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Posted by David Young on 01/01/2011

Arsenal completed their trio of festive fixtures and rung in the New Year with an emphatic win at St Andrews which keeps them well up with the pace at the top of the table.

The Christmas and New Year period is always a testing time as the games come thick and fast. Going into the three games over the holidays, most Arsenal supporters would probably have settled for seven points from a possible nine but, after the team produced such a magnificent victory over Chelsea, it was disappointing that they let themselves down at Wigan two days later. The win at Birmingham today though got the team back on track and was a great confidence booster ahead of the visit of Manchester City to Ashburton Grove on Wednesday night.

Robin Van Persie Hits Arsenal's First at Birmingham©PA Photos

The performance against Chelsea was undoubtedly the best of the season. Even though their West London rivals were well below form and came into the match on the back of a dismal run of results, Arsenal summoned a patient, disciplined and spirited display and thoroughly deserved all three points. Ivanovic’s reply to strikes from Song, Fabregas and Walcott might have got a few nerves jangling in the crowd but, in truth, Arsenal never looked seriously troubled in the latter part of the match and cantered to victory.

On the back of this result, the draw at Wigan was a massive disappointment. Having got themselves into a 2-1 lead at the break it would only have taken a third goal to have killed the match off. Despite this, the Gunners lost impetus in the second half and failed to really turn the screw on their hosts. Even when Wigan were reduced to ten men following N’Zogbia’s sending off, a one-goal lead never seemed enough and when the home team equalised from a set-piece it felt like an accident that had been waiting to happen.

Many supporters complained that the eight changes that Arsene Wenger made for this match following the Chelsea win was too many but I don’t think this is a valid excuse for what happened at the DW Stadium. None of the players that came in were untried rookies. All of them have plenty of experience, most were internationals and there were no names on the team-sheet that would look out of place in the starting line-up of any current Arsenal team. In fact, most of the players selected for that match were exactly the men who ought to have had a point to prove to the manager. As frustrating as it was to concede yet another goal from a set-piece to draw the match, what was more annoying was the lack of edge and failure to find a third goal to shut the game down with.

Happily though, the experience at Wigan didn’t seem to play on the minds of the players who appeared at Birmingham and the same line-up that had seen off Chelsea delivered the goods again at St Andrews. The free-kick that led to Arsenal’s first goal might have been questionable but it was good to see the Gunners get a goal from a set-piece of their own. The longer the match went on, the more dominant the Gunners became and, with Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri playing starring roles, they could have run away with it by a far wider margin.

So, what did we learn from these three games? Well, for one thing, Arsene Wenger knows what his strongest eleven is at the moment. The team he selected to face Chelsea and Birmingham has to be the one that faces City on Wednesday. It was clear from the Wigan match that players like Denilson, Rosicky, Diaby, Bendtner and Arshavin are not in the sort of form where they can be commanding a place in the starting line-up right now.

In defence, Johan Djourou is currently looking very good. He might go about his business quietly and with the minimum of fuss but he is showing a good deal of strength and solidity at the moment. His performance against Chelsea was particularly assured. Before the match, there was much talk about the hoodoo Didier Drogba has over Arsenal. Thanks to Djourou though, the Ivorian barely got a kick. Whilst we await the return of Thomas Vermaelen, the Swiss international looks like an automatic choice at the centre of defence.

Most heartening though, has been the return to form of Cesc Fabregas. He was suspended for the Wigan match, but against Chelsea and up at Birmingham he showed clear signs that he is really starting to tick again. Due to injury and, possibly, World Cup fatigue, he has had a stuttering start to the season but his last two appearances have suggested he is getting back to his best. We all know how vital he is to the team but if he reaches his peak again between now and the end of the season, coupled with players like Nasri, Wilshere and Chamakh continuing their rich veins of form, then Arsenal are going to be a match for anybody - assuming they can cut out the defensive lapses and the concession of soft set-piece goals.

Manchester City visit Ashburton Grove on Wednesday night for what is going to be another hugely significant match. This will arguably be a more rigorous test of the Gunners’ title credentials than the Chelsea game as City are in far better form having won all three of their Christmas and New Year games. However, Arsenal should be fuelled with confidence by today’s win at Birmingham and the City game is definitely one to look forward to.

Happy New Year.


Posted by Sumit Gangwani on 01/02/2011

Perfect Summary of the three matches...

Posted by fromTheAcadamy on 01/02/2011


I personally thought Nasri and Cesc should have been subbed once we got the 3 goal lead..Some rest before manc match would have helped..what do you think?

Posted by Peter on 01/02/2011

I totally agree!However as the transfer window opens i honestly think we need to strengthen d squad and get rid of some players like Squillaci!

Posted by Anonymous on 01/02/2011

It was indeed a commanding performance by the gunners.this again underline the threat that arsenal poses to every prem league contender this season.I think cesc and nasir are our own version of Xavi and Iniesta as we tend to get good results in most of the matches both of them have started together so far.may be it would have been a different story if we had both of them as starters at old trafford.Teams find it hard to cope with thier joint creativity.Man city,chelsea and birmingham ll understand this notion as the duo tore them to shreds.I jst hope Arsene has leanrt a lesson frm this.

Posted by Paul.o on 01/02/2011

If u pass d blame of d wigan's match on d players, don't give wenger a foothold. Wenger is a gambler, he gambled d wigan's game as evidenced by d win over bmham. Restg eight players is way to much. We lost valuable two points again to a wk team. As 4 d players u mentioned, Rosicky was outstandg in d wigans game, Ashaving, Diaby i agree should've rounded up d game. Above all i want to commend wenger 4 listening to advice 4 d bmham game. D victory is wenger's. Pls Arsen give us 3 points against city. Gunners 4 life

Posted by titansgunner12thman on 01/02/2011

Defense and defending is still a problem for the Arsenal. Squishy and Kos should be the name of a children's show and not starting defenders for a EPL club. It's hard to believe that Djourou has been the best defender for the club.
Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner, are all surplus to requirement. Pair them with Almunia and get two defensive minded players, preferably centerbacks, but CDM and a CB would be good to me. I would prefer Eboue at left back over Clichy. But over the Arsenal seem to be headed upward. The big Chelsea win will help the team morale.

Posted by vania on 01/03/2011

rosicky, betner and abou diaby are certainly not good enough...but i think arshavin and denilson are still qualty players

Posted by mrahman on 01/03/2011

What do you think of the situation at striker since Chamakh seems to have trouble adjusting to the fitness demands of a Premier League winter and Van Persie looks a bit weak at finishing?

Posted by Colin on 01/03/2011

If I have a heart attack in the next few weeks it will be Arsenal's fault.
They remind me of the old nursery ryme.....When they are good they are very very good, but when they are bad they are horrid.
Good luck to the team in 2011, they surely deserve something this year.

Posted by CK on 01/03/2011

On Song

From the players list, the central defence partnership dipped my good hope initially in Arsenal/Chelsea game. As the game went on Djourou proved me wrong and again his performance in Birmingham eased our mind. It is a similar story in Alex Song years ago – a good answer from those who didn’t even gave an eye on to now polish into the main frame solidly and is the backbone of Arsenal line up ( Vermaelen/Song/Fabregas/Nasri/van Persie).

Alex is already on song ( smart move with Nasri and some quick goal), 2F ( Fabianbski and Fabregas) are in fine form, pending is more games for young Djourou to shine and the sharpness from the strikers.

Wed night game against Man City likely another thriller

Posted by SoCal_Gun on 01/03/2011

Your thoughts on Arsenal not getting the hand ball call late in the game against Wigan?

It was on Nasri's free kick. Some Wigan player in their wall raised his hand and hit the ball inside the box. It was even worse than Cesc's vs. Spuds @ the Grove earlier this yr. What's with the referee inconsistency?

And lastly, Lee Bowyer is a thug . He should be suspended for at least 6 games to send a message to other thugs in the league

.....big game @ the Grove vs. Citeh on Wed, and I'm feeling pretty confident

Posted by Ssempeebwa Gerald on 01/03/2011

thanks to the words of captain cesc fabrigas which built confidence in the team after a loss to Manchester united, as a captain that was a good idea to the all team so go on arsenal players and the coach in general!!.

Posted by afeez amure on 01/03/2011

The game against the London Blues was amazing, the team played with determination, courage and resilence that is best performance from Arsenal this season. On the Wigan game, inasmuch I support rotation because of too many matches in few days, the late substitutions marred the precious away win. Does anyone feels Thughiam is playing football or rugby and they even get away with reckless fouls. The scoreline is very interesting,nevertheless with some missed chances.I hope Gunners keep on the momentum.

Posted by ifeanyi udemezue on 01/03/2011

i agree with you Dave. We need to work on the defensive lapses especially the defence of set pieces. I would also think that Fabianski has taken his place in the squad.

Posted by goonman21 on 01/03/2011

Good results over the holiday, but we need 3 point from Man City to make it an awesome one. City have been solid lately, it is going to be a real test. It is good to see our top players finally finding form. The quartet of Walcott, Van Persie, Nasri and Cesc is extremely intimidating. Again they have to improve on finishing, there were too many sitters wasted at Birmingham. Anyway looking forward to Wednesday!!

Posted by blave on 01/04/2011

Great analysis as always. Ultimately it seems Arsenal need to find consistency against all opponents and shore up the defending on set pieces. Great to see Cesc and Samir team up so well! Looking forward to the match with City.

Posted by Maran on 01/05/2011

It is heartening performance by the team in the past 2 games. The boys worked very hard and had made better use of the passing game. At St Andrews, where we often lament about the bad pitch condition, they managed to keep the ball down for most periods and that helped their game. There is a lot more positive movements aided by creativity of Fab and Nasri, hardworking attitude of Wilshere and relentless running by Walcott. Although he was no fox in the box, Persie enabled the passing game nevertheless. The defenders made fewer schoolboy mistakes and that enabled the overall resilience of the team. The sloppy mistakes that led to Ivanovic and the Squilaci own goals still troubles the rational mind. The fact that the frontline is wasting goal scoring chances is also troubling. Not killing the game is risky, especially with the weakness of the backline. The next test against Man City will prove whether the team has what it takes to last the run.

Posted by sammy on 01/05/2011

Please tell Arsene not rotate any player...Chelsea has being using the same set of players for all competions....why cant Arsenal do same??
We need a win today..whether hook or crook..especially by the crook

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David Young Sam Limbert: My retirement as a football player came at the age of 14 due to being rubbish, it's fair to say I was more Kaba Diawara than Thierry Henry, so I turned my focus to writing about the game. I'm a lifelong Arsenal fan and have been lucky enough to watch the team across England and Europe. My favourite Gunner of all time is Dennis Bergkamp, and the 2004 Invincibles is the greatest side I've ever seen in English football. I try to be positive about the Arsenal as it's the hope that keeps us going! Follow me on twitter @SamsMatchReport.

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