EPL Match Day 21: Arsenal v Birmingham: Match Preview
This has been a difficult season to write about. As with every match I am upbeat, I have a sense of renewed hope and my outlook for the team only changes at the conclusion of each tie. It’s a rinse, wash and repeat kind of mentality. I see the positives, negatives and everything in between of supporting this team. We had the euphoria of Monday and the let down of the draw against Wigan. How to approach Saturday’s match is an unknown to me.
This has been a difficult season to write about. As with every match I am upbeat, I have a sense of renewed hope and my outlook for the team only changes at the conclusion of each tie. It’s a rinse, wash and repeat kind of mentality. I see the positives, negatives and everything in between of supporting this team. We had the euphoria of Monday and the let down of the draw against Wigan. So, how to approach Saturday’s match is an unknown to me.
Arsenal come into Birmingham in third place in the league. This is the second year in a row that have ended the year in third. The go away to the stadium of light against a team that you just don’t know what you are going to get. Well, that’s not entirely true. You are going to get a defencively sound team, that much is for sure.
The paradox that is Birmingham is this – they have scored only nine goals at home this season but only one team, Everton has actually left with all 3 points. Alex McLeish’s side have only won one of their last nine premier league ties, however, yet they have only conceded one goal in six of those matches – that stretch includes ties against United, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Man City.
For Arsenal it is likely we will see most of or not all of the squad that was so good against Chelsea. Diaby is out with an injury (again and let’s hope for good) and after Wenger’s scathing criticism of his side’s performance against Wigan, it is likely he will lean on this squad as his leaders. For sure, as we have discussed – this crew, specifically the crew that played Chelsea, is good enough to beat anyone, even a team as determined as Birmingham.
Defencively, I think Squllaci sits again and for me it has more to do with Koscielny than how inconsistent Squallaci has been. Koscielny plays well against a solid defender. In the beginning of the season, he was fine paired with Vermaelen. Against Chelsea, he was also solid. In that match he was paired with Djourou. We need to tighten the defence as it has been 7 games without a clean sheet. One of our longest runs since the 2001 season.
Attack wise if we lead with the attack we had against Chelsea, I have no concerns. There is enough patience and professionalism to uncrack their defence. The problem will l be the Brum keeper Foster who in my opinion is the reason they have been so stingy. He has played better than Joe Hart and is showing why he needs to be considered England’s number 1. We will need to take every chance we get and make him work. Shots should come from inside and outside and forget about being pretty – just be ruthless when around the box.
All in all we need more than a point to go into the match against Manchester City with some sense of momentum. We have a game in hand against the powder puff blue of portion of Manchester a win today and a solid result on Wednesday and we will put some heat on their title aspirations. A lacklustre performance at Birmingham is only going to place further pressure on the team we don’t want or need.
How the Match Should Play Out:
I don’t expect Arsenal to press much on Brum. They are hardly an attacking htreat and they will likely give us the ball at free will. They will just play a 4-4-1-1 and sit 9 men back and look to counter which is how Zigic got his goal against at the Emirates. I expect to see Arsenal patiently see how Birmingham is going to set up against them – whether they will press or load the box up. From there look for Fabregas to be the catalyst to unlocking them. As always I am going for the win because the realistic chance to get the 3 points is possible.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Theo Walcott. Theo has the ability now to change a game from his first touch. e is showing more and more that he is the talent he was supposed to be. He will benefit from an in form Van Persie and Fabregas.
Birmingham: Ben Foster. To me this is England’s great hope in goal. He has simply been the reason why Birmingham don’t concede many goals. It inspires his defence to play firmly in front of him. If Birmingham are to steal anything from this tie it will be due to him.
Probable Starting XI:
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Diany (thigh) Almunia (ankle) Frimpong (knee), Vermaelen (Achilles)
Birmingham: McFadden (knee)
Arsenal: Nasri12 (8 league) Chamakh 10 (7 league) Walcott 9 (6 league)
Birmingham: Gardner 5 (4 league) Zigic 4 (2 league)
Last Meeting: (EPL)
Arsenal: 2 (Nasri pen 41′, Chamakh 47′)
Birmingham: 1 (Zigic 33′)
Arsenal: 1.7 (away)
Birmingham: 1.0 (home)
Arsenal: 1.1 (away)
Birmingham: 0.8 (home)
Referee: Peter Walton
Assistant Referees: Mike Cairns & Ron Ganfield
Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor
US: FSC 12:30 EST
UK: ESPN UK 1730 GMT
GAMEDAY CHAT: It’s Open!!!!!!
A NEW YEAR NOTE: To each and every reader and participant of this blog – thank you for your continued support. You are to me the best group of fans out there, warts and all. You make writing this blog an easy thing to do. I hope you and all your family and friends have a prosperous and happy 2011.