Arsenal v. Birmingham; match preview

Lots of injury news today so lets jump straight in with a knee-high, studs-up lunge, shall we?

The boss broke down the injuries list and it is as follows: Vela will not be involved because he hasn’t even landed yet, Bendtner’s out with a ‘recurrence of his groin’ (what happened, did his groin multiply?), Eduardo is out, Fabianski is still out even though he is practicing normally, Clichy picked up a knock and is out, Nasri is out and Denilson and Djourou are still out.

Almunia is available, having recovered from his chest cold and I think he presents a bit of an interesting selection challenge for the boss. If he was legitimately injured then in my mind, he starts because players shouldn’t lose their starting spots to injury. If, however, there’s something more to his absence than just injury then the boss could start him and see how he does or could start Mannone and see if he is gaining consistency. Wenger was coy about the keeper selection in his pre-match presser.

We all know how tight lipped he is about the team before the match but I have to wonder, if Almunia is #1, and he’s healthy, then he’s not letting anything out of the bag by saying “yes, we will be playing our #1 keeper.” He had no problem naming Gibbs as the starting left-back, so exactly what the deal is with keeper is going to have to remain a mystery until tomorrow. If he picks Mannone, then clearly something is up with Almunia.

The good news is that the core of this team is healthy; Diaby is 100% after sitting out for France (do you see what I did there?), Cesc is available, and Arshavin is available. My team selection is as follows:

Arsenal-v-Birmingham-xi

I suspect that Sagna will get a rest, Diaby is our only real choice in midfield and Wenger will deploy our dream forward three of Arshavin, van Persie, and Rosicky. This lineup means that Diaby will need to temper his tendency to get forward and by ‘temper’ I mean: STOP IT. Diaby’s going to have to let Cesc and those guys do the fun stuff up front and do the dirty work with Song in keeping the Birmingham counter attack in check.

On thing I found a bit odd is that the boss looked surprised when a reporter told him that 24 goals in the first 7 games is a Premier League record goals tally for the start of the season. Honestly, it was news to me as well, but when you stop to think about it, 3.4 goals per game is really incredible. That puts us on pace to score 130 goals this season and that, I can assure you, has never been done. In fact, not even close. If you go back to 2001 there are two teams which tied for most goals scored in a season at 87; Manure and Arsenal.

87 goals in a season is a little under 2.3 goals a game and is still considered scoring at a really good clip. 3.4 goals a game is off the charts and I don’t think we should even start to think that this pace will continue. Could this team get 100 goals in a season? They’d have to score 2.63  goals a game to do it. I don’t know, as I wrote about the other day, it’s clear that this Arsenal team is purpose built to score goals so if anyone could do it it’s us. Wenger even chalks the goals for tally up to the style of play, the talent, and the drive forward by this team and says that they “want to express themselves” so maybe that’s just the way this team wants to play: score a monstrous number of goals.

But let me be clear; 100 goals in a season is spectacularly spectacular. I’m talking on the level of The Invincibles. It’s just not done. But if they did it? We could call them “The Centurions.” In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this team will score 100 goals this season. Only 76 more to go!

Of course, that’s all speculation, and right here in front of us we have Birmingham a team, who, to be fair, are going to park the bus, set out the awning, set up a blacksmith shop, and start making horseshoes. If they get 5 shots on goal I will, literally, shit my pants. Literally.

Getting 3 goals against this team will be quite a task. Again, as I wrote two days ago, teams who play for 1 point a game are relegation fodder and that’s what Birmingham journalists are admitting that this team is doing. It’ll be a bit different in January when their rich owner springs some cash for transfers but right now, Birmingham City has one thing on their mind: get a draw.

The one thing on our minds, however, is to get a massive win. Of course, the topic of Taylor breaking Eduardo’s leg being the last time these two met comes up, and from the following quote it really does dound like Arsenal and Arsene might have put this behind them:

I’m not worried about that. It’s a bad memory but I do not go in to the game tomorrow thinking it was against them that it happened, that could have happened against any team. It was very unfortunate and it was a big, big turning point in the season on the day because of the many negative events happening on the same day. But, we do not go into the game tomorrow thinking that we are going to take revenge on them for that. We want to win the game tomorrow because it can strengthen our position in the league.

I don’t expect him to say any less, but still, you have to think that the players who were there will want to show Birmingham a warm welcome back to top flight football with an old fashioned ass whuppin. Before that match, we looked like the team that was going to win the league. Soon after the game we were dumped out of all competitions in spectacular fashion and by the end of the season we fell to third and I trace it all directly back to that game. That has an effect on players. You can’t tell me that a guy who is as competitive as Cesc Fabregas is isn’t going to want to go out there and pick Blackburn apart: eviscerate them and pick the meat off their bones.  Wenger’s statement is all well and fine, and I expect no less from the manager, but I also expect that El Capitan will want a scalp tomorrow.

For their part, Birmingham will play with a single “forward” who will rarely venture past the half way point. Blah blah, injuries, blah blah, new owner, blah blah, relegation battle, blah blah blah. With these teams it’s always the same old crap. The only difference is that unlike in the past, Arsenal has players like Arshavin, Rosicky, and Fabregas in forward roles and they can use their dribbling skills, close control, and precise passing to open up teams who try to park the bus. My only question is this: will Arsenal score more goals than the number of Birmingham supporters who show up to the away section?

That’s it for the match preview. I’m not going to get into the Sol Campbell thing, it’s just training, he’s not coming back. Similarly with Fergie and all the other stuff that the press wants to pull us into. Screw that stuff, we’ve got football in the morning!

As for viewings, if you live in Seattle/Tacoma the match is a traditional 7am kickoff and several of us are gathering at Doyle’s (link on the right) to buy Trav the Chav some drinks in honor of his birthday. If you live in Seattle, you can go to the George or to Fado, both will have live viewings.

I will post a discussion thread for those of you who can watch the match live to make comments in but I won’t be near the internet during the match tomorrow, so you’ll all have to carry the load. UPDATE: Doyle’s now has wi-fi and I will be tweeting live from the match, follow me over at my twitter feed. I will also post a good, bad, and ugly right afters.

Right, that’s it for today, come by tomorrow for some discussion at 7am and for a post match reaction around 10-11.  See you then.

35 Comments on Arsenal v. Birmingham; match preview

  1. So ready for the game. I fully expect to see Arsenal imposing their will early and bring on some of the young guns. What the record for goals in the first 8 games lets bring the tally to 30 (somewhat kidding) Cheears and Up the ARSE

  2. Thank god the proper footie is back (although dont get me wrong im still chuffed to bits that the Republic still have a chance at getting to South Africa) My brother and i shall be in attendance tomorrow. I fancy a change of scene tomorrow pre game so might hit the Rocket beforehand. two wins and then it’s the Spuds so it will set my mates stag do up nicely. COME ON YOU ARSENAL!!! Oh and heres hoping tomorrow is the day the bloody Wonder Of You is scrapped, apparentl Ivan has been listening to the fans and i’ve heard it could be scrapped so fingers crossed!

  3. Finally, Arsenal back on tv! Is`nt Diaby injured?

    Norwegians in Drammen can watch it at Goggen Sport pub at 1600.

  4. Match broadcast live on Setanta Sprts Xtra, the second Setanta channel on DirecTV…I’m not sure if any other channels will be carrying it live, but it will be replayed on the normal Setanta channel at 8:30 PM EST, 5:30 PST.

  5. Oooh! The Centurions. I like that. POWER, EXTREEEEME!

    I have my doubts about Mooney starting tomorrow, I won’t be able to watch tomorrow as I have a family wedding to attend. However I plan to sneak my netbook and headphones in, yes, I’m THAT person.

  6. I will reserve my comments till after the match tomorrow. My only PLEA to our boys is “Please whip Birmingham good!”

      • Yes, and if Mannone can build up more experience and rapport with the defenders, think how good he might have become by the end of the season.

        • @Mia, I dunno, seems a bit early after what? 4 or 5 games to say Mannone’s ready for regular first team football. Don’t get me wrong, I feel relatively confident in him… at least much more so than in his pre-season performances, but it’s early days, I’d like to see how Mooney responds.

          If he keeps token diving and whatnot as shots whiz past like he was at the beginning of the season fair enough, give The Don and Fabianski (or even Szcheszny a chance – he looked even more confident than The Don in pre-season).

          • @Shobo, The problem is that Almunia has never really impressed. Can you think of a game that he saved? Sure, he’s solid, but solid at a “third string England keeper” level for me. Mannone won that Fulham match for us and the boys in the locker room were singing his name after.

            I’m not trying to be too negative about Almunia, he’s fine, but Arsenal have needed a superstar keeper for a while and so far Mannone is the only one I’ve seen look the part.

  7. fuck they are only showing this live on setanta extra?? this means i have to get off my lazy ass, brave the wind and rain, hail me down a cab and head over to a pub. but it will be soooo worth it if we can put a few past the blue scum. wonder if my gf will be pissed off if she wakes up and finds me missing… oh well fuck it, arsenal football is better than sex.

  8. can you guys help?

    i’m english in LA, and i’ve got verizon, but can’t for the life of me work out if any of the channels are showing it live?

    I’ve found some odd ones like fox soccer network in the past, but do i have to wait until 5pm on setanta?

    Thought you guys would be a good bunch to ask?

    • @ryan, It’s pretty confusing, but I have a link at the top of this page which details which channel is covering every match.

      Tomorrow’s match is only on Setanta Extra which you cannot get unless you are a pub. That means you will need to use Setanta’s “Venue Finder” to find a location near you that gets the channel. Just follow the instructions on this page and you should find a pub that plays tomorrow’s game:

      http://www.setanta.com/US/TV-Listings/Venue-Finder/

          • @Tim, it is extremely confusing sometimes…I mainly resort to doing a search for “Arsenal” on my tv listings to find out what time and what channel they are playing on, I do however love that you have added the part to your site detailing broadcast information (i remember over the summer suggesting that!)

            Directv is total crap, and the only reason I have stuck with them is that most Saturdays I get 3 live premier league matches at 10 AM EST, and occasionally 4 live matches when ESPN does not have an early match. We are so lucky in the states! Directv also shows all of the Champions League matches live in HD on their own dedicated channels, and they also have a channel which airs 7-8 matches live simultaneously on one screen, pretty cool stuff.

  9. So we only have Theo as backup striker!! Maybe Sanchez Watt will make it to the bench. Wish the rest recover soon.

    • @Akash, Wouldn’t be surprised to see the boss take off Diaby for Ramsey or move Rosicky into that position and put Walcott up front if Birmingham prove stubborn.

      Walcott should be able to stretch the defense somewhat and create some space with his running, that said, I think Arshavin’s going to have a good game tomorrow, I feel it in my bone.

      Yes, bone.

      • @Shobo, Agreed & think we’ll be playing more of a 4-1-2-3 with the regular back 5 (Gibbs for Clichy) then Rosicky & Cesc in the MF and a front 3 of Arahvin, RVP & Theo. If there’s trouble scoring maybe Diaby/Ramsey in later.

        Personally I’m loving the new look “flow-mation” as RVP can come back for the ball and turn with it and/or set either AA23 or Theo/whoever else is on the wing straight through. With Cesc and Rosicky free to come forward, any defense (in it’s right mind) ought to be pooping their shorts. With all the speed and interchange-ability on display they’ve got to be reluctant to put in the bad challenges that used to undo us.

        So, as I’ve got no “pub” options (but Setanta & DirectTV here at home) I’m hoping it’s on the TV (I’ll believe it when I see it) otherwise, I guess I’m streaming and watching a replay later….

    • @Akash, I was thinking the same thing about Walcott and Watt. I would expect to see Walcott in the 2nd half. Sagna could start because he did not play in France’s 2nd game.

  10. Tomorrow’s game will be a yardstick for McLeish’s tactical ability to get “something from the game”. A pure “park the bus” is dated, static and cowardly. “Tactical fouling” is so now, so hip as long as you can avoid the studs up over the ball ‘mistake’ 😉 Eh, “Big Eck”?

  11. Hi Tim, enjoy the game!

    You guys over the pond be thankful it’s on TV at all; over here in London – the very home of Arsenal! – we get nuttin’. Dodgy Arabian feed it is then.

    P.S. Tim, you have a rogue Blackburn in your piece, I think you meant B’ham…

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