Birmingham 0 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

If that game is anything to go by, I guess I should miss more matches! In fact, the Mrs. did cheekily make such a suggestion but it was stared down.

More importantly, it’s three big points at a very difficult venue as Arsenal continue to make light work of really tough games. If the reverse phenomenon can be stemmed the title will certainly end up at the Emirates.

While wandering on the streets of Kansas City I sneaked a tentative peak at the result. 0 – 3 was the score on one website. It was such a pleasant surprise that I had to check another source, and then another. Only after seeing the result on the official Arsenal website did I really believe it.

I wasn’t surprised that Arsenal won. It was a big win but I knew the Gunners were strong enough to get three points at St. Andrews. The surprising element was that Arsenal scored three goals at this venue, I’m not sure any other visiting club achieved that this season or the last. The other unbelievable part was the clean sheet! I like Arsenal’s back five but a shutout against some of the best hoofers and physical players around is no mean feat.

Needless to say, when I finally got around to watching the game it was with great anticipation. I was looking forward to Arsenal playing Birmingham off the park in their own backyard. Well, let’s just say surprises weren’t over.

The first half was close. Arsenal allowed Birmingham to have a lot of the ball and invited some pressure. I’m not sure if this was a deliberate tactical ploy or something that just happened because the players were being cautious. We have seen this earlier against Everton and Wolves so I’d love to know if it’s a tactical decision by Arsene.

Last season I wrote about the need to invite teams out of their defensive areas. Often when teams parked the bus Arsenal struggled to break them down and looked vulnerable on the break when they got desperate in attack. By staying deeper and luring teams out, the Gunners can create more space for their attackers. We saw a lot of that in the first half at Birmingham.

It wasn’t pretty but it was very effective. Arsenal created some good chances and it was nice to see RvP getting off the mark with a free-kick. There was some poetic justice perhaps, in the way it was deflected in off the arm of Bowyer.

There were a number of half chances on both ends and one or two really good opportunities. Arsenal struggled on the set-pieces and Roger Johnson blasted his volley high with only the keeper to beat. One could also argue that the hosts deserved a penalty for a handball by RvP. Based on what I read, Alex McLeish had a few gripes against the ref. I’d have agreed with him on some calls if Roger Johnson had been sent off in the 8th minute for a violent studs-first lunge at the ball and Cesc.

The ref wasn’t very good and missed some shocking tackles but he also gave one or two decisions in Arsenal’s favour. It wasn’t good refereeing but at least he wasn’t blatantly biased.

When the first half came to a close the game was hanging in balance. Will Arsenal rue the missed opportunities? Will the Gunners donate two more points to the ‘save the long ball’ charity fund?

The second half was similar to the first but Arsenal had more control in the opposition half. It seemed to me that the players were a bit more composed and growing in confidence. Walcott got into the game more often and so did Nasri. The quality of chances coming Arsenal’s way was getting better and those for Birmingham were getting tougher.

After ten minutes of the second half, Arsenal had a sustained spell of possession around the Birmingham penalty area. Wilshere shot over from close after Nasri laid one on a plate for him following some good work by Walcott. Cesc then sent Nasri through on goal but Foster was able to close the angle and save the shot.

The pressure finally paid off in the 58th minute when Nasri scored a cracker after exchanging passes with El Capitan. This goal might not generate the kind of hype that the Frenchman’s goals against Fulham did but in my book it was just as good. The reason was that Nasri barely had a ball’s width to thread the ball between the defender and the post and he did it. Taking decisions at that speed in that area of the pitch and then executing them to perfection takes some serious abilities. Just look at Fabregas’ reaction to that goal if you don’t believe me.

It was getting progressively easier for Arsenal as the Blues ran out of ideas and vile tackles, probably the same thing one might say.

The third goal came when the Arsenal players, especially Cesc and Nasri, were toying with the opposition. The Frenchman put Fabregas through at a very tight angle. El Capitan’s strike was partially saved by Foster but it still had enough venom to sting the two central defenders before crossing the goal-line.

Subsequently, Arsenal gave a master class of passing and movement but Birmingham were spared humiliation as the finishing touch was lacking.

Individual Performances

Fabianski: One good save from a Larsson free-kick. Some good punches and came for the ball when he had to. Fairly strong performance and deserved a clean sheet.

Sagna: Survived some vicious tackles by Bowyer, worked hard on the right, didn’t bring the ball forward as well as he usually does but the whole team struggled with the passing in the first half.

Djourou: Another solid display. Won some important headers. Struggled against Zigic a bit but did enough to put the striker off.

Koscielny: good tackling, read the game well, covered the left side admirably, distribution was not as good as we’ve seen from him in the past but that could be due to the way Birmingham pressurised the man on the ball and those around him.

Clichy: very busy throughout the game, was a bit shaky against the aerial ball but did really well on the ground. After Cesc he was second in terms of number of passes attempted with more than double the passes by Wilshere or Nasri in the first half and almost twice that of Song.

The first half was a display of yo-yo football by both sides as neither team was able to string the passes together. The defence did well to restrict the chances created by Birmingham to set-pieces. Arsenal were not very convincing on the set-plays proving that one big, tall, dominant central defender can’t solve all the problems.

Song: was poor in bringing the ball out from defence and conceded possession in dangerous areas. Made up for it by not giving up and always added an extra body at the back through sheer endeavour. Did better in the second half.

Cesc: still not close to his best but by far the best player on the pitch. Attempted more passes in the first half than Wilshere and Song combined.  Opened Birmingham up on a number of occasions and better finishing might have seen him get half a dozen assists. MotM in my book.

Wilshere: attempted all of 14 passes in the first half and 23 during his 79 minutes on the pitch. not much in the form of interceptions or tackles either. In the first half the ball was in the air a lot so it’s not a surprise that he struggled. Kind of game where the youngster just had to watch the master and learn.

I was a little disappointed with Song and Wilshere. They didn’t really help the defence as well as I’d have liked but it wasn’t for want of trying. The midfield stayed close to the defence and the bodies in the defensive third were enough to thwart a Birmingham side devoid of any genuine creative threat.

Walcott: just 13 passes in his 79 minutes but the Englishman did his job. Apart from Cesc, It was good to see Koscielny, Nasri, and Song pick him out with early balls when he was free. This led to some quick attacks and troubled the hosts. On another day, with better touches and finishing, Theo might have scored a goal or two.

RvP: could have had a hat-trick but missed some gilt-edged chances. Good to see him get on the score sheet though. Good delivery on set-pieces. Worked really hard, dropped deep quite often, linked up well with Nasri and Cesc.

Nasri: good defensive contribution in the first half. Looked more of a threat in the second and took his goal really well. Close second for MotM.

The attackers weren’t at their best but a combination of excellent movement, sharp passing, and confidence aided by a pinch of luck made the difference.

Subs: Denilson did a decent job in the midfield while Arshavin looked sharp in the final 10 minutes.


51 Responses to Birmingham 0 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Suyud Indonesian Gooner says:

    wow long time waiting for your post Desi, till I can not wait to read your game analysis LOL

    • desigunner says:

      Sorry for the delay I just didn’t get the time to compose my thoughts and type it all out any earlier.

      • Sriram says:

        Yeah I visited the site twice yesterday to check 😛 Good analysis as usual Desi!

        You are an inspiration for a boy like me who wants to write football 🙂

        I hope you read the Benelux article I had written.

        Cheers,
        Sri

  2. Suyud Indonesian Gooner says:

    no problem at all Desi
    and good good analysis as usual
    😀

  3. bob says:

    Desi, if you saw them, surely you skim the surface with wording like “vile” and “vicious” to cover, yes, but to miss underlining the intentional serial malevolence of Messrs. Jerome and Bowyer and Johnson in this match. No it’s not down to “poor” officiating anymore. Euphemisms all. Would it not help to point out that the so-called referee was the same as he who officiated in Shawcross’s assault on Ramsey at Birmingham? Or that Martin Taylor’s assault was likewise at Birmingham? Or to point to the unholy de facto trinity of Fergie, Pulis, and McLeish. Fergie on the shaky table top; McLeish squirming as the relegation zone pulls relentlessly downward. If this is not happenstance, methinks you might consider and pose a hypothesis or two as to what is afoot this very season and to call it out when you see it. For pointers, try Tony and Walter’s two-part piece on Sir F-word and the toxic state of affairs run rampant in the EPL. Bloggers might show some spine and solidarity on this, as our beautiful, yes beautiful game is being hijacked. Go Gunners!

    • bob says:

      Sorry, Desi and readers, but I meant to say Shawcross at Stoke (not Birmingham). And looking back at Eduardo’s mugging there, video shows that there at Dudu’s side is our Barcary Sagna, trying to give comfort. One wonders whether McLeish and minions first review such film on who to target next when he let’s fly his hellhounds?

    • roh_Top Gun says:

      gr8 post as always Desi… was waitin quite a while 4 ur post, was surprised it took as long as it did…

      @bob: i read Tony’s piece too and i couldn’t agree more… Stoke and Sunderland pulled out their players from PNE jus bcoz F-Word did so, It’s as if Sir F-Word is the Don Corleone of English Football… Total disgrace…

      Jerome’s stamp on Kozzer was as disgusting as Bowyer’s on Sagna… And i don’t even wanna talk about the xenophobic drivel of Jon Champion and Chris Waddle… Too bad only the ESPN stream worked 4 me…

    • desigunner says:

      I’ve been meaning to discuss the tackling issue for a long time and Birmingham gave me the perfect opportunity.

      I’ve not followed the news over the weekend or checked other blogs so need some time to look at the events. I did find Fergie’s actions i.e. recalling his players, quite amusing. Will have to read more to see if there is anything sinister in that.

  4. Raghugovind says:

    Nice Analysis Desi !! Waited a long time for your post . Fisrt thing I generally do is read your post after all matches !!!

  5. Arsenal says:

    Desi, you still haven’t told us if you would be excited to see Eden Hazard/Lukaku playing for us.

    • AnonymousGun says:

      when did buy brigade escaped AAA’s site and start posting here?

      • Arsenal says:

        I am not from the brigade you are talking about. I am just interested in his opinion.That’s all.Chelsea probably will not qualify for the Champions League so we will be in prime position to buy Lukaku.For now Chelsea getting him is like a done deal but if they dont qualify for the champions league, that will be our chance. Why not spend 20 mln euros of our 35-mln-euros-a-year profit on a striker who will be at the top for approximately the next 12 years???

    • desigunner says:

      I’ve not seen complete games involving either of those players so it’s very difficult to form an opinion. And based on youtube videos I’m quite excited about Miyaichi.

      As far as picking up young talent goes, I feel Wenger is by far the best judge. So if they are as good as they are supposed to be, Arsene will surely try to get them.

  6. Ajinkya says:

    Good result. If the first half is considered, some situations unjustly went our way, and we compensated by scoring two more in the second half in which we dominated most of the time.
    Fair result. But it is giving me chills that man city is up next.

  7. MAMAN THEA says:

    Maybe sagna the strongest player in epl, but bowyer’s horror tackels should be punish by fa.. wait your analysis bro..

  8. Serengeti gooner says:

    hi Desi,
    Do you agree with me that squillacci is the weak link in our defense?

  9. La Shiz says:

    Desi, I never took you for a married man, seeing as how much time & effort you put in for match analysis and build up 🙂
    Maybe its a better use of the time you save while you’re not outside chasing tail, unlike us 😛

    • Furovich says:

      If Desi is anything like me, then the amount of time we spend on football is a direct consequence of married life 🙂

      • desigunner says:

        😀 lol

        well, to be honest I’d blame Arsene Wenger for this. Without Le Boss I might never have discovered and fallen in love with the beautiful game. And when you love something you can always find the time 🙂

  10. La Shiz says:

    Also, I’d say Sagna is the man of the match for me really. For sheer determination and amazing calmness in the face of aggravation and immense focus on the job to be done. This has been the hallmark of this player. I’d say Sagna has been the best player for Arsenal so far this season. After Nasri, of course.

    • desigunner says:

      Sagna has been brilliant and his endeavour has meant that people haven’t always noticed some of his mistakes. I’d not say he’s been the best or second best player but perhaps the most consistent and reliable one.

  11. addy says:

    2 words- Jan Vertonghen
    CB (cover for vermaelen)-check
    DM(cover for song)-check
    can play at LB as well
    under 10 mil-check
    6 ft 2″-belgian-must be speaking french -check

    • Arsenal says:

      Ajax need money because they didn’t pass the group stage so they can sell some of their best players.He is the perfect player for us but it won’t happen.I am sure that if Wenger wanted it to happen , it could happen this January.He does not want to have 5 CBs in one season.It is simply too much.He can’t sell Squillaci because he just bought him.Arsene has spent 4 years developing Denilson and he trusts him to cover for Song.According to Wenger, Denilson is great statistically and he is still a few years away from his prime.

      • top_goona says:

        this is NUTS. Every good team has atleast 5 CBs. The only two teams that dont have 5 in this league is us n Chelsea. We need a fifth CB for sure. Song cant be added to the list of CBs either. He already has a pivotal role to play in our first 11.

    • Neville d says:

      The problem witth him is that he is another left footer
      We have enough of them mate

  12. bops says:

    Took your time didnt you :).. anyways great piece of analysis sir..

    please don’t make us wait for the next one.. 🙂

    Thought Song was very subdued.. maybe it was tactical and for away games.. Seriously think Wilshere should up his game.. He doesnt offer much going forwards and he is totally defensive minded.. Maybe Ramsey can bring in a different dimension to the team..

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t have much hopes from Ramsey for this season. Not saying that he can’t recover and deliver but just that putting a burden on expectation on him might not be a good idea.

  13. Kushagra India says:

    Gr8 result hammer shitty next and we should be favourites

  14. kloney says:

    Great analysis Desi! A fantastic result regardless. Now we know our first eleven and we can start believing that this is the year…

  15. Tim says:

    Good analysis, as ever.

    No one has scored 3 times at Birmingham in the last 2 seasons – indeed, since September 2009 only two teams have won (Everton earlier this season and ourselves). This season Chelsea have lost at St Andrew’s, and United and Spurs only drew.

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2011/01/01/fabregas-and-nasri-provide-the-spark-as-arsenal-give-birmingham-the-blues/

  16. santori says:

    Extremely pleased with the grit we exhibuted at St Andrews. It was very physical and we matched them tackle for tackle.

    Fabianski…not only did he do well against Laarson but he put the ball out well I thought, some early and poignant distribution. On the flip side, his positioning still needs some work

    Fabregas looks like he’s coming back into form shortly which is timely as we meet City next and should take the points off them.

    RVP…wasteful and still lacking some match sharpness. Hope he gets into gear fast. We could well do with him putting away a couple this Weds.

    I have a good feeling about the up coming match.

    Let’s just hope Wenger doesn’t get tempted to shuffle things round and make 8 changes. 😀

    • santori says:

      ‘exhibuted’ being a new word…I meant ‘exhibited’ of course.:)

    • Neville d says:

      I feel what your saying but I think rvp made all the difference yesterday he is rusty for shure
      But that Cunts movement made us tick
      Ps that was the best support all season home or away
      So glad I went

  17. drona says:

    I did not get to see the Wigan game but I remember many blogs mentioning that we conceeded too much possession to Wigan in the second half instead of making timely subsitutions in the form of Walcott to peg them back. Was Wenger adopting the same tactic as mentioned above of iniviting the opposition on to free up more space for our attacks?

    • veskovp says:

      No, the tactics against Birmingham was the tactics he should have chosen against Wigan too, the movement was fast they were looking for killing the game, against Wigan we stayed back, the attack was not there , the players lacked commitment, determination and heart , against Birmingham we could be 3:0 up to the break if RvP and Wilshere scored Nasri’s perfect passes, second half we could score 3 more , and birmingham were frustrated and tired so last 20 mins was game of mouse and cat .

    • desigunner says:

      Interesting point.

      I don’t think we need that tactic against Wigan because they were anyway chasing the game. Moreover, they are not a side that parks the bus very effectively.

      I thought against Wigan there was some confusion in terms of tactics. Towards the end of the first half high pressing was working really well. There was no need to drop back in that game. Moreover the team with Arshavin and Bendtner on the wings didn’t have enough balance to defend for large periods.

  18. Won the day, was looking on this issue already a few hours ago

  19. Arun says:

    Already thinking on the team Arsene will choose for the city game. He has played two teams alternatively so far.
    Chelsea-Team A
    Wigan-Team B
    Birminghm -Team A
    ManCity- ???

    The important things to be noted are,

    1)Arsene looks to rotate especially when there is less recovery period between games and to give starts to other players who didn’t play the last game.
    2)ManCity is big game. We need our best players on the pitch for those games. Can’t afford to lose points for two reasons.. We lose ground in title race against our title rivals and ManCity are one of the title rivals
    3)Arsene wont make partial changes, which he Himself has stated it a couple of times in the last two weeks.

    So what is it going to be??

    My Vote is for Team A. And if there can be partial changes then I would like to see Chamakh in for RVP, Eboue for Sagna, Arshavin for Walcott. The first two changes to protect the players, The third one cos, Arshavin deserves a start.

    • Finnish Hit says:

      I would guess Wenger had it all along in his plans to play A – B – A – A. And some of B against Leeds.

      I hope Sagna has it in his legs to go on for Wednesday but Eboue would do fine, too.

      • Furovich says:

        Yea I agree. I think the last 3 games have showed the great difference in quality between teams ‘A’ and ‘B’. I always thought the majority of players at the club were on a somewhat more level playing field but the performances against Chelsea and Birmingham to me show how certain players are combining and performing much better than others.

    • desigunner says:

      Agree with your reasoning. I think it will be an A team with one or two changes if necessary. Chamakh might come in for RvP. Let’s see what Arsene says in his pre-match interview and press conference.

  20. JP says:

    Good victory for the boys. Now let’s take care of City! Go Gunners! It was nice to see the first team back in action too. This is the first time in a long time that we are in a good position at this time of year without the usual cloud of long term injuries to a number of key players. Let’s keep up the fight and hope for the best!

  21. Finnish Hit says:

    About Nasri’s goal: I loved the way 1) the defender panicked and retreated afraid that in-form Nasri would dribble past him and make him look blatantly guilty 2) the quick wit of Nasri to shoot instead when the opportunity came.

    One of my favourite goals of the season so far.

  22. Ahmed Awan says:

    desi good article again.
    waited for your post but can agree with your married life commitments.Its good to see that Arsenal is your family as well n you give soooo much time to do a lot for us readers.
    Hats off to you man.
    I wanted to have your opinion about sagna’s character,the way he responded after both the vicious tackles, does not he deserves to be a contender fot MOTM.

    • desigunner says:

      You’re right, Sagna responded really well and it makes him a contender for MotM. I picked Cesc because he too was brutally assaulted but made the game tick.

  23. […] Birmingham 0 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis If that game is anything to go by, I guess I should miss more matches! In fact, the Mrs. did cheekily make such a […] […]

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