Birmingham City 0 v Arsenal 3

Arsenal got 2011 off in fine style with a 3-0 thrashing of Birmingham City at St. Andrews that said much about their newly found character and substance. Playing against a side who beat Chelsea and held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw only days ago, the level and manner of the victory delivered a very clear message to the rest of the Premiership. Hold onto your hats everyone, this Arsenal side will fight and play you off the park, and even if you try strong arm tactics, you’re not going to prevail was that message.


It came as no surprise therefore to see City’s Roger Johnson and Lee Bowyer in particular try to ruffle the Gunners’ fluent feathers, with the former lucky to only receive a yellow card for a double footed lunge on Cesc Fabregas. Arsenal started with the same eleven that despatched Chelsea so clinically only days ago, so that meant another eight changes from the side who were held 2-2 at Wigan. No matter as there is a very welcomed steely resolve about this Arsenal side these days. Alex Song, Jack Wilshere in midfield were holding up things well in front of a defence that saw Johan Djourou restored, and his inclusion will be beneficial to Arsenal, who managed a clean sheet for the first time in eight games.


Still it was the sublime football that propelled the Gunners to their sixth away win of the season. Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and a Johnson own goal did the damage against a City side who huffed and puffed without getting anywhere. Van Persie earned the free-kick which he converted with the aid of a deflection off Bowyer – earlly retribution for his poor assaults on Bacary Sagna – to give the Gunners a deserved 1-0 lead, on 13 minutes. That lead could have and should have been increased, as Djourou, Van Persie and Walcott went close. The Gunners’ 14 was in no mood to be beaten, either with or without the ball, displaying the kind of commitment defensively which had been largely absent from his game to date, but a welcome addition nevertheless.


So much negativity has affected Arsenal at St. Andrews in recent years, from the horrific tackle on Eduardo to conceding late goals, but those ghosts from fixtures past were all to be exorcised on a foul West Midlands’ New Year’s evening. Roared on by a sizeable north London crowd, Arsenal struck their second. Wilshere on his nineteenth birthday had gone close with a volley, with Nasri’s chip was smothered by Ben Foster from Fabregas’s release. After another neat exchange however as Arsenal surged forward, with Fabregas finding Nasri, the France midfielder picked his spot for a goal of pure majesty for his 13th this season just shy of the hour mark.


The inevitability of a Gunners third came on 66 minutes as the home side seemed to be tiring and had given up on trying kicking Arsenal. Once again, a patient build up and Nasri fed Fabregas. The Arsenal captain let fly with a low powerful strike that Foster kept out, but the ball ended up in the net after the defensive efforts of Scott Dann and Johnson failed to clear the ball. Walcott went in search of a fourth and substitutes Andrey Arshavin and Denilson let fly in quick succession as this strong fit Arsenal side kept coming. It is good to see Van Persie back and almost back to his peak. The Holland striker would have headed in from Fabregas’s injury time cross had he had more game time, but that is something that we will have to hold on for. A delicious thought.