Song and Arshavin strike right note to banish Blues
Arsenal 3 Birmingham City 1
Sunday 18 October 2009
The result was as most would have predicted, even if the scoreline disguises the slightly uncomfortable way Arsenal's win was achieved. How comfortably Carson Yeung, Birmingham City's new owner and benefactor, was sitting, on high at the Emirates was hard to tell, as the man from Hong Kong's expressions barely changed.
He claims he will spend £20-40 million in January, sums that would make most men wince, although for now he is presumably just glad to be in the Premier League fold. How long that feeling continues will become apparent over the next few weeks as games against Manchester City and Liverpool are likely to make their League position more parlous. Yeung has not bought in to run a Championship club in-waiting.
Alex McLeish, the City manager, said he did not speak to Yeung straight after this game but cannot wait to start spending as he bemoaned the lack of cutting edge, with Cameron Jerome particularly ineffective. He said: "I welcome bringing some fresh quality to the team. It's a challenge to these players now."
The Championship certainly looked like their level when the Blues conceded twice in two minutes. The opener stemmed from a poor clearance by Barry Ferguson that went to Alex Song. Arsenal's man of the match picked out Robin van Persie, who found the far corner of Joe Hart's goal. Van Persie became a father for the second time last week. Arsène Wenger's amusing riposte was: "I hope he has a baby every week." Arsenal's second arrived with Birmingham still gathering their wits. Tomas Rosicky, who had drifted over to the right flank put in a cross that was missed by Theo Walcott, stretching out a leg, but Abou Diaby was waiting 12 yards out.
Walcott, in his first League start of the season after injury, limped off soon after, to be replaced by Andrey Arshavin, in what has become an all-too-familiar scene for Wenger and Arsenal fans. He had had some treatment earlier after a challenge from Liam Ridgewell but stretching for Rosicky's cross may have hurt his knee.
Wenger was not able to forecast how long Walcott would be out for but hinted there may be knee ligament damage, and the Arsenal manager was not happy with the Ridgewell challenge after seven minutes.
It was not as bad as the tackle by Martin Taylor that broke Eduardo's leg when these two sides met last February, but thanks to that there is now a lingering bad feeling in these encounters. Wenger said: "I was not happy with the tackle. He cut through without restriction, it was meant to impress, but I want to see it again. It looked quick and hard, did he want to play the ball? He went through him."
Diaby's goal made Arsenal the highest scorers after eight games in the history of the Premier League – they have 27 – but there is a weakness lurking at the back. Here, Vito Mannone, preferred in place of Manuel Almunia, made a significant error.
After 38 minutes Ferguson's cross deflected off Diaby high into the air and into what should be goalkeeper territory, but the Italian, under slight pressure from Sebastian Larsson, palmed the ball kindly into the path of Lee Bowyer, who gratefully accepted the gift.
Mannone, having put his team in jeopardy on a day when victory was imperative after Chelsea's defeat, did make amends. Ten minutes from time a cross by Ridgewell was running perfectly for Garry O'Connor but the Italian goalkeeper intercepted it and prevented a certain equaliser.
That was City's last and best chance to draw level. Wenger said Arsenal's amount of possession suggested they deserved to win. City's need to get a second goal only played into Arsenal's hands.
Four minutes after Mannone's save, a counter-attack, started by the goalkeeper, confirmed victory. Cesc Fabregas strode away and passed to Arshavin. He attacked a defenceless, retreating Stephen Carr, who was all too aware the Russian could go left or right. He chose right, and curled his shot exquisitely inside Hart's far post.
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Song
Match rating: 6/10
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