Not quite the humiliation we were hoping for but good enough. Arsenal started where they left off against Blackburn: quick thinking, crisp passing, fast flowing football and being two up after 20 minutes was no more than we deserved. Van Persie scored what now must be viewed as his trade mark goal; he seems to score in similar fashion in every game: the sublime take, the swivel and the bullet like shot, hard and low along the ground, past the helpless goal keeper. Perhaps the only variation on the theme was the fact that it was supplied superbly by Alex Song rather than Fabregas. It does make me chuckle when I read comments from people concerned about how we will cope when he goes to the ACN; these very same people wanted to chase him out of town not so long ago. Doesn’t it make you ask yourself how much they really know about football?
I digress; the second goal came from a passage of one touch Wengerball at its mesmerising best: Fabregas to Eboue who rolled a deftly weighted pass to fast moving Rosicky enabling the Czech captain to cut it back with pace for the onrushing Diaby to cleanly strike it home with his left foot. I expected the goal to do the confidence of the much maligned Frenchman the world of good but soon after scoring he lost possession by characteristically hanging onto the ball too long; although, to be fair, this does not tell the whole story. As the match went on he did improve to the point where it has to be said that he had a decent game.
At two nil up everyone in the ground including the twenty two players on the pitch thought the game was over as a competition, and it should have been but Birmingham got their slice of luck when at first sight it seemed like Mannone had made a school boy error in spilling what looked like a standard catch in the air; Bowyer was first to the loose ball; he scored and by doing so allowed Birmingham back into the game. The reaction around me was angry shouts demanding to know why the first team keeper, if he was fit enough to be on the bench, wasn’t playing. The words “Short Memories” sprang to mind, Almunia was playing crap before he got a “chest infection”, an expression you will now find in the Arsenal dictionary of football parlance to mean – dropped. By contrast Mannone had been playing well and deserved to keep his place; the fact that Almunia didn’t walk straight back into the first team also sends the right message and should keep him on his toes. On closer inspection Mannone was fouled and the goal should not have stood but this confusion will make Wenger’s job much easier when he restores Almunia to the first team against Alkmaar in the week.
Birmingham started the second half with restored self belief: coming onto us which left huge gaps behind their defence, space that Walcott is so good at exploiting. Unfortunately he had to go off after being scythed down in Brum-Scum style within the first five minutes. I still believe this will be the season in which he makes his name on the EPL. The lack of a reassuring third goal gave cause for concern which was reflected in the slightly more nervous football that Arsenal started to play. If Walcott had still been on the pitch I am convinced that a two goal cushion would have been restored quicker; but, nevertheless, the problem was solved when Arshavin, who had looked bored and uninterested for the majority of the time he was on the pitch, scored a goal of such quality that we forgive him anything.