produced a polished performance to beat Birmingham 3-0 at St Andrews and stay in touch with the Premier League’s top two.

A pulsating first half full of chances and controversy ended with the Gunners holding a slender edge thanks to Robin van Persie’s deflected free-kick on 13 minutes.

Van Persie was very much the central figure early on as Birmingham felt he had gone down too easily to win the set-piece, with the Dutchman then fortunate not to concede a penalty when the ball struck his outstretched arm inside the Arsenal box.

Van Persie also missed a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0, while Roger Johnson blazed a volley over Lukasz Fabianski’s crossbar at the other end from close range.

Johnson had earlier been shown just a yellow card for a mistimed tackle on Cesc Fabregas and Lee Bowyer escaped punishment for a stamp on Bacary Sagna as the second half started in a similarly competitive manner.

But Arsenal began to break down Birmingham’s resistance and turn on the style as the match progressed, with Samir Nasri curling a sumptuous second past Ben Foster just before the hour mark.

Foster had to pick the ball out of his net for a third time before the final whistle when Johnson scored an own goal following a slick Gunners move.

Birmingham were left chasing shadows in the closing stages as they went down to a rare home defeat that leaves them second bottom, while Arsene Wenger’s men remain just two points behind Manchester United and Manchester City.

For more of this, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Be the first to receive breaking news about Arsenal!