Oct 192009

Arsenal 3 (Van Persie 16, Diaby 18, Arshavin 84) Birmingham 1 (Bowyer 38)

Apologies for the late nature of this blog, I’m moving house this week and having made the slightly daft decision to do it all ourselves we’re a little under the cosh. Expect sporadic updates at best.

And neatly, sporadic is a good descripti0n of our performance on Saturday – never at our best, in the end we were comfortably too strong for a Birmingham side who were horribly defensive, not seeming to realise the tactic isn’t the best way to get a result against us anymore (that would be to come out and exploit our shaky defence). If you sit back against this Arsenal team, you’ll get punished, but I’m happy for the rest of the league to spend all season working that one out.

Having said the performance was bitty, it certainly didn’t start that way, and the two goal lead after twenty minutes was fully merited – Van Persie scoring for the fourth game in succession after beautifully controllingand finishing Song’s through ball, and then Diaby finishing with aplomb after good work from Eboue and Rosicky.

Perhaps at that point, we relaxed too much, and were guilty of conceding another soft goal, Mannone showing his inexperience by completely mistiming his jump after Diaby’s header had gone high in the air. The ball dropped to Bowyer, who made no mistake.

But in reality, aside from a cross-shot that Mannone palmed away well, the visitors never threatened to equalise, and the win was deservedly sealed by Arshavin, casually side footing home at the end of a quick counter attack. The Russian, so impressive at the moment, was on as a substitute for Walcott, who will miss 3-4 weeks with medial ligament damage in his knee, sustained in a heavy but fair challenge by Ridgewell.

There was nothing wrong with the challenge, but there was everything wrong with a section of Birmingham fans in the aftermath, singing ‘There’s only one Martin Taylor’ and showing themselves up to be complete and utter cretins. Wenger has his say here, and I have nothing to add – anyone with half a brain would condemn their actions.

The win elevates us back into the top four, with a game in hand and the best goal difference in the league, Chelsea and Liverpool losing to seal a wonderful weekend. The latter, of course, was courtesy of one of the weirdest goals I’ve ever seen, and one that should not have stood, after a beach ball deflected Bent’s shot in. There has been a huge amount of coverage of the incident, but the thing that stood out for me is how few people knew what the rule actually was.

Now, I play a lot of cricket, and that has some pretty weird rules (the sort of things that happen once in a lifetime). Believe me, the rulebook is immense, full of utterly crazy ‘what ifs’. But coaches, captains and umpires are all forced to sit through hours of testing on it before every season starts, and this is at club level. How could the referee and both managers not know the laws, being highly paid professionals? Surely they should know every nuance of the rulebook by now?

It certainly has been a fascinating season so far, and anyone who wr0te us off after two defeats is now looking a little foolish – Chelsea are still favourites despite doing the same, and if Liverpool continue their woeful form against United next weekend, they would have lost half of their opening ten games, a truly awful statistic.

I said at the start of the season that I didn’t think the likes of Man City were ready for a top four finish yet, and would only manage it if one of the incumbents had an appalling season. Well, one of them is.

Champions League tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be able to put something up before the game. Until then, enjoy your week.

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