Arsenal 2 v Birmingham City 1

Jack Wilshere was having the kind of game that has many imploring England manager Fabio Capello to include him in the starting line-up in the senior side. The talented teenager has come on leaps and bounds under the careful guidance of Arsene Wenger and against Birmingham, Wilshere was the most dominant Gunners’ midfield force that threatened to rip up a defence minded Midlands’ side. The fact that Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners will have been welcome for Wilshere and his manager, but his injury time straight red card for a studs up challenge on Nikola Zigic will certainly was certainly very unwelcome.


He will of course learn from the automatic three game ban that he will now receive, but the memory of his man-of-the-match performance against City will have him wanting never to be sent off again. Wenger called his tackle as mistimed and even Blues’ manager Alex Mc Cleish accepted that. For Wilshere however the game should have been all about how brightly he shone in the Gunners’ midfield.


Samir Nasri’s penalty and Marouanne Chamakh’s second half strike ensured that Arsenal recorded their first Premiership win in their last three games. Zigic had given City the lead on 33 minutes, but Arsenal recovered and held firm.Nicklas Bendtner came of for the final 10 minutes, but Wenger’s assertion was that the Dane is still off the pace.


Arsenal enjoyed a bright start with their traditional intricate passes and movement carving early chances that went begging. Chamakh and Wilsere combined for a sequence of passes that took them to close on the City goal, but as neither took the initiative to take the shot, when the Moroccan finally did hit his strike Stephen Carr was able to block the danger.


The Gunners were then denied what appeared to be a legitimate opener when Sebastien Squillaci headed in from Samir Nasri’s free-kick, but the official’s flag dented the Arsenal celebrations. Replays showed the off side decision to be very tight. Birmingham held firm with their ten men behind the ball and Nikola Zigic the lone striker. Keith Fahey’s shot at Lukasz Fabianski was all the Blues could muster, but with their next attack, the visitors were in front.


Birmingham took a shock lead just past the half hour mark and once again the Arsenal defence were at fault. Fahey swung the ball into the danger zone, and as Gael Clichy and Johan Djourou dithered, Zigic raised his giant frame to steer his header beyond the dive of Fabianski. Spurred on, City went in search of a second and almost profited when Roger Johnson’s back header fell to two team-mates who fluffed the ball as uncertainty re-visited the Gunners ‘rearguard.


The home side were to respond with Gael Clichy’s right footed shot that went just wide and with their next foray forward, Arsenal drew level. Chamakh faced a wall of blue, but felled by Scott Dann, the Morocco striker earned a controversial penalty that Samir Nasri was able to convert. Two minutes after the re-start Arsenal took the lead. Jack Wilshere has demonstrated maturity beyond his years, but the 18 year old controlled the ball and set up Chamakh to apply the deadly finish beyond Ben Foster.


With the majority of the game now being played in the Birmingham half, Arsenal went in search of a third. Abu Diaby’s surges were creating havoc for the Blues, but his header from Nasri’s free-kick lacked power. Just after the hour mark Diaby, Chamakh and Andrey Arshavin just could not decide who should take the shot, it was embarrassing, but symptomatic of the Gunners’ game. Wilshere was taking a more direct role in midfield with crunching tackles to add to his guile. He was unfortunate to see his next effort sail over the bar as City backed off. City tried in vain to claw a point and as Wilshere received his marching orders, the Gunners held on to claim the win.

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