybe AW going to go with TV+Song for Barce .. and have Diaby and Den/Sam alongside Cesc. Sam can play DM if need and Diaby have learn to curb his habit if needed. Sam in the mid centre are devastating as well.

    But its probably going to be Cesc/Den/Diaby for Barce. 😀

  • Phil

    Almunia, Sagna, Campbell, Song, Clichy, Denilson, Diaby, Walcott, Fabregas, Rosicky, Bendtner is the lineup.

    Arshavin benched is a real talking point, as is Campbell’s start. Good to see Theo getting a run out, I hear their leftback is lacking in pace so he could well get some joy.

  • Mark

    Reading the Yahoo match report, the big question at half-time seems to be:

    Can we beat the Brummies + One bent copper?

  • LRV

    Just give me the three points without injuries and I’ll take it; thank you very much.

  • Phil

    I actually feel ill. Completely devastated.

  • tim

    Sad. That evil team does it again to us.

  • walter

    Webb is the best player MIOU have. He helps them whenever he can. Last week on their own field and now yet again he did everything to hold us to a draw.

    The disallowd goal from Diaby…. only when he saw that Diaby could shoot at goal he suddnely decided to give a foul. And he is going to the World cup for England… How sad for the standard in English refereeing that must be. Or is just his reward for helping SAF out ? Must be that.

    At the end of the day we should have won it even with Cesc struggling and not fit but their goal was so unlucky… We try to kick the ball away and it hits his head… unbelieveble.

    The devil has had a hand in that goal and thus taking points away from the good guys.

  • tim

    Come on Bolton!

    Sad, sick, and depressed, but we are still in it. The other two will drop points.

    But it’s sure hard playing against 14 men each match, especially if Man fucking United is in the run-in.

    Night folks.

  • hartwick89

    A Good mind to watch the movie Victory w/ Pele and Michael Caine as a reminder to what Webb looked like this game… Piss off England! You bunch of Hometown refs… It is bloody vile…

  • Tone

    Diaby magnificent, Walcott anonymous. Why no Arshavin form the start, punishment for his mid-week comments? Not a good move to leave him out imho. Even when not on form he is still creates so much. Almunia? Great pen save last week, not so great this week. Pity…

  • Phil

    Poor call from the ref after watching the Diaby goal on match of the day. If he blows for the first foul, or the Diaby foul, he needs to BLOW THE WHISTLE! He doesn’t, Diaby plays on. Walter, if he was playing advantage, doesn’t the ref have to do something to indicate he is playing advantage?

  • well-endowed gooner

    We need a new goalkeeper. Seriously.