Monday, January 24, 2022

Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham – back in business

It sounds a bit dense to say the most important thing yesterday was the three points but I’ll say it anyway. Or at least left it unsaid having already said I would say it. You know what I mean.

United dropped points at home to West Brom and Chelsea drew 0-0 with Aston Villa. A brilliant Arsenal performance without the right result would have been utterly useless yesterday. And while it might not have been brilliant it wasn’t that bad. We certainly started very brightly, creating a couple of decent chances. Wilshere’s shimmying 1-2s with Chamakh should have brought the Moroccan a goal but Carr made a decent block.

Clichy fired one wide with his right foot, Diaby had a couple of shots and created a chance for Arshavin, and we even had a goal disallowed for offside when Squillaci headed home a Nasri free kick. I thought the decision was generous to Birmingham, to be honest.

Then, as is our wont, we fell behind. It’s difficult to mark a 6’8 guy who is attacking the ball and I wouldn’t put any blame on Fabianski as the header was almost bottom corner, but when you know there’s a 6’8 guy in the box you’ve got to work harder to ensure he doesn’t get any supply. We were caught on our heels a bit and didn’t close down the Birmingham player quickly enough. It all felt very familiar. Arsenal dominating possession, not taking chances and getting punished by the opponents first real attempt.

Their lead didn’t last too long however as Scott Dann took a swipe at Chamakh, down he went and the ref pointed to the spot. Birmingham were incensed, suggesting Chamakh dived. I’ve watched it lots of times and I really can’t see too much contact. If there was any he certainly made the most of it but those who want to complain about Chamakh’s gamesmanship should also point the finger at Birmingham’s time-wasting. Even at 0-0 it was taking Foster an age to take his goal kicks.

Not saying it justifies anything but you can’t bend the rules yourself and then complain when somebody else does it. Samir Nasri stepped up and fired home the penalty with plenty of conviction. The game got a bit tetchy then. Nasri was booked for kneeing one of them up the arse while Roger Johnson went through the back of Chamakh in the air and clearly elbowed him in the head at the same time.

This was the point when I wished I had a stream with no commentary. Having to listen to Trevor Francis watch a replay of Chamakh being elbowed in the head and saying “What’s wrong with that? A great centre-half’s header” is just too frustrating for words. So 1-1 at half-time and we were looking for a quick start to the second half. Which is exactly what we got.

Jack Wilshere brought it forward from midfield, got on the end of a looping Song backheel, played a lovely pass inside their defence for Chamakh who found himself through when Steven Carr fannied out of the tackle. He rounded the keeper and slotted it home to make it 2-1.

I thought we might go on and score a couple more from there but we were lacking something in the final third for much of the game. I thought Diaby was good yesterday until he got close to their penalty box. His decision making wasn’t great. Arshavin was hugely disappointing. A tight game like this needs the bit of creativity he has when he can be arsed but he looked like a player who, generously speaking, felt the full effects of the Interlull. He was taken off for Rosicky who was prepared to have a go, forcing Foster into at least one decent save.

Nicklas Bendtner made his comeback, replacing Chamakh and he almost got on the end of a Rosicky cross but at 2-1 you always feared the equaliser. Fabianski was never really tested with shots on target but I thought he did very well with their crosses, corners etc, making a number of excellent punches. We stood firm however and the game was heading into the final minutes of injury time when Jack Wilshere was sent off for a bad tackle on Zigic.

No complaints at all about the decision, not from the manager or the player, and he’ll now miss three games. After everything that’s been said about tackling recently you know there have been plenty waiting for something like this to happen so they can have a go and stick the knife in but frankly I can’t be arsed reading, or reacting to, any of it.

Wilshere’s tackle was poor, he got a red card, held his hands up, admitted it, and for me that’s the end of the affair. It’s a shame for him to miss three games but we have to remember he’s just 18, players learn as they go and he strikes me as a quick study. Kind of ironic, given the kickings he’s received this season, that he’s the one who ended up with a red but there you go. Also, it looked to me as if Zigic deliberately turned his body into Wilshere earlier in the game, catching him in the mouth with his elbow. Whether that was a factor in Jack’s challenge only he can tell you but it doesn’t seem to have been mentioned.

The other thing the red card did was take the focus away from what was another accomplished performance by Jack. In a game in which we were a bit slow-footed he was always busy, always looking to do something, he was a real bright spark. As was Chamakh up front. He might be a bit light on his feet but he’s a hugely effective player.

Our result and the results elsewhere mean we’ve narrowed the gap at the top to five points. It’s a good start and hopefully it’ll help us get a bit of momentum going. We’ve got Champions League action on Tuesday which we’ll look at in the next couple of days and then a difficult away trip to Man City next in the league. The games are coming like Aaron Lennon, thick and fast.

Other than that this Sunday you have to laugh at Tony Pulis and his comments about the boss:

I’ve got nothing against foreign ­managers, they are very nice people. Apart from Arsene Wenger.

It’s hilariously childish and petty. Stoke’s ability to make complete twats of themselves, from the Chairman to the manager to their players, is now car crash-tastic. And I’m sure Arsene Wenger is weeping into his coffee this morning that a bug eyed, eat his own young bumpkin like Pulis doesn’t hold him in great esteem.

Finally, Arseblog won Best Podcast as the Irish Web Awards last night. Thanks to all of you who download and listen. It’ll keep the ‘Arseblog hasn’t won a trophy for 5 years’ lot quiet too!

Have yourselves a good Sunday.

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