Birmingham vs Arsenal: New Year, 'nother win.
*wipes egg off face*
OK, so perhaps sacrificing eight players from our Chelsea win for the Wigan match might have paid off a bit. Birmingham played the same team they put out against Manchester United and it showed, while our fresh-legged lot ran rings around them. When all’s said and done, seven points out of a possible nine is not something to be ashamed of, though if we’d have been told that at 7pm on the 27th there’s no way you’d have thought the dropped points would have come against Wigan.
Yesterday’s win at St Andrews showed us back to nearly our best against a team who’ve often provided us with problems in the past. While there was plenty of nice football on display, there was also a lot of controversy, which I’ll get to later. Overall though, it was a win that was much needed after the disappointment of our midweek match at the DW Stadium. As we have Moneybags City coming up next, the last thing we needed was to go into it with two draws or a loss and a draw under our belts.
The match started off slowly with us creating plenty of chances that we, surprise surprise, couldn’t put away. There was a bit of nastiness early on when Johnson went in a bit lungey and looney on Fabregas, getting him right in the front of the leg. I agree that as Arsenal fans we sometimes throw a little bit too much of a wobbly when one of our players is tackled, but the yellow card Johnson received was about right. Plus Cesc would later go on to boss the match, so BOTHERED.
Our first goal came in the 13th minute from a RvP freekick won by RvP. Now. The Dive Debate. I DO think he ‘made the most’ of it. I DO think he could have stayed on his feet. In the last blog I said how there should be a refereeing league for bad decisions. I still think that’s true. But if we were punished in the week by N’Zogbia with his blatant dive in the sort-of penalty area, this week we pulled one back. And it wasn’t anywhere near as blatant as his. Obviously though, ours got more attention. But of course.
Birmingham’s only real chance came from a Sebastian Larsson (remember him?) free kick, which Lukasz saved very well. I don’t know what the boy has to do to show he is worthy of his starting place in the team this year. Next bit of controversy came from good old Robster once more. Handball in the penalty area. While I’ll say he was maybe guilty of a spot of Tom Daleyism for the free kick that led to a goal, I fail to see how anyone can say the handball was intentional. If it had happened down the other end I’m sure we’d have been hollering and hooting very Alex McLeishily but we’d have also got on with it and carried on playing our own game instead of crying about it for the next hour. Plus, Birmingham are hardly averse to getting a bit handsy with the ball are they? Ah, the hypocrisy of the footballing world. We all do it. Before I get any complaints from Birmingham fans saying that I would say that because I’m biased… the clue’s in the URL and the blog name, petal.
If we were alright in the first half, we were great in the second. As you’ll all know as Gooners, 0-1 is not a safe scoreline for us this season. Nor’s 0-2 really. Even so, Nasri doubled our lead in the 58th with a beauty of a strike. Here’s where I insert a tweet from SI.com’s Jen Chang:
‘Nasri tremendous again. Mind you, I’d like to see a foreigner like him do it on a cold wet day in Prem at somewhere like Birmingham. Oh.’
Lolsome. That was his 13th of the season. What a beaut from the edge of the area. You’d like to say Birmingham were dead and buried at this point but no, we’re Arsenal, so a third was still needed. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long as a mere five-sixish minutes later we created, yet didn’t actually score, a brilliant third goal. It was Nazzerazoo and Cescito joining up once again for the latter to smash it into Ben Foster who blocked it into the path of not one but two of his team-mates. A lovely goal, even if it was an own.
I think finally we could say we were looking likely to win it. Overall a great performance against a team who have the capability to do us damage (and I mean in the points-takey sort of way, not the bone-breaky sort of way… I’m not THAT sort of dwelly Arsenal fan). God, I need to stop inventing words to suit my own agenda.
I don’t think a match report of that match is complete without a spot of Bacary/Bowyer stand-off however. If you think Robster’s dive was blatant, then Bowyer’s stamp on Bac was as blatant as his foot having come through your telly and broken your nose before insulting your mum. Entirely unnecessary and just a bit stupid. But he’s an horrendous plonker and we all know that, so I think instead props must be given to Bacary for just getting on with it. Whinging Arsenal? Not archangel Bac. Bear in mind also that he played against Chelsea, against Wigan and now against Birmingham too. If he can do it, I don’t see what anyone else’s excuse is. The FA will apparently review the stamp as no action was taken. I just hope Bac’s legs of steel hurt Bowyer’s foot, to be honest.
Final point to be mentioned is how great the away fans were, again. Birmingham’s crowd, or lack of, was pathetic and they were pretty much outsung throughout. Apparently we had 4,000 fans travel up there which, given it was New Year’s Day, is brilliant. I’d love to know where the myth of us never singing comes from when we’ve been louder than the home support in 90% of away matches I’ve seen. Are our away fans really good or is everyone else’s home support just as shit as they claim ours is?
I get the royal hump with fans, particularly fans overseas who tweet so often about how bad our home support is, when I am part of that home support. Yes, we have some regulars who leave before the end like the numpties they are, but I’d hazard a guess that the reason our support seems so weak is that the crowd is interspersed with so many Day-Tripping Dereks. People who come along because they’ve got their hands on a ticket and happened to be nearby, or who fancied seeing an Arsenal game, or who’ve brought along the other half who sits there playing Doodlejump throughout. Arsenal can’t vet all the fans we get through the door, and while we do have Red Action, the proper Gooners are maybe too spread apart to be able to get the noise going as much as at Highbury. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t go and believe you me, our last home match showed that the regulars really, really, really do care. I can’t have been the only one in tears when Theo slammed home our third!
Any road, we’ve got the other Mancs at home next. Our last Emirates encounter with them was a bit of a dishcloth but neither team will be after a draw this time round.
Jack, meet Mario. Mario, Jack…