Arsenal 3 – 1 Birmingham
Van Persie 16, Diaby 18, (Bowyer 38), Arshavin 85
In a day that started off with Aston Villa beat Chelsea to see the Stamford Bridge outfit lose their second game of the season, it was important that we took advantage. And that’s exactly what we did, but I have to say it was definitely not the most comfortable of afternoons I’ve spent at the Emirates.
Team news saw Mannone retain the number 1 jersey as Almunia was still a little worse for wears from his recent virus. Eboue came in for Sagna, who was rested, and Gibbs came in for the injured Gael Clichy, who was still recovering from his recent ankle injury. Diaby recovered to start along side Cesc and Song and Walcott came in for Arshavin whose recent exertions with Russia gave him a place on the bench, joining Rosicky and Van Persie in the front three.
Eboue – Gallas – Vermaelen – Gibbs
Song – Diaby
Walcott – Cesc – Rosicky
The game kicked off in a manner reminiscent of the end of the Blackburn game – we were on fire… and it looked like Birmingham were here to defend. But it took only 15 minutes before we hit the back of the net and it was the man of the moment, Robin Van Persie who slotted in. A great run and pass from Song, when everyone thought he was going to shoot, he sent the ball through to the Dutchman, who controlled well, and in the same way as he scored against Blackburn, he finished in a similar fashion.
And one became two very quickly as good work down the right saw Rosicky square well across the box for the ball to go through everyone and land at the feet of Diaby, who finished well, left footed at the first time of asking… it felt like we’d go on to hit Birmingham for 6. But credit to the Midlands team, they defended and defended and tried their best to go forward. Most of it seemed more hopeful than authoritative but at the end of the day, they did well and kind of deserved the goal they scored. It was a person whom I particularly dislike in Lee Bowyer who whacked the ball into the back of the net after Mannone fumbled a cross, where he really should have punched instead of trying to catch. And that’s the way it ended the first half.
A quick side note, Theo Walcott was taken off after about half way through the first half when a heavy challenge earlier on saw he fail to struggle off a knee injury.
The second half was a completely different story. And particularly why my afternoon wasn’t that comfortable. For pretty much the whole of the second half, I sat on the edge of my seat. It was a weird feeling. We were winning 2-1, but it felt like we were drawing. We were going forward in search of another goal and Birmingham were defending and actually time-wasting. All of a sudden Birmingham realised they were losing and they could have equalised if not for some good goalkeeping from Vito Mannone.
And then a moment of magic from Arshavin saw us go 3-1 up and the game was effectively over. A great throw out by Mannone to Cesc – the captain travelling half the length of the field to play in Arshavin, who picked his spot despite the presence of a defender in front of him. Excellent stuff, three points.
Arsene spoke on Theo’s injury:
“He has a bruised knee, it is swollen and difficult to assess at the moment. Is it a medial knee ligament that is twisted or just a kick? The fact that he says he felt a little unstable when he was running is not good news. We don’t know yet how much of his pain is down to the kick and how much is down to the fact he twisted his ligament.
“We will assess the situation tomorrow morning. He will be scanned and if it is just a kick he has a good chance to play on Tuesday night [at Alkmaar]. If it is more, he will not play on Tuesday. I believe personally he will not be available on Tuesday at least. It is not a cruciate for example but it could be more than a week if it is a twisted ligament.”
And then went on to speak about the game saying:
“We were cruising, in control, two goals up and it looked like we could get more. You were wondering who would score the third goal. But we made a mistake defensively and they got back to 2-1. In the second half we did not have the same fluency or control in the game, not the same pace, but in the end I still believe 3-1 is a fair result because we had plenty of chances. Birmingham regrouped very quickly when they lost the ball and we lacked a little bit of sharpness. I feel also we tried to force the situation a little bit individually, especially in the second half, and that’s why we didn’t score more goals.”
Three points on the board. 4 points off the top with a game in hand… Bring on the Champions League…