Birmingham City 0-3 Arsenal
Now that’s what I call fairweather blogging! I raved about the Chelski performance, but kept mum after earthward bump at Wigan. Now I’m back to doff the cap to the team for today’s performance at lowly Birmingham, which was as excellent as Wigan was disappointing as Chelski was excellent. Maybe that should be my blogging template for 2011: Post when we win, but bury my head in the sand when we don’t. The only negativity you’d get then would be me moaning about not having won well enough. I’m sure you could all handle that.
Hard job being a manager too: Wenger was criticised (and I still think fairly) for rotating too many players at Wigan immediately after our best win of the season, but today, seeing his side buzz, hustle, harry and gurgle at St Andrews, it would be easy to conclude that Wenger did in fact get it right. Three games in six days, seven points from nine.
As ever, the truth is somewhere in between and we won’t know until the final reckoning whether Wigan was rotational genius or two crucial points discarded.
Anyway, enough of that, it’s conjecture and nowt more. The response was excellent today, and while it is true that Birmingham were largely poor, it was heartening to see us play as diligently off the ball as we did on it. I’ll never forget, slack-jawed, how Barcelona last season at the Grove fought like cats and dogs to get the ball back on the odd occasion that they lost it. If you don’t give the ball away much when you have it, and try to get it back as fast as you can when you don’t, it strikes me that you might go places.
Today we saw another eight changes, undoing all of those made at Wigan and reinstating the entire starting XI we saw against Chelski. van Persie opened the scoring, via a deflection off Lovable Lee Bowyer, but overall Robin had the kind of game a man who needs games has. Rusty van Persie. He had one or two other pretty decent opportunities but the WD-40 hadn’t made it through to his titanium ball-bearing knees and they went begging.
Nasri slotted in a very decent second, slamming my nerve cupboard door closed, and from that point on it became a procession and Arsenal were able to extend their peacock feathers and have a bit of fun. The third – though it was an own goal – was a thing of beauty in the build up.
In between all this, there was the usual needle associated with this fixture, with a Roger Johnson studs-up challenge on Cesc in particular causing consternation and Lee Bowyer being, well, generally Bowyeresque. And Birmingham, to be fair, made much more of a game of it in the first half than they did in the second and were aggrieved not to get a penalty themselves.
Overall though we more than merited the three points and the clean sheet (yes! Hark!), and have set ourselves up nicely for Wednesday’s game against Man City. Unless Mancini puts all eleven men behind the ball, it has the potential to be a bit tasty.
Finally, a Happy New Year to you all. I might not say it as often as I should, but thanks to everyone for reading, for commenting, for advising, for tweeting, and generally for being top-draw gooners in 2010. I really do appreciate it. Have a happy, prosperous, healthy and trophy-laden 2011.