Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal continued their momentum with a 3-1 Premier League win over Birmingham at the Emirates Stadium.

Telegraph: Arsenal claimed their fourth successive victory at the Emirates Stadium with Robin van Persie and Abou Diaby scoring inside a four-minute spell early in the first half. Though Lee Bowyer replied, Arsenal responded late on through Andrei Arshavin.

Match Video

I can’t get 101 great goals to work (there’s a database error) and Arsenalist doesn’t have anything, so I guess it’ll have to be the dot com for the official match highlights (ATVO subscribers only).

Prologue

The last time these two teams met a 3rd minute tackle by Martin Taylor broke Eduardo’s leg and a 90th minute mistake by Gael Clichy seemed to break this Arsenal team’s will. Because of the injury time, the DVR of the game that I was watching ran out and as the screen went blank I thought Arsenal were safe having seemed to secure all 3 points with a 2-1 lead. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Clichy gave up the penalty to allow Birmingham to tie the match.

Today, it was the 7th minute when Liam Ridgewell put in a hefty challenge on Theo Walcott essentially ending Walcott’s day and strangely at the 85th minute (again up 2-1) we lost our Satellite feed in the pub due to a major rain squall. “Not again” I thought.

Not again, indeed. When the feed came back on the score was 3-1 thanks to a cheeky goal from Andrei Arshavin and Arsenal looked more likely to finish the match 4-1 than 2-2. Had it not been for the profligacy of Diaby they would have done so.

If that fixture 2 years ago was seen by many as a pivotal match that eventually saw Arsenal drop from 1st to 3rd place in the league, then perhaps the way that this team played today, showing some grit an determination to get the win despite not playing their best for long periods of time, is indicative of better things to come for this team this year.

Certainly it didn’t hurt that Liverpool was all but knocked out of the title race by a surging Sunderland; confirming my pre-season prediction that like 2005 Liverpool look most like to “make the drop” out of the top four. Chelsea too looked vulnerable and Villa looked rapacious in their 2-1 victory which saw Man U sent to the top of the table.

In fact, all of the top 7 teams, all the way down to Sunderland, look like they are going to challenge for those top four spots. It should be a fun season and one which a marauding Arsenal (with 27 goals now in just 8 matches) look like they will seriously challenge for Premiership honors.

The Good

Arsenal didn’t play well at times today or at least that’s my impression. For the first 30 minutes it looked like Arsenal were easily twice the team that Birmingham is but for large portions of the game after that they looked out of sorts. Maybe it was the nature of the conceded goal, maybe the heavy tackle on Walcott, maybe Birmingham just got into them better. I really can’t say, but we looked out of sorts for long periods.

But the good here is that they just kept playing. There were a lot of matches last year where this same team would play this exact type of match and rather than dig deep and pull out the win, they would go into their shell and concede goals. The fact that this team never gave up and kept going for the win is a true sign of maturity, that’s what an experienced team does. More than the goals, which were good don’t get me wrong, it was good to see this team fight back and play through the lack of concentration to get all three points.

And while I was hoping for a real blow out, who wasn’t after we took a 2-0 lead on the 18th minute, I’ll take a gutted out 3-1 win any day of the week.

Man of the Match

I can’t give it to any one player. I just can’t. Robin’s goal was brilliant, but it was Song’s play which set it up. Thomas Vermaelen was solid at back but can you win MotM for just being solid? Cesc had a good game at times but then at other times looked out of sorts. Diaby scored, but his header was most at fault for the Birmingham goal. Even Mannone, who shares some of the blame for the goal, made a game winning save at the end.

No. It was a team performance, I’m sure a lot of you will disagree but I think the whole team deserves the award, for digging deep and gutting out a win when they played poorly.

The Bad

This Summer many people publicly complained about Vermaelen’s lack of height at the back. He would never be able to deal with headers, they said. Well, Diaby is 3-4 inches taller that Vermaelen and he is an absolute liability when it comes to defensive headers. I’ve figured it out too, it’s that he just doesn’t know what he wants to do with the ball when it’s coming to his head. So, instead of doing something, anything, decisive, he always seems caught in two minds. Today’s header was a classic example of that. He saw the ball coming then probably remembered the Old Trafford own goal and rather than flick the ball over the net, he looped it up, sort of half way back and half way forward. Forcing Mannone to come out and claim the ball — which he failed to do. As much as I talked up their maturity, this goal was a sign of immaturity on both player’s parts.

The Ugly

I wonder about the tackle by Ridgewell that saw Walcott removed after just 33 minutes. It was yet another really hefty challenge at the start of a game and what gives me pause is that I wonder if Alex McLeish didn’t tell them to go out and send a message. You know, sort of “tell them we aren’t afraid to get stuck in despite what happened with Eduardo.” As I said when Taylor broke Eduardo’s leg, there’s a fine line between hard and aggressive and while I do understand that clubs have to go out and play hard, I really wish that they would spend more time learning fundamentals like ball movement, rather than how to get away with full blooded challenges.

I don’t have any news on the extent of the injury to Walcott but fingers crossed that he’s not seriously hurt (Arsene said he’s unsure at this point).

Conclusions

Arsenal have now won 7 matches in a row in all competitions scoring 21 goals along the way. Moreover, they have done so without the benefit of really clicking in every game: there have been some real hard fought matches that last year would have been draws and this year have ended up big wins.

We’re still a bit naive on defense, as the boss would say, but 3 points is 3 points whether the score line is 3-1 or 5-4. So, I’ll take it every time. In fact, last year I remember hearing so many of you say that you’d rather win ugly than lose pretty. I would go one step further and say that winning ugly is crucial if you’re going to win the league.

Of course, it’s a bit early to worry about the league. After all we just got back into 4th place!

51 Comments on Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

  1. The ref was poor.. That guy Ridgeweel almost cut Theo in two and he did not even get a yellow..Yes he went for the ball, but if you go for the ball and cut the opponent in two, there must be a foul right? Eboue was held and carried off the ball by his opponent in the first half and that clumsy jerk forgot to blow..Things like these can derail our title charge.

    Diaby did not get a decent run of games apart from this term, so I think he will be a world beater in 6 months, just like Wenger did with Song.

  2. MC Leish says a fierce defender’s tackle.

    I cannot hope that the G20 start their breakaway league soon enough. I would rather see us playing Barca, Bayern, Real every week like these crap teams who injure your assets.

    They do not deserve to be playing within our level.

    • Agree a hundred percent. Half the teams in the Premiership shouldn’t be there. Also, it’s sometimes cheaper for the away fans to travel to Europe than it is to the north of England, and think of the pleasures when you get there – hot mulled wine and good beer and sausages in Germany, for instance, and tickets cost about 7 euros with free local transport thrown in. Oh bring it on.

  3. song was easily motm. as usual, he was immense.

    agree w/ritesh on the referee…especially in light of the card shown to number seventeen

  4. Concerning the MOtM, I do have to say that Eboue really did look good today. He was constantly charging down the right, and his final ball was much better than Sagna’s (although Sagna is still a much a better Right back). I just wanted to point that out, because I honestly thought he was a constant menace and used his pace very well.

  5. A quick note on Ridgewell’s tackle too: it was hard and did cut Theo in half, but even with all my Arsenal bias I have to admit it was all ball and that the referee couldn’t really card him for that. I am sick of players hacking at our boys and intentionally trying to “get under them” and “unsettle” them, but the referee can’t do much about a hard but fair tackle. It sucks having Walcott out though, and it looks like we won’t see him for another week atleast.

    • @theSoulGooner, One thing though, if you get the ball first, but as Ritesh said, cut the other player in half, is it a foul?

      I must confess I haven’t seen the tackle and can’t find it on Youtube, but the Daily Mail said Theo’s knee “bent backward”…

      • Wenger said he was having trouble with his balance before he came off, which is not a good sign – more likely to be a twisted ligament than just bad bruising and pain.

        Shit, shit, shit. I hate McLeish, but with luck he’ll have been sacked before we go to Legbreakers’ Hall on 22 March. He’d better have been or we won’t have any players for the CL quarters and semis.

  6. “for large portions of the game after that they looked out of sorts. Maybe it was the nature of the conceded goal, maybe the heavy tackle on Walcott, maybe Birmingham just got into them better. I really can’t say, but we looked out of sorts for long periods.”

    It was evident, to me at least, that many of the players suffered from fatigue due to their international commitments. Apart from the opening 20 min we looked to be conserving energy and with almost everyone in the starting eleven being away with their respective countries it was a good win IMO.

  7. Just got back from the wedding… there was NO WIFI! Glad to hear we won the match, worried about Walcott though. If his leg was broken you can bet the English press would have been up Ridgwell’s butthole (rightfully so).

    Hope he’s okay, these persistent injuries can’t be great for his confidence.

    • It’s going to keep happening, isn’t it? Walcott’s so fast and dangerous every McLeish-type manager must actually tell the defenders to hack him down. As Ritesh says above, while we’re playing in the English league, where diving is considered a worse crime than murder, players like Walcott don’t stand a chance. To survive he’d need to change his style, beef up a bit, develop his intelligence and rely less on his speed. Thierry survived the Premiership with both legs still in tact, but Walcott . . . I dunno.

  8. 72 points to go. i think 90 points will us the league. we have 18 pooints so far. by january we should have 45 points. hopefully.

  9. Agree with your analsysis of the game — spot on and all that.

    But I do want to correct one thing. In that fiasco two seasons back — the “Eduardo Game” — Clichy did NOT give away a silly penalty at the end.

    Yes, a pen was called and the score finished 2-2. Moreover, Clichy made an error, initially turning away from the ball in the box — presumably thinking someone else was covering it.

    But…

    Clichy is so quick and agile that when he realized his mistake, he spun around and nicked the ball cleanly before the attacking player could play it. Then the guy clattered over Gael’s foot, the penalty was given, Gallas pouted and we all know the rest.

    But replays have shown over and over — conclusively — that Clichy got to that ball first, clearly and cleanly, and so it NEVER should have been a pen.

    A lot of Gooners have forgotton that bit, though you personally are off the hook since your recording ran out.

    Do look at that replay sometime, though. The sad thing, however, is that it makes me feel even sicker about how the season turned out.

    Cheers!

  10. California Steve – you are absolutely right. And we were on the end of some other horrible decisions in other games at the end of that season, the prolem (with some distance) is that we couldn’t put enough daylight between ourselves and the likes of Brum, Boro etc for the ref calls not to hurt us.

    Was at the game today – we looked very good up to the Walcott injury, mixing up the short stuff with some longer balls over the top.

    Unfortunately after the foul(?), we lost the threat of Theo’s pace and that let Birmingham defend 40 yards from goal. With Cesc’s radar not quite right, it made life hard for us.

    Song was good, but MotM for me was van Persie who worked his nuts off up front on his own, even when things weren;t going for him.

  11. I’m not sure how mature our performance actually was, because the game was being played at a very high pace when we were 2-1 up and could’ve perhaps tried to just slow the game down a little and ensure defensive stability.

    Although it’s much more entertaining how we keep attacking :D.

  12. I suppose the upside of the match being tighter than I thought it’d be after we bagged 2 goals in the first 20 minutes is that it sharpens the focus of the players, have them feel those tense feelings again, etc. But then again, I’m likely full of it. Anyway, my man of the match has to be Diaby. Great goal, and even more importantly, some very critical tackles and takeaways. Funnily enough, just at the end of the game as I was commenting to the guys at the pub that Arshavin and Fabregas really look spent, Arshavin buries that third. Damn, he’s always spot on. Anyway, it did look like we tired and credit to Birmingham for being frisky all throughout. We definitely dodged a bullet in the second half, up 1, with them having a few guys in the box but not completing the effort, which started with an uncalled offsides on them, with a goal. Thankfully. Good effort from our lads; a win’s a win. As seen today by Liverpool and Chelsea, the rest of the Premiership isn’t lying down.

  13. Birmingham are one of the sides in the epl whose philosophy is before the other team wins,rough up their players. The Walcott tackle
    would at the least resulted in the defender booked not reprimanded in Europe.That’s why in the cl, the players are extra careful as opposed to careful in their tackles.
    Arsenal are still cavalier in their attacking though things have improved defensively.Arsenal have never have a commanding goalie since the declining days of lehman.If Aw seriously wants to land a trophy he shd look into this dept. Yes I know Mannone has been brilliant except for the occasional howlers.He is one for the future.In crucial games it’s howler that decide the outcome.

  14. when will the FA recognize that a two footed challenge should be at the least a yellow card? ridgewell may not have wanted to hurt theo but he definitely knew that he was going in with a two footed challenge and he was going to have contact with him. it’s a fucking disgrace! i just hope theo can recover quickly from this.

    • @nycgunner, That wasn’t a two footed challenge though, the left leg is trailing when he goes in. There’s nothing wrong with going into a challenge knowing you’ll make contact with the player, as long as you get the ball first. I agree that it was overzealous and probably intended to send a message, but he’s perfectly within his rights to do that.

      • @b: You are wrong; go check the rule-book. The rule is clear regardless of whether you got the ball first or not. That tackle endangered Walcot and is a sending off offence. The last rule-book update was 2 years ago. Find it, read it.

  15. How many Yellows does song have this season?? I’m afraid we’ll be wthout him (atleast for a game) much before ACN!!

    • @Akash, it’s part of having a tough tackling deep lying midfielder. We cried for 1 in the summer and now we have one. Cant have it both ways

      • @Gareth26GOONER, I know. I was merely saying we may need to find a replacement (I dont mean buy but someone else stepping up) for him much before the ACN. With Denilson out with a back injury it’ll probably have to be Abou (did i say that)..

  16. The ugly of the game was the birmingham scum singing theres only one martin taylor,then the guy sitting in club level getting chucked out for reacting

  17. A two footed challenge is illegal. Remember Vieira’s tackle in the Liverpool match when he was sent off? He took the ball, but it was a two footed challenge and was off. Referee’s have a wide range of tools at their disposal, but Probert was a disgrace yesterday, as he always is. The free kick for the ‘back pass’ was a joke.

    We won ugly yesterday and the team looked tired. But our ugly is better than other team’s beautiful football, and Arshavin’s goal was a peach.

  18. I hate brum but ridgewells challenge was the perfect tackle, the trailing leg was unfortunate. Remember Dixon, Keown, Adams, Winterburn and Viera? We cant have it both ways.

    As for the idiots like Mia and Ritesh on here saying that we should join a Euro league. After a season we will be sick of it and crying out for the ‘crap teams’ of the premier league to come back.

    • Not me. I’d rather spend Saturday in Munich or Madrid than in Stoke or Bolton, Blackburn or Hull. What’s more – shock! – I hate the FA Cup even more than playing the more brutal end of the Premiership. The whole philosophy of the ‘giant-killing’ being exciting sums up English football in a way I find deeply depressing. Giant-killing = the more skilful team being defeated by a clodhopper team that kicks them to bits on a muddy,lumpy pitch where skill doesn’t count? If you don’t value skill what’s the point?

    • @Chrisb: Perhaps you are the idiot. If you want to live in the past, that’s your prerogative, but you have no right to force others to be a neandathal. You pretend to be an avid football follower without knowing what goes on in football. The rules of football are constantly updated. Dangerous tackles are outdated and are illegal. So Ridgewell should have deservedly got a red card. You say Adams, etc. Unlike you, we all cannot live in the past. It is precisely to forestall those sort of tackles and protect reall football players that the law was upgraded. Please live in this century or go watch Rugby or Wrestling. You must be one of those who love the dullard pundits who do not know the rules and no wonder English referees are no longer invited to referee world cups. Why would they, when they do not know the rules either.

  19. Mia-I think people like you are the reason for many of the the things that are wrong with some of the rather spoilt modern football fans (or in your case jumping on the bandwagon springs to mind). I’m going to take a deep breath and hope that people like you will soon be excised from the game once and for all. I wonder if you actually go to football matches?! lol

    • @Chrisb: You are simply one of the smug and pompous football fans that make me sad. Tell any club to loose the money from TV rights and that club will curse you severely. TV money is huge money; and that is possible only because of the Millions of fans who subscribe to sport on the TV. So please don’t ever insult them or pass snide remarks at them. They contribute in no small way, perhaps in more ways than you do, to the Arsenal revenue.

  20. Totally agree with this…It’s fun to beat up on crap teams…When they don’t (physically) beat up on you. This is why I’m excited that we’ve got Liverpool next up in the Carling Cup—I can’t wait to see our talented youngsters (esp. Vela, Wilshere, etc.) against a team that actually tries to play, and on a good pitch. If we win, fantastic, if not, oh well, at least (hopefully) better football won out.

    Ideally a Euro-Super League would be the same sort of thing…If it were a “break-away” league it wouldn’t be, but if it were “merit-based,” i.e., an additional high level of competition more than just a year long tournament, which you still had to qualify for based on your result in that league and/or your domestic league (i.e., promotion/relegation) you’d see more teams with outstanding depth and quality and more opportunities for young international players and the teams that build squads like this (i.e., Arsenal). It’s the antithesis of localized (tribal) football, but it would be the pinnacle of the sport.

    Of course, I’m not gonna hold my breath….

  21. A euro league sounds great if you dont go to games, but if you actually GO reguarly it is the last thing fans want. Fans actually like travelling around the country and yes its far more affordable to do it in the UK

    • @chrisb, Yes, I am an “international” fan and I get my football on the telly (or television, as we call it here in the states), but when I was in London (living at 17 Highbury Terrace, in fact) I was “priced out” of the home matches and only attended games in other stadiums. It was great (of course) but Arsenal are definitely aiming higher and getting results from those sorts of games is a survival effort at best. (Momentarily we’ll see how the new elite from ManCity fare on the Rugby pitch in Wigan, where Chelsea and Villa have already lost).

      Don’t get me wrong….I totally respect the traditions of the game and especially the dedication of the traveling fans (though, of course, some of them can be a little frightening). With the pricey stadium and the big TV money we have entered a new era and an ESL (European Super League) is the next step. Frankly, IMO, if global capitalism hadn’t almost collapsed, I would’ve expected something from its flagship sport (barely regulated European Football) by now. Certainly the next round of go,go,go economic excess will have the Sugar Daddies crying out for some sort of bailout (New League/TV contract/More stadium revenue) from the bubble they’ve created…

  22. @chrisb, It’s time for Song to take a tactical yellow card in the WHU game so that he will be suspended for Wolves (although Wolves are higher than WHU). He needs to back for the Sunderland game as Bent and Jones are probably the strongest and most dangerous striking pair in the league at the moment (besides Anelka and Drogba).

  23. 17 highbury terrace-Villa played at home not at wigan

    A euro super league will not happen. We have the ECL already-After the gimmick quickly wears off fans and tv companies will be completely turned off by rosenborg v porto on a cold wednesday night. Its the local rivalry that brings the crowds in. there is no natural rivalry with continental clubs. As i say it is only something that armchair fans who do not understand the mentality of real football fans want. For example Mia. No offence to her but she sounds ridiculous

    • @chrisb, You’re completely correct about Villa losing at home AND about the group stages of the Champions League–Total Crap….Which is exactly why us TV fans and the big clubs will demand some sort of ESL (Euro super league). Money makes the world go round….

      You’re also right about local rivalries which is why I can’t wait for Oct 31 and the N. London derby (in High definition on ESPN to boot!) and why today’s TV matches (East Lancashire and Greater Manchester derbies) are fun to watch. I support Wigan in the latter both because they are David to City’s Goliath and because City are our direct rival in the table.

      However, unless we go backwards and don’t care about the quality of the football on display (6+5 rules, etc.) we should favor more high level competition of some sort–Certainly Arsene does….See for example: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1206377/ARSENE-WENGER-INTERVIEW-The-transcript-Martin-Samuels-fascinating-meeting-Arsenal-manager–I.html

    • @chrisb, 60000 people watch a game at the emirates, millions watch on tv. Which group do you think brings more money to they club?
      I don’t give two shits about the North London rivalry, it means nothing to me, i don’t even know any Tottenham fans that i can mock about it! I want to watch football, not fight some chav in the fucking street because he wears different colors than me.

      I’m not really sold on a Super Euro league either, but your arguments are just silly. There’d be 4-5 teams each from Italy, England, and Spain, a couple of French, German, Portuguese, Dutch teams. If you honestly would rather go see Arsenal play Burnley than PSV, then that’s your business but I’m fairly sure the majority of fans would disagree with you. The local ones might miss their derby games, but then again the money people don’t give a fuck about the local fans anymore do they?

  24. Are only English football fans real? Not Dutch or German or Spanish ones, say? They play some good football in those countries – you may even have seen it on the tv – so what is it that makes their fans less real than our ‘local’ rivals in Blackburn or Stoke? Just curious.

    No offence, of course, but Chrisb sounds just a mite little Englander-ish and forgetful of the fact that London is a city in Europe, geographically and possibly culturally closer to Amsterdam and Paris than to Blackburn or Stoke. That’s one of the pleasures of living in north London – you can hear half a dozen of different languages on any street corner.

    • @Mia, This is a good point as well. If you’ve got kids, the playground at the South end of Highbury fields is spectacular for it’s equipement and the diversity of the people who use it, from girls in headscarves, boys with side curls and every color under the sun.

      Meanwhile, I’m loving the Wigan-Man City game (currently 1-1) as Zabaleta gets shown red and Ade limps off….

      Would I be watching it if it weren’t for the millions getting pumped into ManCity and how they’re attempting to challenge us?

      • Yes, it’s great, that playground. And stop off in one of the Turkish cafes round there and you’ll find them all screaming at the tv when Fenebahce or Besiktas are playing; or drop into the German place on Old street on CL nights, and they’ll be screaming for Bayern. . .

  25. Correct me if I am wrong Tim, but the football rule-book was updated only 2 years ago, wasn’t it? If so, shouldn’t the English referees and the stupid mediocre pundits be up-to-date, or even up-to-scratch on the revised rules? The Birmingham Butchery club goal was not Mannone’s fault in any way, except if you require him to be a superman. Larsson commited 2 fouls on him which the referee should have flaged. Larsson raised his hand to push Mannone’s hands, thereby depriving him of getting a hold on the ball. He also jumped into Mannone, barging him in the side, thereby upsetting his balance to ensure that he does not get to the ball. Secondly, Larsson physically blocked Mannone from getting a block on Bowyer’s shot from the rebound. These are known as OBSTRUCTING the Goalkeeper in the rules. 2 Experienced referees have confirmed that today. Any continental referee would have flagged any 1 of these 2 as fouls and the goal would have been disallowed. Just as Ridgewell would have been sent off by any continental referee for the intensity of his tackle on Walcot. It is defined as dangerous play in the rule-book, regardless of whether he touched the ball first or not. The 2 experienced Senior Referees also confirmed that; as they also confimed that the balloon goal against Liverpuddle should not have stood. Do you wonder then why English referees are not considered for the world cup? They, as well as the so called pundits, do not even knoe the rules. Very sad indeed.

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