I don’t think many of us expected what we witnessed at St. Andrews yesterday. Sure, the team was the same as the one which had dispatched Chelsea, but this is Arsenal. We turn up to places like Birmingham and contrive to make it as difficult as we possibly can for ourselves.
Not so yesterday.
With Theo Van Nasregas spearheading the attack we looked dangerous for the entire match, and had Van Persie not been so ring-rusty this win would have been even more comprehensive. Some have pointed to their penalty (which was a penalty) stating that had that been given it would have changed the whole complexion of the game and that might be true. It also might not have made a difference. We will never know.
We will also never know what the score would have been had Johnson (he had a great game @Skid) been sent off for his horrendous tackle on Cesc. That’s the type of tackle that has rightly been clamped down on this season, but it seems that no-one has passed the memo on to Peter Walton who had an awful game yesterday.
What would have happened had Lee Bowyer also been sent off, leaving Birmingham with nine men? Or Jerome for his stamp on Kos? Ridgewell could perhaps count himself lucky not to have received a second yellow as well for raking his studs down Theo’s back (Ridgewell has form against Theo, remember this )
But no, no, it was the penalty which changed the game apparently.
This was a disgraceful display from Birmingham. This wasn’t committed tackling or a strong side. This was thuggery in the guise of football and one for which the media in this country should make no excuses whatsoever.
That the media, both TV and print struggle to find the words to accurately describe what they have witnessed (here’s a hint – assault rather than a ‘little bit naughty’) Arsenal responded in the best way possible – by putting three goals past a team who had only conceded seven all season at home and collect all three points where Chelsea and Man United had failed to do so.
According to ESPN, ITV@s inbred cousin, Birmingham can consider themselves very hard-done by because of decisions. Let’s have a look at some shall we.
- Within the first few minutes of the match Cesc was scythed down on the edge of the Birmingham box. Nothing given.
- Johnson’s tackle on Fabregas was a red card, no question.
- RVP was touched, and even if he went down lightly, even McLeish admitted it was a free kick. At the time, ESPN called for VP to be booked for diving, even though there was far more contact than the penalty for Wigan mid-week.
- Birmingham should have had a penalty as the ball struck VP’s arm. Despite what some have said, this was NOT deliberate, and should NOT have been a yellow card (some saying he should have been booked for dive and handball and therefore sent off – morons).
- A Birmingham player shoved Fabregas in the back sending him barrelling in to another Birmingham player. They got the free-kick.
- There is debate over Jerome’s stamp on Kos. I’m not entirely sure it was deliberate, but it should have at least been a free kick. Nothing given.
- Djourou was held by the neck in the box stopping him getting in the end of a sublime VP free kick. Nothing given.
- Jack Wilshere was fouled when the Birmingham player went through him from the side to win the ball. Nothing given.
- Lee Bowyer stamped on Bacary Sagna when he was on the ground. Nothing given.
- Lee Bowyer raked his studs down Sagana’s achilles long after the ball was away. Nothing given.
- Liam Ridgewell raked his studs down Theo’s back. Nothing given.
I think you can see that Birmingham were clearly the side hard-done by.
With Man United, Man City and the Spuds all picking up maximum points yesterday it was imperative that we did the same. For a while, when the score was 1-0 it looked very much as if it was going to be one of those days once again and chance after chance went over, wide or tamely in to the arms of their keeper.
But we were not to be denied as the entire team flowed, playing sublime football and defending once again from all areas of the pitch.
We have said all season that if only this team could match their work-rate to their ability we would be well in with a shout of winning this league. We have seen that with the performances against Chelsea and again yesterday v Wigan. For those who are still bemoaning the dropped points at Wigan because of rotation please understand that if we hadn’t rotated we wouldn’t have got that performance yesterday.
It was a splendid start to the year and with Man City arriving at the Emirates on Wednesday we have an excellent chance to get some real momentum going. There won’t be as much rotation for that match, in fact, unless we have any injuries, we won’t see any (Djourou’s knee withstanding).
We have a real chance to throw down a marker so close to the win over Chelsea. Do to City what we did to Chelsea and Birmingham and people will have to start taking us seriously. Don’t and all the doubts the team, fans, and media have will be ringing so loudly on Thursday it will be deafening.
Man of the Match – Samir Nasri
Notable mention – Fabianski – his distribution was top notch yesterday, and had it not been for VP’s attempt at a chip could have lead to a goal.
Villain of the day – Take your pick – Lee Bowyer, Roger Johnson, Liam Ridgewell, or Peter Walton. I’d have to say Bowyer just edged this.
Highlight of the day – Karma helping Arsenal score their beautiful third by forcing the ball in off a hapless Johnson.
Lowlight of the day – ESPN’s coverage of the match.
You can see all the goals, incidents and interviews from yesterday’s match in the video section which can be accessed using the link at the top of the page or by clicking here.
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