The first match of the New Year was upon us, and Wenger sent out a near- full strength side similar to the one that beat Chelsea 3-1 a handful of days before. We would also want to win this match due to 2 points dropped against Wigan, and in anticipation of the flurry of matches in January- one against Manchester City, the FA Cup 3rd Round against Leeds (which beat Manchester United at the same round last season) and the Carling Cup semis against Ipswich.
As the game began it would be clear that this match would be an interesting affair, especially for Arsenal. Fabregas would be downed with a studs up challenge early on, going down and clutching his ankle in pain. The Arsenal faithful know full well what happened at this ground against the same team with the same type of challenge nearly 3 years ago. There wasn’t much in the first several minutes apart from that challenge, as Walcott stabs wide and an indirect free kick went Arsenal’s way, with Van Persie smashing his shot straight at Foster.
The first goal of the game was controversial, with Van Persie seemingly going down without being touched 20 yards out. He converted his free kick with a deflection, instead going to Foster’s right it went out of his range and into the bottom corner.
A few minutes later Van Persie seemed to have blatantly handballed the ball in his own box, penalty shouts going all over the ground but the referee went his way again waving play on. In this period Fabianski would be troubled with crosses that may have taunted him forcing mistakes in previous seasons but not this time, being firm between the sticks today.
However Van Persie’s luck with the game so far ran out. Just before the half hour mark he wasted a complete sitter in front of goal, and ten minutes later scoops another shot into Foster’s hands, both from 4 yards out. Had they gone in (and they both should have) Arsenal would have been 3-0 up with a hat-trick to Van Persie. Luckily for us though Birmingham did not look potent in front of goal, with them creating chances but with our defense holding strong, and with luck on our side as Johnson misses a really close chance. But the same couldn’t be said of the attack though, with the killer pass just not coming to us.
Half time came with the score 1-0 to Arsenal but with either side able to really gain a foothold in the game.
The second half began with some more wasted chances mostly coming from low crosses or passes into the box, and a great chance by Wilshere was passed up, him blasting a volley over the bar. A good way for him to celebrate his birthday too. Nasri a minute later goes clear but the Birmingham defenders pressure him enough to losing the ball on the edge of the box.
But disappointment from missing good chances finally went away. Nasri traded passes with Fabregas and shot from the edge of the box, resulting in a 2 goal lead to Arsenal. Somehow Arsenal score from nothing but screw up clear cut chances.
A few minutes later another goal cropped up to Arsenal again, this time an own goal from Johnson. After some good passing and fancy footwork from both Fabregas and Nasri Cesc blasted a shot at Foster only for him to spill it to Dann and then to Johnson where the ball trickles in. Almost directly after this Bowyer tries again to injure Sagna, his second attempt too, but with no booking even though he should have been sent off the first time.
Three goals would seemingly be what Arsenal needed today, and we went back to passing round the box, hoping to get lucky sending in passes into the box while the ball gets thumped out again. Birmingham meanwhile looked to have their second defeat at home for the season, knowing that a loss would entrench them 19th on the table with 19 points.
And that was the way it stayed, 3-0 to Arsenal, Zigic having a late chance hitting the crossbar but overall both teams were lucky in a way, Arsenal with their refereeing decisions and Birmingham to not have conceded more and with Bowyer not being on his best behaviour today. The win puts Arsenal third 3 points clear of Chelsea and 2 behind both Manchester clubs.