By Boris Mellor
October 18 2009
The biggest factor in the outcome of the "top four's results in this weekend's premiership was the international break. The two teams that were away (Chelsea and Liverpool) lost, and the two at home won. The two at home (Arsenal and Manchester United) both went 2-0 up and both conceded a goal. Man U's performance has been described as edgy.
Arsenal were clearly affected by the international break, indeed several players were missing due to injuries, and others like Rosicky, Arshavin and Cesc appeared tired. Nonetheless this was a good result after the international break.
Arsenal were inspired up to the moment of going 2-0 up within 18 minutes with superb strikes by RvP and Diaby. The fans settled down for the expected massacre. However Arsenal decided to rest on the wing, lots of good passing, let the ball do the work, but no end product. This gave a very poor Birmingham team some hope and they began to battle back, hoofing long balls in the corner spaces.
Law of the scumbag
But seven minutes from half time the law of the scumbag kicked in. You know the law, the one where the most revolting player for the opposition scrambles a scrappy goal against the run of play. A man so odious that even some bluenoses didn't want him at the club, and you have to be pretty odious for some Brummies to oppose you. Fans who I heard singing Man U type slurs against Wenger, and some who sang "one Martin Taylor".
Past weighs like nightmare on the minds of the living
The 2-1 score affected Arsenal Fans more than it did the team. All the old nightmares arose, remember the fiasco at St Andrew's? Remember drawing at home against them that season as well. No Gunner wanted a repeat. The fans were desperate for a third goal.
I remember with about 38 minutes to go Arshavin missed an open goal at 2 yards out. Was it going to be one of those days? The ref was awful, at one stage he missed the fact that the Blues had back passed to the goalie in the area. What was funny is that he responded to the crowds appeal and finally called the game back for an indirect free kick. The ball was passed to RvP who hit the crossbar.
Arsenal keep nerve
Meanwhile Birmingham had a few decent breakaways, but the truth was that Arsenal were having far more chances without taking too many risks at the back. In the end Arshavin put Birmingham, and Arsenal fans, out of their misery with a nicely placed goal on 85 minutes.
Birmingham roused themselves once more but it was a case of a light bulb burning brightest before it goes out, unless it's an eco friendly one. The crowd celebrated it was in the bag and they could relax at last. When Birmingham are in this dogged mood they can destroy your will to live, Arshavin's goal restored mine.
Stats never lie?
This was a good result in spite of several players being tired, the team never stopped working at keeping their lead, and at extending it once down to 2-1. In particular Song and Diaby worked hard, long and well. In the pub afterwards some Gunners thought it had been a close match, I didn't think that was the case.
Fans live on their nerves, the stats Arsenal 9 on target and 9 off, Birmingham 2 on, and 1 off. That means Arsenal created 18 shots to the Blues 3. I think it's the jittery nature of our defence that sometimes makes it feel worse than it really is.
If we can do this after every international break I wouldn't mind, but I wouldn't count on it; the game after the next break will be Sunderland away - tough. It was too much for Liverpool - mind you without Gerrard and Torres they are not that much. Four games lost already, their squad looking weak and out of the top four with one more game played than Arsenal.
Maybe Arsenal will compete this year.