Birmingham 1 – 1 Arsenal: Spirit Alone Not Enough

Birmingham were horrible in their tackling and Howard Webb’s refereeing was nothing short of woeful. Still it was quite expected and we should have overcome these challenges but it was not to be.

I’m concerned mainly because we have been struggling with our football. Apart from the home win over Porto we haven’t got our game going in most of the recent matches. Four men mid-fields of the quality of Hull and West Ham troubled us for large parts of the game, Porto away was tough and Stoke away wasn’t a great game. The wins over Burnley and Sunderland too were extremely hard fought.

The only reason we are where we are in the table is because we eked out results thanks to undeniable mental fortitude and the ability to fight till the end. But spirit can only take you so far and the real question is what’s happened to our football?

Focusing on the specifics of the game, I thought we got our act together only for a total of a quarter hour or so. A few minutes either side of the twenty minute mark and for ten minutes or so after the double substitutions we looked like the team all of us expect Arsenal to be. Birmingham had no answer to our movement, passing and pressing during these minutes.

At the end it resulted in a goal that was brilliantly taken by Nasri. For large parts the hosts succeeded in putting bodies between the ball and the goal but Nasri capitalized on one of the rare moments when we actually got a sight of goal.

The rest of the game was scrappy with neither side creating anything of note. There is a clear reason why only 25 goals had been scored at St. Andrews this season prior to our game. Birmingham don’t have any real attacking threat and they don’t let the other team play.

I thought our players were too isolated in attack. In the last few months we’ve done well when we got bodies into the box. Unfortunately, the midfield of Diaby and Denilson didn’t work and Cesc had to drop deep far too often. That left Bendtner isolated and rendered ineffective.

Our wide players struggled to contribute. Part of this was due to a lack of co-ordination with the midfield. The other reason was that the full backs had to stay deeper due to the lack of pace of Denilson and Campbell. The vicious tackle on El Capitan and persistent unpunished fouling didn’t help the cause either.

In spite of our problems the phenomenal spirit of this team saw us take the lead. As is our wont, we managed to self destruct. Arshavin’s miss was criminal, Nasri’s attempt to pass when clean through was dumb and the spirit which got the goal and the recent victories went AWOL at just the wrong time.

Almunia made a bad mistake for the goal and there can be no defending his error. Having said that, I feel much bigger mistakes were made by the defence in front of him.

Denilson was five yards away from the play and kept jogging around aimlessly instead of “reading the game” and “intercepting the pass”. Diaby, Song, and Campbell got sucked towards the ball and were caught in no man’s land. Not a single player was aware of Phillips’ run!! In the end Eboue Sagna was in a one v two situation at the back post even if one of the attackers was off side.

My point has always been that with such schoolboy defending any goalkeeper will struggle with his decision making and I’m convinced six months into the next season we will be cursing whoever is bought in the summer. Anyway, that’s a topic for the future.

Another big question is why didn’t we bring on a Eboue after the goal was scored? Surely, we were aware that Birmingham always fight till the last minute.

The only thing we can do now is look to the future. We cannot buy players and we cannot magically heal the unfit. What we can do is to keep our chin up and focus on playing football. One winning streak has come to and end and that means it’s time to start another.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Was having a decent game till the soft hand at the end. He really needs to work on the strength of his arms.

Sagna: Decent in defence, had a couple of good moments in attack, probably stayed in a deeper position because Theo doesn’t do as much for the defence as Nasri or Rosicky.

Campbell: Was turned by Jerome a few times. Clearly lacked pace but had enough in experience to handle the Birmingham attack. Not sure he can get away with it against a team like Barca.

Song: I’m very uncomfortable with him in defence. he struggles with his decision making when there are vast empty spaces in front of him (As was the case for the foul which got him booked), and we really miss him in midfield.

Clichy: Decent defensively, should be contributing much more in attack but I’m not sure it’s his fault. The team shape isn’t right and the full back’s primary responsibility is in defence.

Denilson: Had a really poor game. Didn’t supply the creative players well enough. Couldn’t win the midfield battle against the likes of Ferguson and Bowyer.

Cesc: Way off colour by his standards. Did play a few good balls but just not the Cesc we are used to. I have been getting a feeling that in the last few games he’s been mentally preoccupied. Physically he’s a a game trier but his mind isn’t in it.

Diaby: Was magnificent in one-on-one’s and rode the challenges well. Poor passing and decision making in the final third.

Walcott: Didn’t get much space to use his pace. Made a couple of good runs but the end product was missing.

Bendtner: Was isolated for large parts. Hardly received any supply. Touch outside the box wasn’t very good.

Rosicky: Looked lively in patches. Had some good creative moments but the team was generally asleep. Was our best player till he was substituted.

Subs: Nasri scored a peach, messed up a good chance. Arshavin missed a golden chance but showed more purpose than the last few games.


23 Responses to Birmingham 1 – 1 Arsenal: Spirit Alone Not Enough

  1. Nischit says:

    Ultimately, the goal itself was a fortunate one, which cannoned off phillips’ head after song’s clearance. If the old offside rule was still in place, that would’ve been offside. With the stupid “must touch the ball” rule which is ambiguous in itself, whoever that brum player that was offside, wasn’t given as being offside even though the ball was clearly heading towards him. What can you say about almunia? Saved us 2 points last week, dropped 2 points this week. He should’ve caught that in my opinion. Nasri did well for his goal, but I felt we weren’t clinical enough. He should’ve shot when through on goal. Fabregas was off color by anyone’s standards in my opinion, and if he were injured, wenger should’ve brought nasri on sooner. The arrival of Nasri upped our tempo and we looked more threatening after that. If only he’d converted that chance..sigh! It was almost like we didn’t even play 70 minutes of the match. I just hope the same side doesnt turn up against barca.

  2. arvind says:

    eboue??

    • desigunner says:

      to shore up the defence

      Oh, didn’t realize I wrote eboue at the back post. I’d two thoughts in my mind Sagna was alone and Eboue should have been there. I guess it got mixed up in the frustration. I’m just like the Arsenal defence 😛

  3. Hong_gunner says:

    Its a serious dent in our title hopes, no doubt about it. We had chances to win this game, we didnt. We arent clinical enough as Manutd or Chelsea, simple as that. Almunia is the only choice we have and shows where our deficiencies lie. I partly blame the defence for the goal, but Almunia’s flappiness was giving me heart-aches from the time he punched one straight towards Bowyer(who couldn’t connect well). How can a keeper coming close to penalty area punch the ball infront of play is beyond me. Dont expect Xavi/Iniesta/Messi to let you off the hook. For the goal, from where i was sitting, while Sagna’s(or Song?) clearance hit phillips, Almunia, by basic keeping methods, shouldn’t have made his mind to charge into the area of play when the ball was being cleared against his angle(i.e From his near post to the touchline). Even though he was stranded, his basic reflexes should have tucked the ball around the post when he’s charging. Van der saar saved a peach from muamba ysterday. Thats what win you the league.

    • desigunner says:

      Agree Almunia should have enough reflexes to turn the ball away. It was poor.

      I do wonder though why Sagna was trying to hit it back at a 180 degree angle, which is such a difficult clearance. He should have knocked it out for a corner or a throw which would be a much more straight forward thing that most defenders in other teams would do. Almunia was probably caught by surprise at the way Sagna cleared and how it came back, although that doesn’t excuse his lack of strength and reflexes.

      Plus the time Almunia punched the ball to Bowyer, he had to go over an Arsenal defender. I don’t know why that defender isn’t capable of handling it himself. Van der Saar very rarely comes out into such a crowded area. His defence handles it for him. The point is any other keeper with this defence will lose confidence over time.

  4. Steve says:

    Strength in depth, who cares about that? Title hopes dented? There was no title hope, let me introduce you to something called ‘reality’.

  5. munala says:

    da draw tastes sour as a defeat.
    We always sit back after we score n we cant defend either.

  6. gooner ji says:

    Pathetic refereeing by Howard Webb. He is an absolute idiot, utter disgrace for epl. I just can’t stand him.

    I think Almunia had a shaky game, his distribution was also not that good. But we must not forget that he was standing behind a makeshift CB pairing. For me the chances missed by Arshavin and Nasri cost us the game. I think Arshavin should rather do the talking on the football pitch than in the media.

    I think Man U and Chelsea will still lose more points and we are very much in it. In my opinion this was one of our toughest games of the run in but the manner in which we surrendered the two points was sickening.

  7. aniruddh says:

    Craig Gardner shouldn’t have been on the pitch committing cynical fouls all around the pitch even the other players were playing anti-football
    lets just hope that the two in front of us draw at the old toilet.

    • gooner ji says:

      I think Gardner,Carr and Ferguson should all have been sent off. Carr’s foul on Arshavin was worthy of a straight red.

  8. critic says:

    ……forget it…….we all know what we gona get from arsenal, and from refrees and from tackles….something always happens and title chances evaporates in thin air……it’s always been that and always be that unless wenger leaves his current philosophy of avoiding MILK and develop physically strong characters not just footballing talent………

    • desigunner says:

      lol… you’ve been waiting to say this all the time we were winning, weren’t you. sad.

      • critic says:

        what winning???we haven’t won anything for 5 years, we always play pretty football and when we r about to win something injury or bad decision goes against us….why didn’t wenger started with his best 11 on the back of his comment that we shud take it game by game…..yeah i was saving it b’coz it always happen and i thot this tym it wud be different..

  9. Still King Kolo says:

    No doom and gloom, i’m with Steve, reality always bites. But this reality is not too bad, only two teams have won at St Andrews this season, so we have six wins and a draw on the trot. Not too bad yesterday considering we were missing our first choice centre halves, centre forward and holding midfielder. Chelsea and Utd prove they are better than us, but just cant see the shame in that, if we were in Utd position playing last on the weekend, needing to win away to Bolton…I wonder what would have happened? We play last the next 3 weeks, tbh we have to beat Spurs and City because they are not that far behind…not being a pessimist just commenting on where we are…

  10. Jibzi says:

    I think that our hopes are finished now. Its not like getting one point was bad, but the way which it came about, and the timing, makes it so sickening. It gives you the impression that maybe some things are not meant to be. I also would have liked to banish the memories 2 years ago where the injury and 2 dropped points cost us. Seriously, this is so hard to take in (still cant get over it), and cannot wait for the Barca game, but this dent in confidence could be fatal. I watched the Wolves-Man Utd game where in stoppage time, the Wolves substitute had such an easy chance to make it 1-1 but skies it over the bar, and was thinking if that chance was against us, they would never miss. Like I say, maybe it needed bad luck to ruin everything and now it has. The only question now, I suppose, is can we recover, and that is the most important thing. After the Brum game in 2008, we won I think 2 out of the next 8-10 games. So this is the biggest test of character so far.

    • desigunner says:

      I had the exact same thought when the Wolves substitute missed! If it had been us it would have somehow gone in.

      I think we can still do it if we win all our games. Anyway we were accepting that we can drop points against Spurs and Citeh. So we just have to convert those to wins.

      If we win against wolves and united and chelsea draw, it will be back to 73-72-71.

      • critic says:

        back to square one,u meant to say…
        btw why those bastards are so lucky???when nothing was happening in the game bolton gave the goal to utd…why why why???they have always been lucky, alex fuckerson…

  11. Jibzi says:

    A little bit of fortunate news, Iniesta will miss the 1st leg of the QF with us, and they said it will take 10 days to recover, so by my calculations, he could miss the 2nd leg as well.

    Yes this is a huge setback and also made worse it was in the last minutes, but it was a fluke. What is going to be important now is the character to do well both against Barca and against Wolves.

    Someone mentioned that Arsenal were sucker-punched against Bolton at home which ended 2-2 in 2002 but we won the double in that year. If we show resolve like we did back then, we can recover, but if we crumble like in 2008, it is over. But then if ManUre win next week, its over anyway.

    • critic says:

      unfortunately utd are in ominous form and they are lucky bastards…
      chelsea i guess always be vulnerable away from home..

  12. 8 inch knob says:

    Yes it was a poor game and has seriously dented our title hopes. It is not impossible however though we have lost the advantage now and have to rely on the results of the other two. I will be praying for a goaless draw between Man Poo and Chavski.

    We must win our remaining games to have any chance.

    Our forwards were guilty of wasting chances but we were definitely missing Song’s presence in midfield. Playing him in defence is such a waste of his talents.

    Almunia was shocking. How he managed to fuck up the simple is beyond belief. What is even more worrying is why does Wenger keep putting up with him. I sense by his reaction however that his patience is getting thin. If ever there was a time to drop him then it is now. Fabianski is not the answer. I trust Mannone to do this job for us and we must all plead for Wenger to break his lunatic defence of Almunia.

  13. 8 inch knob says:

    ………………………….Mannone……………………………….
    ………………………………………………………………………
    ………………….Campbell…..Vermaelen…………………….
    ………………………………………………………………………
    ……….Sagna……………Song………………Clichy………….
    …………………………….Diaby…………………………………
    ……………………………………………………………………..
    ……………………..Fabregas/Nasri……………………………
    ………………………………………………………………………
    …………Eboue/Rosicky…………Vela/Arshavin……………..
    ………………………………………………………………………
    …………………………..Bendtner………………………………

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