Match Reaction: Birmingham vs Arsenal
By Karl M. Tinsley
MY 3 STARS
1. ABOU DIABY: Along with Eboue…Diaby has found the level of consistency that many Gooners worried he might never achieve. He was easily our most positive player on a day that the squad found difficulty in getting out of first gear all match.
In one sequence late in the first half he showed off his athletic skills when he put in a lovely tackle, won the ball, made a 180 degree spin with an explosive burst of pace (all in one motion) to lead a dangerous counter-attack that he finished with a lovely slotted ball to Walcott on the wing. MAGICAL STUFF!.
Minutes later he was showing off his slick ball control with a beautiful dribble in heavy traffic deep in the Birmingham half. Easy to see Abou was up for the battle. In the 2nd half he got himself into dangerous positions at the top of the 18 yard box and showed off some nice first touches to create space for himself to turn and fire on goal.
Around 75 minutes he showed his hunger for the ball and willingness to bang when he shoulder barged the Birmingham defender off the ball, then turned and fired a rocket into the far left corner of the Birmingham net…only for Howard “the coward” Webb to blow late for a “foul”. ROBBERY!.
2. THEO WALCOTT: Had several clever and predatory runs to exploit the lumbering CB and LB on the right side of the pitch. On the first one he was most unlucky not to get his touch over or around the on-charging Hart and into the open net. Later in the 1st half he delivered another pacy deep run that again nearly bore fruit as Theo’s pressure caused a clumsy touch by Hart off of Rosicky’s deep ball.
Had another aggressive run very late in the 1st half when his ball pressure and closing pace caused fits for the Birmingham defenders and Theo was again unlucky not to bundle the ball past Hart. At 62 minutes Theo served up another committed run that won us a F.K. deep in the Birmingham half. Great hustle and utilization of his pace by Walcott. Hopefully he brings that effort to the Champions League encounters with Barca and there slow back 4.
3. SAMIR NASRI: Only saw about 25 minutes of time on the pitch but his goal was pure class as he kept his head up on his dribble…saw the Birmingham defense sagging deep and exploited the space with a lovely burst of pace and then proceeded to finish off with a thunderbolt to the bottom right corner of the net that left Hart clutching at thin air. LASER BEAM!. His goal was HUGE and should have been a massive boost to our title hopes.
I felt Nasri showed an over generous attitude when he broke in free on the on-charging Hart and instead of chipping him to put us up 2 goals, he decided to square the ball to the tightly marked Arshavin. That proved to be costly as we managed to give back a goal in the dying embers of the match to squander the opportunity to seize all 3 points from a tightly contested match. Still a wonderful 25 minutes from Nasri…makes you wonder why Wenger had him on the bench so long when it was painfully obvious by 45 minutes that our midfield (minus Diaby) was struggling to find any rhythm in attack.
TOMAS ROSICKY: Hustled his ass off all match with hard running up and down the pitch. Showed his defensive maturity and responsibility by filling the Birmingham passing lanes and tracking back hard to soak up any deep through balls played down our left flank and to provide support for Clichy. In the opening moments of the 2nd half he delivered a lovely low rasping strike on net to trouble Hart.
Was a handful all match with his probing runs in and around the Birmingham 18 yard box. Had a nice penetrating run in the second half that he finished off with a lovely dished ball to Diaby who was then able to spin and fire in on net. Well done Tomas!.
SOL CAMPBELL: For a 35 year old defender with A LOT of mileage on his pins…if felt Sol put in just a wonderful performance. He used a wonderful blend of intelligence and craftiness to keep the fast, young and powerful Jerome under wraps all match. On the rare occasion that Jerome managed to turn him or gain the corner…Sol was able to recover enough to harry Jerome’s run enough to either prevent a shot on net OR buy enough time for Song or Sagna to get over and lend support. Sol’s been a brilliant pick-up by Wenger. RESPECTS.
DENILSON: Mr. Invisible…can’t really remember anything positive (offensively or defensively) from the Brazilian. The centre of our midfield was soft all match as evidenced by the amount of time and ball possession the Birmingham midfielders enjoyed throughout the contest. He needed to do a lot more in pressuring the ball instead of sagging back and letting Birmingham’s midfielders time and space on the ball to launch attacks on our back 4.
Easily the most painful loss since Feb. 2008 when Eduardo had his leg shattered and we threw away 3 points by letting Birmingham hang around and then con the referee with a blatant dive in our 18 yard box late in extra-time. I knew at that moment we’d thrown away the EPL title. With those type of losses you very rarely recover from the psychological damage they inflict on the squad. So it was excruciating to witness the same sort of late collapse against the same side in another match crucial to our EPL title hopes.
Absolutely sickening to see that freaky deflection sail over Almunia into the back of our net…it left me absolutely GUTTED. We went from total elation with the Nasri goal to the depths of despair in a mere 11 minutes. BRUTAL. I have been saying that 6 wins and 1 draw would be enough to pip Man Utd and Chelsea for the title…and we still have the opportunity to do that…BUT…we’ve really made it hard on ourselves now. We need some good fortune with the other clubs results and we need to take a maximum 6 points from Man Citah and Spurs…a tall order indeed. But after a day of reflection and cooling down…”I BELIEVE” we can still scale that mountain and capture glory.
The match against Barca on Wednesday night is going to be a real litmus test on the squads internal fortitude and willingness to battle with all their might. In a way, the match against Barca can be the perfect tonic for resurrecting the self-belief/sense of destiny within the squad.
If we can master a positive result against Barca: 1-0 win, or 0-0 draw or 1-1 draw…then I think the players can gain their swagger and focus back in order to run out winners in their last 6 EPL matches. Going to be an interesting 90 minutes on Wednesday and it will tell us a lot about the psyche of our club post-Birmingham.
Until next time.
GUNS IN GUNS OUT