Birmingham City (St Andrew’s, Birmingham)
Premier League Fixture - Matchday 32
Saturday 27th March 2010
Kick Off: 3pm
The last time Arsenal visited St Andrew’s was on Saturday 23rd February 2008. It was a lunch time kick off, and only 3 minutes into the match Martin Taylor inflicted that horrendous injury to Eduardo.
Birmingham City took advantage of Arsenal’s collective grief just before half-time, scoring a freekick through James McFadden. After the break though, Arsenal managed to regain their composure and Theo Walcott scored two great goals to give Arsenal a well-deserved lead.
But in time added on, we experienced the moment that would change our season.
Instead of just clearing the ball up-field, Gael Clichy inexplicably held onto the ball inside his own penalty area, only for Stuart Parnaby to nick the ball from him. Clichy recovered well, just about getting a touch to the ball but the damage had been done. Mike Dean awarded Birmingham City a penalty, captain William Gallas went completely insane and James McFadden scored the spot kick.
From then on, Arsenal collapsed in the league.
Leading up to the Birmingham game, Arsenal were on fire.
Eduardo and Adebayor were starting to form one of the best striking partnerships in the league - scoring a combined 14 goals in the previous 10 Premier League games. Their last defeat in the league was at Middlesbrough on the 9th December and since then Arsenal had won 8 games and drawn 2. They were hitting form at exactly the right time and were cruising at the top of the league, 6 points clear of Manchester United.
But the dramatic events at St Andrew’s were just more than the dropping of 2 points. Arsenal had lost one of their most dangerous attacking threats, our confidence had been shattered and the horrific nature of the injury took time to recover from. It would take Arsenal over a month to win again in the league, and in the process they had drawn 3 and lost 1, dropped a massive 9 points, and worst of all conceding the top spot in the Premier League to Manchester United.
Our consistent form in the league disappeared, and our March, April and May results were erratic. We ended up finishing in third, 4 points behind eventual Champions Manchester United. Birmingham City would get relegated by a single point, but that was scant consolation to a disappointing end to the season.
And now, we do it all again.
We revisit St Andrew’s under similar circumstances, chasing the Premier League title and needing nothing short of a victory.
The positive news for Arsenal is that they sit on top of the form table, with 6 wins from their last 6 games. Birmingham City however, despite their unbeaten run earlier in the season are 14th, with 3 defeats, 2 wins and a draw. Unfortunately though, they haven’t lost in their last 6 home league games.
Last 6 Games:
Arsenal’s Away Form/Birmingham’s Home Form:
Arsenal Away: WWDLWW
Birmingham Home: DDDWWD
So it could be anyone’s game.
But saying that, it should be mentioned that Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Tottenham have all failed to win at St Andrew’s this season, and they haven’t lost at home in the league since Bolton beat them way back in September.
So if Arsenal can manage to win at Birmingham then it wouldn’t just be a massive 3 points, but a real message of intent to the rest of the Premier League.
The biggest worry for Arsenal is who will play in central defence.
Vermaelen is suspended, William Gallas is still out with, I’m not sure what, so our only fit centrebacks are Sol Campbell and *shudder* Mikael Silvestre.
Personally, with the fantastic performance of Campbell and Song at the heart of the defence against West Ham last weekend, I would be inclined to start those two at the back. Denilson looks like to have improved his form and he can partner Abou Diaby in a Cesc Fabregas spearheaded midfield. You of course have Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky would can play a little deeper and help the midfield.
The other concern was whether Nicklas Bendtner would be fit to start, but Arsene has confirmed that “he should be okay” for Saturday so that’s positive news. The Big Dane is hitting form at the right time, and his all round play is vital to opening up the opposition. Plus, he has prior experience of the Birmingham City set-up so that might just give him the edge he needs to give us an advantage.
Let’s hope Arsenal can keep this remarkable run going and take all 3 points.
Yet another cup tie, where only the result matters.