Arsenal v Birmingham; the worries, the concerns, the hopes, the victory

By Phil Gregory

Birmingham come to the Emirates sitting a single point above the relegation zone, while our own title bid has taken a bit of a beating with recent defeats against West Brom and Chelsea. West Brom showed that no team should be underestimated when they travel to the Emirates, so despite a Birmingham side that tend to struggle away from home, three points shouldn’t be taken for granted.

On a personal note, like many Arsenal fans I don’t have much love for Birmingham. The Eduardo leg-break, a contentious draw last season that arguably ended our title hopes last season… the club seem to have had a role to play in a lot of recent Arsenal heartaches.

An interesting subplot for the game is the return of Alexander Hleb, who made the common mistake of finding out that the grass isn’t always greener when you leave Arsenal. A period stewing on the bench at various European clubs on loan (as he couldn’t get a game at Barcelona) probably gave the Belorussian plenty of time to realise his error.

The end of the international break heralds the return of a large number of our walking wounded, with Bendtner, Theo, Gibbs all in the squad. Interestingly, Cesc is viewed as “very, very short” for the game, so the whole “will Cesc be fit for Chelsea?” question that we had two weeks ago seems to have been a bit of a smokescreen used by the club to disrupt Chelsea’s preparations.

Sagna and Vermaelen are said to be out for around ten days, while Almunia is likely to be fit for next weekend. Van Persie is still out.  Koscielny is out with a knock so misses the game.


Eboue Djourou Squillaci Clichy


Wilshere Nasri

Rosicky Chamakh Arshavin

Fabianksi continues in goal, deputising for Almunia  The Pole has done much better than he has  for a while, so we can but hope he’s turned a corner. He always looked like a man short of confidence, and only with games can he get that confidence back. With Almunia likely to back in the near future, a big performance from Fabianski could win him the number one jersey.

Eboue is a more than able deputy for Sagna, and will not feel too out of place on Saturday, having come into the side at right back against the smaller sides at home last season. Djourou steps in for the injured Koscielny, playing alongside Squillaci while Clichy completes the back four.

Song continues in the holding role, Wilshere and Nasri complete the midfield. You could have an argument for including Diaby in there, but against a side like Birmingham I’d opt for playmakers such as Jack and Samir

Chamakh, now seemingly an ever-present at centre forward continues in the role. Arshavin goes inside left, while I opted for Rosicky at inside right. One of our recently recovered players, such as Theo or Bendtner could step in there, but I opted for caution in my line up given I didn’t know the match fitness condition of any of the players. If one of the returnees was ready to play early on in the International break, they’ll have had time to regain a bit of sharpness and may well be in contention for a start.

Prediction time. Birmingham don’t travel well, but are a solid outfit. Replacing Joe Hart with Ben Foster was always going to be a downgrade, but on the whole this Birmingham side is much the same as the one that frustrated many teams last season with resilient displays. Given that, I’m only going for 2-0 to the Arsenal. We can’t expect to score a bucketload against Birmingham, though they are weak going forward so I’d be aggrieved if we didn’t record a rare clean sheet. A solid performance with a much-changed defensive unit would do me fine and set us up for the weekend nicely.

The Untold Invincibles

Football: law suits, player revolt, useless medics, pathetic Uefa, bankruptcy, and “not that kind of manager”

Ramsey and Eduardo – two lost on the same day

The proof: Herbert Chapman did not change the name of Arsenal FC

39 Replies to “Arsenal v Birmingham; the worries, the concerns, the hopes, the victory”

  1. Nice article Phil, I am pretty much with you on the starting line up except for Arshavin, I’d play Vela instead of him( Hope the boss does too :-))
    It would serve a dual purpose.Give Vela some playing time which he really deserves because its going to an uphill task for him once theo and bendtner are back to match fitness. The lad does deserve a chance and give some well deserved rest to arshavin. The little russian has been playing a tad too much and i am worried about him getting injured.
    3 nil for arsenal
    Up the Gunners!!

  2. There seems to be a lot of uncertainty about Arshavin, and I think that comes from the way he strolls around the pitch looking disinterested. On the other hand he has played in 9 games (plus one as a late sub) and scored 5, which is not a bad return.

    The point about him wandering around looking disinterested is itself interesting – because I believe it makes the opposition tend to ignore him. He looks out of it, so they treat him as out of it. Then suddenly he springs to life.

    True his passing technique has looked off at times, but those five goals have been rather important.

  3. @tony :well, my comments aren’t springing up because of his performance or lack of it,I believe he is one of our most important players. And when we have a few players comin back from injury what better time to give him the well deserved rest ? He had had played the chunk of last season with a niggle,wouldn’t want that to happen again and if vela cant play right now will he ever play regulary for us? i doubt it

  4. On the Arshavin subject, I would be fairly confident that he is also currently the leading “assist” player so far in the league but I am open to correction on that.
    I hope Hleb gets a good and friendly reception from the crowd today. he was a great player for us with superb feet and close control. fantastic to watch even if he didn’t score many.
    Enjoy the game everyone!

  5. Arshavin clearly just struggles to keep up the pace. Mainly because he is required to play every single game. Whenever you see Arshavin playing after a rare rest, you see the real Arshavin. He is such a brilliant attacking player that it is hard to leave him out, but he must be rotated sometimes.

    I’d also like to point out how much we always miss Bendtner when he’s unavailable. I’m very glad he’s back and i think one day he’ll be one of the top strikers in the league.

  6. @Terence McGovern- the most assists in this season is for Nani who has 6 assists. Drogba has 5 assists, Crouch has 4 assists and Arshavin has 3 assists.

  7. Tony’s right. People judge players poorly. My personal faqvourite was in Tevez’s last season. Tevez was the hard worker and was a better player than “lazy berbatov”, according to the fans.

    Unfortunately, if you looked at the stats, Berbatov covered mroe ground than Tevez per 90 mins. How? Because he ran off the camera, getting into positions etc. Useful movement. tevez however pointlessly ball chased on the camera, so everyone thought he covered more ground.

    Fact is, people like a trier. Unfortunately, they rarely actually notice good movement, preferring pointless perspiration!

  8. According to the Guardian, Arshavin “has created more goal-scoring chances (21) than any other player this season”.

    Looking forward to see how Bendtner mixes in with Chamakhattahk – interesting selection problem now for AW for the front line, as I’m sure he’s also mindful of Vela sitting there waiting for his chance.

    Also can’t wait for the day when we can field Bendtner, Chamakh and RvP for the first time together, although that may not be until 2015 at the current injury rate.

  9. Honest Bill- agree with you- but in addition-Arshavin is not the same player when RVP and Cesc are not playing-they see him early and give him that split second extra. I also think that our injury situation has not helped him for another reason-the attacking pattern varies from week to week.

  10. I dunno about u guys but yet again the commentary is so anti Arsenal on my stream . Comparing Wilshere to Martin Taylor whilst conveniently forgetting the end result differential of a compound fracture.
    Yes Jack probably deserved a red but in my opinion he was balancing the scales for the forearm in the mouth Zigic gave him. That is the kind of red card I can live with. If jack is prepared to trade blows with the largest player in the EPL, that is just fine by me. Zigic will think twice before he clocks LJW in the future.
    Good win

  11. Unfortunately that game proved everything that Cesc meant about us lacking a winning mentality. We seemed more afraid to lose rather than wanting to win. And in a period when we have lots of articles by people talking about bad tackles, there were two horrific tackles in the game and both were by Arsenal players. Eboue should have been sent off for his scissor tackle and Wilshire deserved 100% to be sent off. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.

    My own ratings:

    Fabianski 8 – very solid and dependable. Nothing he could do for the goal.
    Eboue 6 – Okay. Nothing more. Should have been sent off.
    Clichy 4 – Poor. Much more of that and Gibbs is going to take his place.
    Djourou 7 – had to battle against a giant all game long and did well in his first PL start of the season.
    Squillacci 6 – Led the team well but had a few nervous moments.
    Song 8 – Would have been a 9 except for a few needless fouls when no danger was around. Covered enormous amounts of ground and passed the ball well.
    Wilshire 2 – Would have been a 8 until that horrific tackle. Disgrace. If that is the type of player Wilshire is going to be then he will be a huge dissapointment to me. Terrible, absolutely terrible. That could have broken the guys leg. Every bit as bad as Shawcross, Taylor and all the other thugs. Out of control and dangerous. Quite right he was sent off.
    Diaby 4 – Lazy performance devoid of any drive. That was the bad Diaby we all despise.
    Arshavin 0 – Was Arshavin playing, or was it just a 12th Birmingham player? You can bring up all the stats in the world but the eyes do not lie. Arshavin was absolutely terrible.
    Nasri 7 – Solid, energetic and dependable.
    Chamakh 7 – Again, solid and scored the winner. A great signing.

    It was important to win that game and so I will give the team a pass today and just say “must do better”. A win is a win.

    But Wilshire should be ashamed of myself. Disgraceful.

  12. Terrence – I didnt see your post before my own but I cannot disagree more with you. If we condone Wilshire’s tackle then we also condone Shawcross and Taylor and all the rest. That was a studs up challenge through the players leg, exactly the type of tackle we have been complaining about. It was awful.

  13. I agree with what you say Terence regarding the commentary, it was quite ridiculous on mine too, they took every opportunity to insult Arsenal and Wenger… no matter what happened….. don’t know why these incompetent people are even allowed to commentate as they kept getting the players names mixed up too.

    I think Wilshere derserved the red, was a bad tackle and they should be given reds, no complaints from me.

    Really good game from Fabianski and I liked Diaby and Wilshere’s overall performance too.

    Important win, if we had lost I think it would have had a massive demoralizing effect on the whole team after some of our other poor results.

  14. I also felt Song was much improved, even though he made some needless fouls, very pleased with the victory.

  15. Disappointed by the Wilshere challenge, can’t defend that. He’s been rash once or twice before, he needs to learn from it and become a better player.

  16. I’ll take the three points thank-you… Wilshere’s tackle what a laugh! A leg breaker? What type of boots was he wearing… And, as far as studs up… It was as soft a red as I have seen… And, if I were Wenger I would protest it. BTW the commentators started the drubbing of Wenger when Eboue tackled the Walcott killer….. I think Wilshere went in to send a message to the faker Klicic after that faker put his shoulder into Wilshere’s jaw… Piss poor refereeing… ATkinson go ref in Italy…

  17. Did Robinson even get a card when he went into Diaby? How about Ridgless when he tore up Walcott’s cartlidge.. Nope but Eboue gets a Yellow and Wilshere a red… I lOve the FA.. Do me a favor Wilshere if you know you are getting a red at least put the guy out three games.

  18. is it jus me or did arsenal played very poorly in this game??

    Again we couldn’t keep a clean sheet, again we couldn’t take the risk of shooting we needed, again we couldn’t maximise on our counter attack opportunities, again the opposing players were stuck to our players like glue, again we couldn’t defend as well as we should had, again we couldn’t get in to their final third properly.

    I kno we won and thats the important part but we cant continue to play like this. Next week its city and they too will use the same techniques to nullify our attack. We have to expect such things and try to use more ideas when a team plays so defensively.

  19. Of what I saw we dominated. Was it our best display nope… The thing I saw we lacked was the high pressure for turnover and once we did win it back in some cases we gave it right back.. Other than that the Ref’s suck.

  20. Arsene Apprentice- just having more of possession doesn’t mean we actually ‘dominated’. The only part we dominated was the last half an hour. The first half was very very poor defensively by our standards. Its like what happened at Chelsea, we created good opportunities but couldn’t get that final touch or shoot correctly. And just like against Chelsea, we had a couple of very good goal scoring chances in the early period but couldn’t put it in the net.

  21. Sometimes you just need to really blast a shot or cross, make the opposition scramble and panic and perhaps force a mistake or own goal. Today, even when we did cross or shoot from outside the box they tended to be of the looping variety.

    A bit more power in our play could make a lot of difference.

  22. Well I looked at the score line It read 2-1… Your words not mine “The only part we dominated was the last half an hour. ” Time of possession was 58% vs. 42%. We had 20 shots vs. 10. What I saw was good enough for three points so what do you want?

    And, all things considered ManU had Van Der Romp piss away three points and Chavskov’s were lucky with 1.. I am not complaining today.

  23. You will have games when you just need to take the 3 points and be satisfied. We will not be able to win each game with high score lines.
    Birmingham came just to defend and to win time and to delay play.
    We punished them at the end of the day. I hope to get my ref report ready sunday evening. I had to watch it on a stream so I will have to see the game again on arsenal tv online.
    I think it will be an interesting review. 😉 The ups and downs of a ref in 90 minutes.

  24. And the game plan from Birmingham was clear to see: 1 keeper, 9 defenders and 1 attacker.
    It just is a victory for football whenever you beat a team with such tactics.

  25. Good game where Arsenal showed we can grind out a victory. Stuff of champions I say.

    Regarding Wilshere’s red card and the backclash on Arsene Wenger. I really have to laugh. That’s all those xenophopes have waited for while totally ignoring the point of this debate. Show me the quote where Arsene said Arsenal players should be excluded from being punished when making bad tackles. So for example should the fact that I’m aware of the the possibility of my countrymen being able to cause car accidents by reckless behaviour remove my right to call for the punishment of people who are responsible for causing accidents?
    All Arsene said was to punish reckless tackles retrospectively which were not spotted during the game by the officials. He was not advocating special treatment for his players. But this simple fact is simply too difficut to grasp for people with an agenda.

  26. I have seen the tape on Wilshere’s tackle and I saw it live.. It was a “pillow” tackle. First, he is wearing moulded boots and second his tackle had intent but about as worthy as a card as a new tax to help prop the elite’s.

  27. Arsene Apprentice- again havin 20 shots doesn’t mean we really made the keeper work. Most of those 20 shots were harmless. The keeper had virtually 1 or 2 shots which was dangerous. Rest all were just numbers.

  28. Wilshere’s tackle was mistimed-it was a red card just-but it was not in the same league as those which maimed Eduardo, Diaby and Ramsey-for a start it lacked the power and aggression.
    We are going to miss him for 3 games. Diaby had a good game-he was good in mid week and it looks like he is getting some confidence.
    I had trouble with the commentary-Trevor Francis-ex Birmingham-especially over the penalty incident-I thought it was a pen-I couldnt see how the ref could give anything else-there was definitely contact. In addition the Squilacci header should have stood-he was level when the ball was played in
    Birmingham were set up well-but made a few defensive errors that were not punished-the miss by Clichy was especially poor.
    Incidentally I am not sure Cesc was not dropped for this game. A captain still talking about his dream move to Barcelona 3 months later and talking about the team lacking a winning mentality is he a member of that team?

  29. DP,

    I agree with you in sentiment… And, I am not trying to make stats prop up up a lackluster performance. Mostly, I appreciate your keeping us honest when we are not winning the way we should… I will close with this… I will never stop believing. I will use every stat I can because I believe.

  30. Arsene Apprentice- i believe too 🙂 and its a good result especially knowin that both united and chelsea lost points. Now next week’s city match will be very important one to win. Unfortunately, we’ll miss Jack for that game.

  31. I dont why wenger doesnt play the little mozart more often, he should have started yesterday, Wenger came out and said arshavin played two internationals and all that jazz so why on earth did he start?I really dont understand!
    Some guys worthy of a mention
    Fabianski : Brilliant game, considering the amount of flak the arsenal goalkeepers get time and again he had a damn good show.Superbly comfident coming in for crossses, good distribution of the ball.. He is proving a few people wrong 🙂
    Abou Diaby : Incredible skills in the middle of the park but toothless upfront, IMO he has to do much better than that of he’s playing in a such an advanced role.Really disappointed with his lack of taking a shot on goal
    JACK WILSHIRE : Absolutely at the heart of everything that we did!superb passing and great creativity. The challenge was rather daft but he ll learn 🙂
    EBOUE : Disgraceful tackle, i cant understand how an experienced campaigner like him could do that a horrible tackle.Not something you expect form somebody who’s been around for a while.. The tackle is something ARSENAL always admonish and deserved a RED!

  32. It is amazing!! Arsenal win and some ppl concentrate on minute details. Our players are just human, hence not perfect. Its not easy playing 2 games in a space of 5 days in different countries. It was a grt performance do u expect teams to give us an easy game??

  33. @ham : I am just disappointed that vela dint get a run considering the number of players out injured.Lets face it he wont even be on the bench once walcott,persie and cesc are back and thats the only reason i wanted him to play and to prove and sadly that doesn’t seemt to be happening and i am very grumpy

  34. @Indian Gunner- i think the only reason why vela wasn’t played was bcoz of the uefa match in midweek. I am pretty sure that Vela will start that game. Also i hope Bendtner too gets some playing time midweek

  35. Paul we don’t often disagree but we will have to in this case.
    Jack has been systematically kicked around in every ganme so far this season.
    He gave one back and took a red card for his troubles. Silly? probably but he definitely sent a message to the next team that tries to give him a kicking. It happened because Zigic got away with a short forearm to his face which cut his lip.
    Sometimes these things need to be done. Cesc on Thomas Repka springs to mind as a previous example. we cannot always be whiter than white victims.
    What I strongly object to is the likening to Shawcross and Taylor because Zigic walked off the pitch after he finished the match. Eduardo and Rambo didn’t walk for 6 months.
    All and sundry stated that neither of those 2 challenges deserved a red but EVERYBODY said that LJW’s challenge did including Jack and AW.
    Don’t buy into the hype too much Paul. Zigic nailed him and he returned the favour and took his medecine like a man.
    Be proud of him.

  36. “That’s all those xenophopes have waited for while totally ignoring the point of this debate. Show me the quote where Arsene said Arsenal players should be excluded from being punished when making bad tackles.”

    “All Arsene said was to punish reckless tackles retrospectively which were not spotted during the game by the officials. He was not advocating special treatment for his players. But this simple fact is simply too difficut to grasp for people with an agenda.”

    Quoted for emphasis, very true.

  37. Not entirely pleased with the manner of Arsenal’s play ,but thanks for the 3 points.Young Jack has clearly shown his displeasure at being elbowed by Zigic ,will serve his time and come back better.
    The commentators were crap – especially Trevor ‘I’m the first 1 million pounds player’ Francis.Your ex-Brum colours are showing you twit!Disgraceful !

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