Match Reaction: Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham City
By Karl M. Tinsley
MY 3 STARS
#1. ROBIN VAN PERSIE: As hoped for…the Dutch Master has gotten himself on a very nice roll the last month. His early struggles to get his stroke over are a thing of the past as he continues to find the back of the net with his dialed in shooting boots. The first goal was another clinical finish that showed off his cultured left foot and his ability to open up space and time for himself with good body position and an excellent first touch.
Very unlucky not to bag his brace in the second half when he crushed that close up FK off the crossbar. Love to see him ease back a bit on his FK instead of going for the spectacular every time. Continues to battle hard both sides of the ball and lead this team by example. Keep on Keeping on Robin!
#2. ABOU DIABY: Showed a nice calm finish on that seeing eye pass from Rosicky that snuck across the 18 yard box to pick out the open Diaby. Of course he did serve up some wildly off-target shooting in the 2nd half…but he redeemed himself with some excellent defense when he tracked back deep on 2-3 occasions in the 2nd half to help out the nervy Gibbs.
Liked the fact he continued to hustle and make deep runs into the Birmingham box late and was cruelly denied by a world class reaction save by Joe Hart after one-timing that lovely cross from Eboue. Lets see if Diaby can back it up with another good performance in his next match…something he has been incapable of doing his entire career at The Arsenal.
#3. ALEXANDRE SONG: “Natty Dreadlocks” turned in a STUD performance today. Loved his defensive intensity, the clever touches, the nice quick intelligent passing, thinking off the ball and getting into space to provide his teammates with options. Served up a gorgeous ball that split the Birmingham defenders and picked out Robin at the edge of the 18 yard box. I am thinking it was his most complete match this season…use it as a template and build off it Alexandre.
EMMANUEL EBOUE: Gotta give love to “Da Screwface” for his boundless energy and countless marauding runs down the right flank all match. His ability and willingness to push up the pitch really stretched the Birmingham defense and created large gaps for Robin, Cesc and later Arshavin to work in. Eboue showed a more controlled passing game and less tendency for the cheeky ball which means his passing % and effectiveness was spot on. Liked that snapping cross he delivered into Diaby in the 18 yard box who was completely robbed of a goal by Joe Hart.
ANDRIY ARSHAVIN: For his first 40 minutes on the pitch the “Russian Schemer” looked completely out to lunch on the offensive side of the ball…his passes and crosses were very very spotty. About the only thing he was doing well was his defensive work were he was hustling and battling. But like the true star he is he pulled his game together when we needed it most and served up a great run and strike on net to kill off the match.
Andriy showed his pitch awareness the way he checked his run to stay onside and give Cesc a target out wide. His movement with the ball was a thing of beauty as he used Cesc’s overlap run to create a sliver of space between the 2 Birmingham defenders and then coolly pass the ball into the back of the net a la Thierry Henry styles. JAMMIN’.
VITO MANNONE: I felt Larsson impeded him on the Bowyer goal by giving him a hip bump when he went up for that lazy looping header. Gibbs did a pitiful job of defending Larsson who basically tossed him aside like a rag doll. Still “Don Vito” needs to do a better job of going up strong and either securing the ball or punching it to safety.
However he made some good saves in the first half and more than made up for his mistake with his stop at 79 mins when he bravely threw himself across his 6 yard box to thwart that cut back ball/pass that had 2 unmarked Birmingham players ready to tap into an open net and even the score up at 2-2. “Don Vito” looks to be a real game saver…hope Wenger continues to play his hot hand.
KIERAN GIBBS: While he did a decent job deputizing for Gael Clichy late last season…I don’t think he is ready to be the first choice back-up to Clichy now that Armand Traore is back from his loan out to Pompey. His lack of physicality with Larsson showed the shortcomings of his game…small in size and stature. Also saw him get caught up the pitch a couple times late in the 2nd half when the match was 2-1 and hanging in the balance. Needs to learn more about in-game management and killing of matches.
While it wasn’t always pretty and often times sketchy…it was great to secure the 3 pts on a day that saw Chelsea and Liverpool lose their matches. Feel like we should be more than a little concerned with how the team completely took its foot off the gas pedal around 33 minutes and struggled to get back into 3rd or 4th gear for the rest of the match. While we can most times get away with this against the lesser lights…that type of sporadic effort will cause us heartache against the bigger clubs in the EPL this season.
Was nice to see Robin, Andriy and “Don Vito” continue their hot play of late and for the club to maintain its forward momentum and reinforce the MOJO and swagger that was momentarily derailed in our trips to Manchester 5-6 weeks ago. AZ Alkmaar and West Ham on tap next and then the big London Derby with Spurs to close out the month. As always…one match at a time. We have chance to secure our path into the CL Round of 16 on Tuesday night so I hope to see a focused and determined effort by the lads in Holland in 2 nights time. Until then.
As always I remain…
GUNS IN GUNS OUT