Monday, 19 October 2009

Revenge: it eventually came. Match report.

Speaking to many of my friends, there was the suggestion that Birmingham were no real enemy and Saturday's match was just a routine three points. Not for me.

Birmingham are the masters of PR management. It is easy to forget that it wasn't just Eduardo's injury that went against Arsenal on that fateful day at St. Andrews. That enough though, is surely enough to inspire hatred for Birmingham City.

But on that same day, Birmingham's first goal came from a free-kick that was never a free-kick. Their equaliser to go 2-2 came from a penalty where Gael Clichy won the ball. And 2 minutes before that, Arsenal should have had a penalty themselves.

But Birmingham managed to deflect the attention away from the worst refereeing performance in months to the fact that William Gallas cried on a highly emotional day. Personally, I didn't have a problem with the crying - it was understandable. Yet, the post-match defence of Martin Taylor by all and sundry was ridiculous.

The point here, is that all of this made me desperately keen for us to beat Birmingham. That fateful day in February 2008, was a turning-point for our title ambitions. We should have gone 8 points clear but didn't. Momentum shifted from us to Man United and we were denied a title which we might otherwise have won.

Perhaps it was fateful that Eboué played on Saturday instead of Sagna; a reminder of the trauma surrounding Arsenal in the midst of Eduardo's injury - Sagna's brother had been murdered the same week.

Perhaps it was momentous, that Gael Clichy, the man who gave the penalty away to Birmingham in 2008, couldn't play. In came Kieran Gibbs instead.

But what is clear, is that this match has to be viewed as cyclical. A hugely important date in the season.

For, in 2008, our title ambitions seemed to have dimmed after the result at St. Andrews. It is no coincidence that the day we beat Birmingham, our title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool lost. Undoubtedly the match in February 2008 represented a shift in opinion; post-match a lot of faith placed in Arsenal was lost.

Similarly, after the match, the truth was out. Suddenly, people had faith in an Arsenal title bid this season. This, was no coincidence. We had exacted revenge. It was a swing back to Arsenal. It was a victory for Wenger's youngsters.

Some would say I am over-stating the case here, but my genuine belief is that this was a hugely important result.

On another level, it was an important result also. We showed at Fulham that we can win whilst playing badly. Saturday showed we can win well - by a healthy margin - without playing well.

There was nothing wrong with the performance. Cesc and Song were good. In fact, partially its that we've been spoilt so far this season. Indeed, RVP took his goal beautifully. But the performance was just nothing special. It lacked the fluidity of the performance against Blackburn or Olympiacos. But we were solid.

We conceded a dodgy goal but out-scoring the opposition is working. It would be churlish to complain about a win. Particularly, when you think that whilst this defending is worrying, there was no Clichy or Sagna, and perhaps more pertinently, Mannone finally showed why Almunia has been cemented in front of him in the pecking order.

But ultimately, results like Saturday's give me a good feeling about this time. And finally, we have avenged the events of February 2008. If only Eduardo had played though.

Keep the faith,


Davi said...

I dont think birmingham did the deflecting last year. You have to blame the entire press. You are correct though, it was the worst referring performance, and started a string of horrible ref performances which did more to destroy our title bid than anything to be honest.
Dont blame birmingham for what happened though, blame the press. They dont treat the other teams the way they treat us.

D M said...

F-ing northerners!
You forgot to mention their chanting of 'One Martin Taylor' when Feo was lying in agony...pricks!