Birmingham it seems were short of a few players and like us had one still on his way home following the interlull. Arsenal were without Fabianski, Djourou, Bendtner, Eduardo, Vela, Clichy, Denilson & Nasri. Before kick off we were 1-6 on to win this match while Birmingham were 15-1 for a win. Not that much better than the 30-1 odds offered for a six-nil Arsenal victory. If I was going to bet it would have been that we wouldn't be brilliant because we never are following an international break. Instead I made do with a wander around the Holloway end to view the two latest murals which were as impressive as the first.
Lee Probert was our ref today, the petty clown who whilst acting as 4th official got Le Boss sent off at Old Trollop. What a wonderful choice of official for Arsenal, such a comedian that Keith Hackett - you couldn't make it up could you?
I was fully expecting the Brummies to put ten men behind the ball and get stuck in for 90 minutes whilst tediously remaining behind the ball and fouling whenever they had to, which I figured would be quite often. So my principle concern was just how much would Probert assist them in their quest given that he prefers generally not to book players (just 27 yellow cards in 11 Premiership games or 2.45 yellows per match on average).
The '4' cards, which were mainly spread around the North Bank, were very clearly displayed as seem from my seat in the lower east, nice work by REDaction.
On a grey, rather blustery and somewhat chilly day in London Arsenal kicked off towards what will become the Clock End. The Brummies put ten men behind the ball and left them there for all bar the last eleven minutes of the entire match. The Blues were about as unadventurous as you can get but they were ably assisted by Probert who's idea of refereeing was to ignore every foot that was left in, which was for every challenge, to miss far too many things, even the obvious and to wave play on for the rest.
Cesc had been fouled twice within the first minute, not sure if that is a new stadium record. Bowyer on Gallas was the third foul. A shot on the run by Rosicky was our opening salvo, which went wide. Robin down, no free kick. Theo wins a corner after leaving his man for dead. Walcott totally taken out shortly after by Ridgewell but what looked a cert yellow from my seat didn't warrant a free kick in the eyes of Probert and the ball had to be kicked out of play before Theo could receive treatment. Theo stayed down a long time and was quite clearly in pain. Chants of 'One Steven Taylor' from the brain dead Brummies. After treatment Theo limped off, clearly still in pain.
A chip in to Robin resulted in a ball looping out to Tomas who tried hard to hit it on the run but skewed his effort well wide. The ever popular Carr was late on Fabregas. Theo steamed in from the right and tried a dipping shot which Hart tipped over, great effort. Foul on Eboue not given. Rosicky shot wide. Fabregas fouled. McFadden axed Eboue, mind you a foot was left in for every challenge without so much as a word from the hapless Probert and as yet Birmingham had not mounted an attack. Piss poor cross from Emmanuel. Quarter of an hour gone and a One Way sign on the half way line wouldn't have looked out of place.
Not long after a pretty atrocious cross from Eboue, playing at full back today, Arsenal moved it forward again through central midfield. The ball was with Song centrally as Robin pulled wider to make some space, he was spotted by Alex and what followed seemed almost inevitable. The ball through was good, as was the control and the crisp low shot past Hart and inside the far post was perfect. 16 minutes played. 1-0 to Arsenal and another rout appeared to be on the cards.
It took us all of two minutes to bag our second. Eboue picked out Tomas on the right who drilled a low cross which by-passed the odd red shirt including Walcott's outstretched boot before being met by Diaby on the run who hammered it home. 2-0 Arsenal after 18 minutes.
The Blues appeared to momentarily take part in the game but the Verminator was on hand with a timely block on our left following their first attack. The ten men back mentality hadn't altered. Gibbs hurdled a very obvious lunge and lost his balance but Probert, due to the solid matter between his ears, didn't figure what had happened because no contact was made. Had contact been made Kieran would have been hurt. This was Arsenal in passing mode and it was all Arsenal pass after pass at this point. Some brilliant play by Diaby followed by a fine solo but ending with a weak shot. Eboue was having his shirt pulled off his arm but Probert, still in white stick mode, looked directly at the incident and yet didn't see it.
Jerome shoved over Vermaelen for free kick. Ex-Arsenal man Larsson had a free kick which he shot from range and forced Mannone to make his first save after half an hour. The ball came out of defence very quickly and a Fabregas, van Persie break was followed by more pressure by Arsenal. Twelve minutes before half time Theo limped off, having never fully recovered from the earlier hatchet job. So we had to make do with Arshavin as his replacement.
A rather nasty tackle from behind on Arshavin by Saint Bowyer saw mere words from Probert. I think I may have dozed off for a while, such was the excitement, but when I came to Gibbs was making a great tackle on Jerome. But on 38 minutes Mannone made an error that I guess will lose him his place in the side when he nearly held, but then spilled what was a very makeable high take, despite the pressure. Bowyer said thank you very much and made it 2-1.
Larsson on Gibbs for a free kick. Why did the Blues always moan about everything, every decision no matter how obvious the foul? Arshavin's shot was well saved and Gibbs did well to follow up and get in a cross, but no one was there to meet it. Arshavin won a corner and the Brummies moaned, yet again. It was like watching a bevy of Ferguson impersonators wearing blue shirts. A Rosicky shot and a missed handball saw off the three minutes of added time and we went in for the break with a single goal lead when it probably should have been more.
Brum kicked off the second half towards the, some time in the future, Clock End. Shock, horror, exclusive! An early attack from the Brummies just to confuse us, Arsenal responded with some horrid defending and I'm thankful that they have such a crap forward line. We should have scored a third when the AA man, of all people, put it wide from inside their six-yard box when put through by Diaby. Oh dear, were we about to have one of those days? Cesc versus the keeper. Corner! No goal kick says the lino. A Diaby cross from the right was headed clear. Eboue to Cesc who fired over. 'Come on Arsenal'. At last some enthusiasm both on and off the pitch.
Eboue and Fabregas broke and the end result was an indirect free kick in their box for a pass back. First let me say that it shouldn't have been a free kick because it wasn't a deliberate pass back that Hart picked up. Secondly let me say that Probert couldn't organise a wall even if you provided him with ten brickies. We looked to be about six yards from goal, in which case every Brum player had to be on or behind the goal line. Not a foot in front, not a yard in front and certainly not two yards in front, the keeper has no right to be off his line any more than anyone else. None of them were, not one of them, some were about four yards off the ball. This took over a minute to organise with only one yellow card. Two short, sharp passes and a wallop from Robin which skimmed the bar.
O'Connor 'Who' replaced Jerome for Brum. A seriously sh*t crossfield pass by Gallas that a better team would have punished. Ridgewell was punished with a yellow card for walking away with the ball when we wanted to take it quickly. Diaby with a shot that was all power but no direction. Arshavin to Robin who tried an overhead kick when he had far more time than he could have imagined to control and shoot. Robin to Eboue who hit a really good cross. Total one way traffic. There were some small periods of Brummie dominance usually lasting all of 10-15 seconds.
Arshavin crossed and Hart took it with ease. Eboue crossed and Hart took it with ease. Then a poor cross by Arshavin before McFadden was replaced by McSheffrey. McSheffrey fouled Diaby within 30 seconds of his arrival, fitting immaculately into the Brummie game plan. He then took a slow motion tumble over Song's extended leg, like watching the slow-motion action replay. Any Arsenal player would have hurdled the leg and got f*ck all from Probert, Song got a yellow card. Sagna replaced Rosicky and Eboue moved wide right while Bacary took his place as overlapping full back. Fabregas was clearly shoved in the back - nothing given. Another handball missed. Fabregas taken out on the edge of the box when the one-two would have put him clear, a free kick but the oh-so-obvious yellow card was nowhere to be seen. You have to commend Probert for his consistency - he was pants throughout.
From Robin's whizzing free kick on the corner of the box Gallas's head could only have been millimetres away from scoring. Mannone made a save, nothing special but a major event for any Brummies in the stadium. Carsley was replaced by Phillips on 79 minutes as Birmingham move to a super adventurous 6-2-2 for the remainder of the match. Fouls by Bowyer and O'Connor followed before a Blues hoof won them a corner. We broke with 4 against 3 at speed. Mannone straight out to Cesc who ran it upfield before finding Arshavin well advanced on the left. Our Russian cut inside with his quick feet and slotted it low into the corner. 3-1 and game over.
Vermaelen trampled all over something ugly in a blue shirt and Arsenal just carried on with their power play football. The blues were lucky to have caught us only firing on partial cylinders, but such is the way of the interlull. Diaby looked odds on to make it four when Robin drilled a perfect cross from wide right, Diaby met in fair and square, but a remarkable save by Hart kept it out. Eboue replaced was by Wilshere for the four minutes added time, with standing ovations for both.
There was near post header from a Birmingham corner and that was it apart from a quick free kick by Cesc (?) from which Robin should have scored. So a mere three goals to add to our 100% home form and a further move up the league table puts us there or there abouts. The Blues were still moaning at the ref as they left the pitch, I've no idea why but fair enough because I swore at the prat for most of the match.
Patience and confidence were shown on the pitch but very little off it during most of the second half. Why I'm not quite sure because we always looked like pissing it to me, what is it exactly that gives our fans the jitters?