It wasn't unexpected but I have to say we could have had a smidgen more protection from the referee yesterday from some Birmingham tactics that definitely crossed the line of what could be deemed to be an acceptable level of aggression. Roger Johnson's early tackle on Cesc Fabregas was a red card tackle, a reckless violent lunge with studs showing that could easily have seen a terrible injury at the end of it, it was more by fortune than anything else that Cesc was able to play on afterwards. The referee bottled it and then later on missed some appalling and vindictive stuff from the scum who calls himself Lee Bowyer. The stamp on Sagna was followed by a malicious stud raking down the same player's Achilles a few minutes later, the referee missed the former and let him get away with the latter.
It is not just the way Birmingham got away with these moments of violence that rankles, it is the way in which certain lame duck sections of the media highlight a 'handball' incident while ignoring the woods for the trees. ESPN are just plain shite, but the BBC should know better, I was appalled by Lawrenson trying to justify Johnson's tackle on Cesc by saying that he went for the ball, this is irrelevant, it is akin to going for the ball with a machete, it is dangerous and unsafe, thus both against the rules and unacceptable, as well as unjustifiable. It is typical of an average team full of cloggers for their manager to try to claim the 'big decisions' went against them, what utter hogwash, their claims that RVP's inadvertent handball was a penalty are weak, while they themselves were very lucky not to have seen at least a couple of men sent off for early baths. Hopefully Bowyer will be punished retrospectively by the FA for his stamp, still this was more petulance and I would prefer to see Johnson's tackle upgraded to a decent ban as this was the violent act that was likely to do the real damage.
Anyway the important thing was that we stood up to this physical challenge and came away with a clean sheet and three very deserved points. The eight changes were for the better this time, Djourou and Koscielny combined terrifically well at the back, Sagna and Clichy were both solid, Birmingham rarely troubled Fabianski. When they did Fabianski saved well from Larsson's free kick which was an extremely soft award in the first place, strange that the media ignored this gamesmanship from Johnson but focused on RVP's fall when clearly yanked back by the arm for our opener, while Johnson fired over from six yards when clearly well offside, the linesman missing this rather obvious fact.
The most positive thing is that a clear first choice eleven is emerging and this is key if we are to grind out some solid momentum for the rest of the season. This eleven has a better balance between defence and attack, there is enough drive and work rate in the midfield with an engine room of Wilshere/Song, there is more dominance at the back, while the creative combination of Nasri/Cesc and RVP with the pace of Walcott wide right gives us so many attacking options. I like a lot.
The only bad thing about yesterday was the wins for Manu and Spurs. Manu were particularly fortunate, with the score at 1-1 Chris Foy bottled a big decision, Neville committed an extremely cynical last man tackle from behind in the box, a penalty and red card should have followed, Foy choked it, still West Brom still went on to miss a penalty with the scores leve. Another flukey win for United, no doubt the regular big decisions going in their favour helps them grind out wins instead of defeats. Hopefully their luck will run out eventually. While we're talking of Manure, check out this pathetic piece of blogging, someone seems a little obsessed with out young keeper's spot on comments, dust someone protest too much because their team has yet again got away with murder? Manure fans have started the year as they mean to continue, spouting ignorant puerile drivel rather looking at their own ugly faces in the mirror.
Man City is another biggie on Wednesday and I would be surprised not to see the same eleven starting again, players can easily be rested for the visit of Leeds in the FA Cup. Things appear to be clicking together just at the right time and barring any injuries to key players, January is the perfect time for this momentum to be building. Come on you Gunners!