Birmingham City 0 Arsenal 2: Well done the new boys

Last updated : 04 February 2006 By Brian Dawes

Adebayour - Debut goal
Today’s referee was Mike Riley who was as crap as ever and doing the best he could for Birmingham particularly for failing to send off Heskey for a truly awful studs high in the chest on Senderos. Philippe was extremely fortunate not to have his ribs broken and Heskey must have been relieved to remain on the pitch despite his pathetic moaning about the yellow card.

It has to be said that we had a slightly shaky start when the Brummies could have gone ahead. However once we settled we gradually built up our confidence in stages. The defence was really rather solid given their distinct lack of experience and you have to seriously love Larsson. I doubt that he’s ever going to be a world class player but he has such a superb attitude. A young man thrown in the deep end and out of position and booked in the first half had every excuse to go to pieces but he did really well. The cover given to our defence today was also first class. It’s frustrating watching on the box because you can’t see what’s going on off camera but my best bet is that Pennant was contained by Reyes dropping far deeper than is his norm.

Lehmann was commanding again and took just the one whack today. I love the way that whenever the opportunity arises to take the ball and the odd player he laps it up. Senderos gave his all again and both he and Djourou were tested by the pathetically predictable battering they took from Heskey and Sutton. No subtlety from Bruce then just the simple battering rams up front. Djourou was the pick of our defenders today and has grown in stature enormously in the past few weeks; he will become quite some player. Flamini also did a very solid job at full back although neither he nor Larsson appeared to venture forward too often; they kept it simple and played their defensive roles well.

Gilberto was restricted to the holding role and with Diaby here, there and everywhere it was both necessary and effective, he covered well and wasted little or nothing in the way of possession. Reyes was fairly quiet, was off the field for a while with yet another injury, but as I mentioned earlier he too played fairly deep, presumably to contain the threat of Pennant getting one on one with Larsson. Diaby is looking better by the game and it’s quite hard to perceive that he’s only been with us for a very short spell and has yet to become accustomed to both team-mates and the pace of the Premiership. His close control and ball skills are all you would expect of a Wenger signing, his engine is great and he likes to get forward, which he does very effectively. It was in fact his cross that led to our opening goal around about twenty minutes into the game. The cross was sort of blocked, went back towards the keeper who parried and we actually had a man in the box looking for the goal scoring chance. His name is Emmanuel Adebayor and his gangling six foot three frame was there to head home our opener. Way to go!

The TV channel made him the man of the match and although I wouldn’t necessarily agree he certainly had an effective debut. Basically he’s like Kanu with a lot more pace and the seeming ability to finish, and in saying that I hope I haven’t put a hex on the lad. He’d already taken up promising positions in the box before finding the net and the fact that we had someone in there was probably why their defence was harried into the error that led to our opening goal. Emmanuel can also drop off into the hole and play the ball around with total confidence; I’d go as far as to say he already looks a total bargain. I thought Le Boss was wrong to buy three more youngsters in the transfer window when we clearly needed experienced players, but I think he’s pulled off another piece of outrageous talent spotting.

Henry had an in out sort of match and wasn’t helped by some inept refereeing but he took the second goal well when he steamed away in the left channel to latch onto a killer ball from Cesc. I think he was shouting to the Gooners behind the goal that he was the man, and indeed he still is. Cesc played a nominal wide right today and put in a solid performance. Earlier Henry picked up a card for dissent, I imagine this was when he told Riley what a useless **** he was for missing an obvious handball not long after giving a joke free kick against Thierry. Our captain rather overdid the verbals here, but what the heck, it’s very difficult not to scream abuse at Riley isn’t it? Hleb replaced Reyes late on and at this point Henry moved to the left and Cesc went central. The game was already won so we concentrated on maintaining possession against the ten men Brummies, which we did with ease. Late on Birmingham hit the post from an Upson header but we’d long since won the match at this stage.

What I enjoyed most about the match was our commitment, our work ethic and as the game progressed our confident passing. This was the Arsenal of old, giving their all for the cause under difficult circumstances and today they delivered. Heskey by the way picked up a second yellow card for jumping straight at Flamini with a leading elbow aimed at and connecting with his chest. It was an obvious booking in my opinion despite Mathieu milking the situation as best he could. The lardy scroat should have had a straight red much earlier so I have no sympathy whatsoever. In fact it was quite delightful to see Bruce moaning about it on the touchline. Neither have I any sympathy for the detestable Sutton who’s ever growing niggle and foul-count warranted a booking far earlier than when Riley finally flashed a long overdue card. Diaby was also booked fairly late on for putting it about, which makes him one of us as far as I’m concerned. He looks the biz to me.

Like I said I didn’t hear anything of the game but a text received from Chris who was at the game would indicate that the chant of the day was: ‘We bought him from Auxerre – he’s every fecking where – Diaby’. Nice one travelling Gooners.