Post Match View – Birmingham City F.C.

We began the game with a one touch clinic. And yes, it was effective, not just pretty but unproductive. Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky were particularly effective throughout. They combined well at the near post but Diaby’s shot from close was deflected wide for an early corner in the 2nd minute.

Diaby was highlighted recently on our site for his improvement this season. Rightly so! His display yesterday showed increased strength, fine technique, and the kind of presence that allows Cesc to play farther up the pitch. Rosicky was involved in this game more than he has been since his injury nightmare. His touches, his vision, and his runs reminded us that he used to be a top, top player.

I was pleased with their contributions overall. Sadly though, neither could find a way passed Joe Hart. Hart kept his team in the game.

We’ve had chances to score more goals. Birmingham did as well but it’s fair to say that Arsenal were the more dominant side over the 90 minutes. Theo Walcott started on the right and could have benefitted from a defensive mistake on 18 but for the intervention of the alert Joe Hart. Hart played a pretty good game.

I can’t help but feel that maybe Arsene rested Eboue for the Barcelona match. Liam Ridgewell clattered into Theo on his first touch the last time we played Birmingham. I need convincing that Theo wasn’t playing with that incident in his mind yesterday. He looked tentative. On 5 and on 7, he could have shown more strength if not more determination to keep the ball. He did have a penalty shout on 10 but the ref didn’t see a need to point to the spot.

Sol headed high from a corner on 24. Clichy received a yellow for being named Gael on 29 – I couldn’t see any other reason for the card. Pat Rice even got involved with a heated few words for the fourth official, such was the absurdity of the warning. Theo got behind the Birmingham back line on 29 but was thwarted again by the impressive Blues keeper. Hart’s focus throughout the game was at times exemplary.

James McFadden and Cameron Jerome threatened at the other end on 31 and 32. We were equal to their efforts but not as comfortably as I would have wanted. Birmingham were determined to make a fight of it. For all the good Diaby provided, it was his hospital ball that got Cesc a knock on 35. Arsene has complained that the tackle was high, which perhaps it was, but I would remind Abou to leave that kind of pass out of his game.

Jerome turned Sol on 37 but as they entered the Arsenal 18, it was Sol who made the last touch on the goal-bound effort. I was beginning to see too much of Birmingham at our end. On 39, Theo got off a fairly tame shot after good work by Rosicky. It wasn’t the kind of effort that would trouble Joe Hart. The Blues keeper was almost always there when needed in this game.

Howard Webb does not impress me. In fact, no English ref does. I ran into a guy after the game who reminded me that we’ve had our share of bad experiences with that bald fuck. On 42, it looked like Stephen Carr brought down Nik Bendtner but Webb didn’t see it as worthy of pointing to the spot.

Clichy put in a good, deep cross on 43 but it amounted to nothing. Meanwhile, Chelsea were doing useless Villa up the wrong ‘un. By the way, have I mentioned that Aston Villa and their manager are as useful as an automobile with no steering wheel? Martin O’Neill is just a bag of foul air. We can thank him when Scum finish fourth and start chirping about how they’re going to conquer Europe.

0-0 HT

Business as usual to start the 2nd Half. Rosicky shot saved on 46. Vintage Diaby turn and shot saved on 55. We were definitely in a tussle though. Needing all three points, I wondered if Nik or Cesc would provide that much needed moment of inspiration. The latter surprisingly was allowed to return rather than taking the rest of the day off with Barcelona in sight. That knock to his knee concerned me and will do until I’ve heard that he is fine.

Theo wasted a good opportunity on 59 with a weak cross. Even with numbers back, Birmingham would have struggled to deal with the ball if it were better placed. Disaster nearly happened three minutes later. Clichy was beaten by Roger Johnson to a Barry Ferguson free kick. The shot struck against the post. We were spared.

Nasri and Arshavin came on for Rosicky and Walcott on 69. Bendtner headed wide on 70 from a Diaby effort. What was actually a deflected ball for a corner a few minutes later was not spotted by Webb or his assiatant. Instead, Nik was made to look foolish – the guy next to me calling him a donkey – as the ball looked quite playable. It first seemed like he was not anticipating its arrival but a better view showed that a man in a blue shirt did make contact.

Nasri had a chance from close on 73. Hart was equal to it. To be fair, it was straight at him. Nevertheless, Joe Hart was there again for his team when called upon.

A potentially season-shaping whistle was blown on 76. I am convinced that Cesc’s challenge to win the ball that Abou Diaby shot into the Birmingham goal was not a foul. I am convinced that if an English player had won that ball in the same manner, for a team other than Arsenal, the goal would have stood. I am convinced that the challenge is nothing more than what the English manager calls a robust challenge.

IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE TO ME IF YOU AGREE OR NOT. I DON’T CARE IF YOU FEEL THAT I AM ON MY ANTI-ENGLISH HORSE. THAT WAS NOT A FOUL AS FOULS GO IN THE EPL.

I wish the people who judge these tackles as fouls or not would make up their minds. Are they robust, good old English challenges or are they fouls? Just be consistent, PLEASE.

Regardless, we got our goal and really should have been ahead comfortably by the time it came. In fairness, we also had further chances in the latter stages of the match to bury them but wasted every one. It was a brilliant goal. That must be said. It came after the kind of run that we’d like to see from Theo on a regular basis. Samir Nasri cut in from the right. He entered the Blues 18 with determination, purpose, and power before unleashing a low drive that even the excellent Joe Hart could not deal with.

0-1 AFC

The celebration behind Birmingham’s goal showed what that goal meant to the boys. All the hard work and effort was finally rewarded with nine minutes of regular time to go. Surely, we’d done enough to make it seven league wins in a row and stay apace with Chelsea and Manchester United.

You have probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned Eduardo or revenge or anything associated with that infamous day from two seasons ago. As happy as I am that the man has returned from that horrible experience, I feel that the matter at hand – winning the title – is far more relevant at the moment. We’ve come very far. Even Old Red Nose is starting to chirp a bit. He’s definitely concerned that another red-shirted team could place its ribbons on the trophy in May.

We have to take our chances for that to happen. We cannot expect to get away with missed opportunities like Arshavin has done on 90. We cannot make poor decisions like Nasri has done on 91, passing when he could have had a go. All this occurred after Cesc peppered Hart’s hands on 89. I suppose the knee is ok. Let’s hope.

You might have read here that we are all in agreement at 1886 – our goalkeeper situation is a disaster waiting to happen. We have not failed to give credit when it is due. That saved penalty against West Ham was tremendous. However, the overall impression of the neutral is that Arsenal are a flawed team with little chance of winning the title because the last line of defence will ultimately let them down.

I am not sure how much blame to apportion to our goalkeeper for Kevin Phillips’s late equalizer. It was something of a freakish nature but he did get his hands on the ball. It was freakish but he did make it more difficult than it had to be. I was not a goalie so it’s hard for me to think like one. I’m afraid that maybe it’s equally difficult for our No. 1 to do so as well.

All is not lost. Let’s hope United and Chelsea kick lumps out of each other next week. Let’s hope there are multiple red cards on both sides. Let’s hope they draw 0-0.

Most of all, let’s hope we sort out our keeper situation next summer, no matter what we do this season. We are at a point where our manager’s legacy could be damaged severely by the failure to address this undeniably damaging situation. It is dire. Just look at how Joe Hart has done, creating a platform for them to stand on and mount a late rally. He hasn’t let anybody down.

Keep the Faith.

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