'Atrocious' Blues song strikes sour note for Wenger

Arsenal 3 Birmingham City 1
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The Independent Football

With the arrival of Carson Yeung at Birmingham City last week – the new owner supposedly with up to £40m to spend in January – there is a Year Zero feel to the club now. Invest, spend and climb up the Premier League table.

However, despite the new start promised by the man from Hong Kong, there is an old school element around some of the fans. Some Manchester City and Leeds fans, when they play Manchester United, like to taunt them about the Munich plane crash. Birmingham fans now have found their more recent equivalent, singing: "There's only one Martin Taylor."

They are referring to the Birmingham defender, a solid, unspectacular player who faced Arsenal at St Andrew's in February last year. He duly gained a notoriety he will never shake off when his tackle broke Eduardo's ankle, an injury that could have ended the career of the Brazil-born Croatia striker. It was a horrific injury which Eduardo has done well to recover from, even if his failure, since a return to the first-team squad in February, to maintain his fitness is probably a long-lasting consequence of the injury. Neither he nor Taylor featured in the squads for this game.

Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, gave the chants the short shrift they deserved, saying: "That's frankly atrocious. They will not be remembered for the quality of their taste with that kind of remark. I didn't say a word, I just thought, 'that's low'. People like that, one starts to say something stupid, everybody follows, even intelligent people. People lose their identity together, and their sense of responsibility."

Before Arsenal made virtually sure of all three points with a fine finish from Robin van Persie and then Abou Diaby's sidefoot from 12 yards, there was a minor "Taylor" moment. Except this time it was Liam Ridgewell going all guns blazing for the ball and Theo Walcott. Ridgewell got the ball, Walcott stayed down in a crumpled heap and the referee, Lee Probert, did not give a foul. It was a hard tackle after eight minutes and one that instantly made everyone recall Eduardo, although Walcott eventually got up after some treatment. He did not last long as the combination of that tackle and stretching for the cross from Tomas Rosicky that led to Diaby's goal resulted in the England winger limping off with a knee complaint after barely half an hour. His availability tomorrow for the Champions League tie in the Netherlands against AZ Alkmaar should be clear today.

As Wenger pointed out, every manager tells his full-back to get tight on his player but this tackle was in more of a grey area of legality. He said: "I want the physicality to stay, it's down to the referee to make the right decision. It was not an easy decision on Theo but that kind of challenge we can get out."

Wenger's counterpart, Alex McLeish, was relieved to have stayed in contention for as long as he did, as Arsenal's two goals in as many minutes threatened an avalanche and the Scot praised his side for their endeavour, which saw them threaten to steal a point after Vito Mannone palmed the ball to a grateful Lee Bowyer.

Arsenal confirmed victory with a fine goal from Andrei Arshavin on the counter-attack only five minutes after Mannone had prevented a certain equaliser by Garry O'Connor.

McLeish was not averse to making the occasional hard tackle in his career and he saw nothing wrong with the Ridgewell moment. As for the fans, he didn't get drawn into that one either, saying: "I never heard it. I'm not going to discuss it. We don't condone that kind of thing. Our fans gave us great away support but I wasn't aware of the songs like that and what they were singing."

McLeish, however, hopes to get used to hearing the sound of Mr Yeung writing out cheques for large sums of money in January. He knows he needs to.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Mannone; Eboué (Wilshere, 90), Gallas, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Song, Diaby; Walcott (Arshavin, 33), Fabregas, Rosicky (Sagna, 72); Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Ramsey, Silvestre, Traoré.

Birmingham City (4-1-4-1): Hart; Carr, R Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Carsley (Phillips, 79); Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden (McSheffrey, 71); Jerome (O'Connor, 61). Substitutes not used: Maik Taylor (gk), D Johnson, Bent, O'Shea.

Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).

Booked: Arsenal Song; Birmingham City Hart, Ridgewell.

Man of the match: Song.

Attendance: 60,082.

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