Birmingham City 0-3 Arsenal

Good thing the match ended up being worth it...I'm not a huge fan of getting only three hours of sleep...stupid time zone difference.

Got to the pub early, to catch the end of Manshit United vs. Blackburn Rovers. Rovers made a game out of it, but succumbed 2-1...thus leaving Arsenal needing a win to stay top of the table. However, with about 14,000 guys out from suspension or injury, we had a skeleton lineup that looked like this: Lehmann - Cole, Campbell, Cygan, Gael Clichy (18-year old rookie) - Ljungberg, Toure, Edu, Pires - Henry, Bergkamp. Le Boss ended up pulling one over everyone...Kolo Toure in central midfield? The HELL?!

However, the latecoming NY Gooners barely had a chance to get their eyes adjusted to the dark pub before we were 1-0 up...DB10 showed some his old magic, virtually pressing a "pause" button on the Birmingham defense. Well, OK, it was a bad mistake by Kenny Cunningham, but he took it well, and found Henry in the middle. Henry calmly laid it off to Ljungberg, who left Maik Taylor with no chance after a super-cool finish. Just four minutes in, and the Blues had it all to do.

However, for the next 65 minutes or so, the hosts were essentially playing downhill. They had the lion's share of the possession, and with all the moaning in the pub, you'd have thought we were 0-5 down and 20 points behind Manshit United in the standings. I can understand that being an Arsenal fan can spoil you a bit...when Mega Arsenal shows up, we're treated to absolute top-class football. But, championships are won and lost in the freezing cold, in tough, gritty games on hostile grounds. To be frank, if this were last year, I don't think we get all three points.

Here's two other things to consider. With so many first-choice players out (random: How do you think Kanu must feel starting on the bench today? I'd start packing, if I were him), how can we expect to roll over a tough side on their own patch? Seriously, now. Second, Arsenal spent most of the match in first gear, because that's all the needed, really. Also, let's keep in mind that we somehow have to beat Inter Milan on their own patch in just three days. If we can tonk Birmingham in first gear, then why bother going to second? Mikael Forssel went uncomfortably close on a header in the second half, and David Dunn had a few half-chances that ended up never seriously threatening Lehmann (who was great in getting loose balls, which was just about his only job today). That was their lot. Birmingham huffed and puffed in the midfield, and looked good linking from the back to the wingers. But, it seemed like there was a forcefield around the Arsenal area...for all their hard work, Birmingham barely could get a peek in there.

In all fairness, the Arsenal back four were quietly very good. It was nice to see Cygan have a good game, and except for a few misplayed balls, Sol was his usual colossus self. Although he was taken off after 58 minutes for Kanu, Gael Clichy showed that he perhaps deserves a few more looks this season. He has wonderful ball skills, he's not afraid to press forward (but he doesn't get stranded like Ashley Cole tends to), but he could sometimes do with going to a simpler option (i.e. JUST CROSS THE DAMN BALL ALREADY!). Well done to the lad.

Birmingham (another random: How wide is the gulf between the haves and have-nots in the EPL? This is the 5th-placed side so far, ladies and gentlemen) started bringing more and more players forward, but you always had to believe that Arsenal would catch them on the break. Sure enough, we doubled the lead with a classic counter-attack. TH14 (who was Man of the Match, by the way...he didn't score, but he was all over the place, often drawing three or even FOUR defenders toward him...he also came close a few times) found Bergkamp with a great long ball...Bergkamp won the foot race with the static back four (yes, they lost a foot race to 900-year old Dennis ;D) , leaving DB10 on a breakaway. The Dutch wizard slotted home past Taylor, cooler than James Dean.

With all three points in the bag, the Arse decided to kick into another gear...my theory was that they wanted to send a message to the Italians heading into the big European tie...oh, and to our nearest and dearest rivals at home, too (Chelsea also won, by the way...so status quo at the top again). After some great build-up, Henry found Super Robert Pires, who made no mistake, beating Taylor low into the corner. It's funny...for all of Birmingham's possession, dominance, and great defensive play for the most part, all it took was three seperate times where Arsenal seemed to conciously say: "We're going to carve you up now...it IS almost Thanksgiving, after all"...and that was that.

The referee (the horrible ginger midget, Paul Durkin), was unbelivably bad, as usual. Kolo Toure got booked for getting knocked down, and having someone trip over him. Meanwhile, that freak Robbie Savage (who should really be locked in a cage and put in the zoo with the rest of the animals) attempted open-ligament surgery on several Arsenal players, but nothing doing, card-wise. The fact that Durkin is a FIFA referee blows my mind...not that England is blessed with many good ones, but good lord, if that's the best you got.....can't we just clone Pierluigi Collina and get it over with?

Jeremie Aliadiere and Justin Hoyte got a run-out, coming in at the 89th and 90th minutes respectively. I would have liked to see them get a little more time, but I can understand why Le Boss wasn't taking any chances. If Milan is kicking our ass again by halftime on Tuesday, however, I think it'd be criminal if they didn't get a longer look.

Milan on Tuesday, Fulham (and our old friend, Moritz Volz) next week. Come on, you Gunners!


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