Not the line up I was expecting, Clichy starting again of Gibbs, Djourou coming in for the injured Koscielny, Wilshere-Song-Diaby in midfield with Nasri-Chamakh-Arshavin up top. We started in lively fashion, Wilshere particularly bright and inventive in the midfield.
Early doors Squillaci was unfortunate to have a goal disallowed for offside when he appeared level, a very solid header from a good free kick on the left. Clichy should have done better when the ball broke to him about twelve yards out, the goal was at his mercy, he seemed to rush his shot and screwed it wide. Atkinson then gave a series of three soft free kicks to Birmingham for some non existent fouls.
The game was losing a bit of momentum from our point of view, and then Birmingham scored against the run of play. A fairly hopeful right footed cross from deep on the left flank was directed towards Zigic, he then met it with a very accurate looped header which Fabianski couldn't be expected to save. If there was fault to be found, it was the fact that Zigic was under so little pressure in the box, not good defending at all yet again. Clichy was caught out aerially soon after by Johnson, almost a second for Birmingham and yet more poor defending.
Then the controversial moment, but if it wasn't an Arsenal penalty it wouldn't have been controversial. Dann went to ground in the box, got nothing on the ball and clipped Chamakh, Chamkh went down the penalty was given. Chamakh did make the most of the contact but that's a striker's job, Dann was stupid to make a challenge when he was nowhere near the ball, Birmingham should have blamed their own stupidity and not the referee. Nasri slotted the penatly home and 1-1 it was. Birmingham were now keen to be overly aggressive, a particularly nasty elbow through Chamakh's head by Johnson was ignored by the inept Atkinson, a yellow card at least in anyone's book, if not a red. Things were simmering come half time.
Right at the start of the second half Chamakh made it 2-1, Wilshere slipped him in neatly, Chamakh then rounded Foster in tidy fashion and slotted home. Wilshere was central in everything good we did, his instinctive feel for where to move and pass belied his tender years. We were dominating but overplaying at times, the overcomplicated ponderous play in the final third was frustrating. Arshavin was not connecting, Diaby was looking dangerous, Wilshere fired over after some good build up.
The game now appeared to be petering out. The poor Arshavin was replaced by the bustling Rosicky. Eboue was lucky to get just a yellow for a nasty scissors challenge, funny how all those English pundits will point this out but ignore much worse from certain other players. Bendtner came on with ten to go and almost scored with his first touch. Zigic nailed Wilshere late with an aggressive elbow, another poor miss from Atkinson for what was at least a yellow card. The substitutes added a bit more impetus, but there wasn't quite enough directness or finesse in the final third. Another poor piece of officiating saw Birmingham given a dangerous free kick near the edge of our box, an accidental hand ball from Song harshly punished.
Then to Wilshere's red card, thoroughly deserved for a poor straight legged lunge. This is exactly the type of tackle that I've been talking about, the problem is that the media will go on and on and on about this one because it's from an Arsenal player. How typical would it be for the FA to do something now, what a bunch of morons they are.
Despite Atkinson giving Birmingham almost six minutes to score, Lucasz Fabianski wasn't to be beaten twice in one day, he completed an excellent goalkeeping performance with another good save at the death. It was a strange old day, a deserved win but a margin of victory that should have been greater, the overcomplicated play in the final third was particularly frustrating. The defence did do well though, Djourou and Squillaci were decent with Fabianski commanding. Still at least it's three points, one can't really grumble at that however it comes.
Just finally to pre-empt the media's reaction to Jack Wilshere's tackle. I am one of the most vehement campaigners against dangerous tackles and I would not for one minute condone the reckless Wilshere tackle. However the media are largely a bunch of hypocritical c*nts, they will highlight Wilshere's tackle tomorrow, even though they have previously ignored many other tackles that were even worse, in my book you have no right to criticise Jack's tackle unless you are consistent in your approach to dangerous tackling. Also I doubt Johnson's assault on Chamakh with his right elbow will get any coverage at all after the game. Will fat Sam, Tony Pulis, Alan Hansen and all those lovers of committed football be fighting to defend Jack's tackle tonight, I very much doubt it, he plays for Arsenal.