After the disappointment of dropping two points to Wigan on Wednesday night Arsenal are straight back into Premier League action today with a tough trip to play Birmingham City. The game kicks off at 5.30pm which means that it's live on TV and Arsenal fans won't have to spend hours trawling through rubbish to find a good stream like a lot of them had to do on Wednesday night.
Of course the TV companies have this game on as Arsenal have had trouble winning away to Birmingham, and there's nothing they like more than to broadcast Arsenal losing to a lesser team, so that they can tell Arsenal fans where their team's problems lie.
On Wednesday night it was obvious to me at least that the problem was that too many changes were made from the team that beat Chelsea on Monday. If Arsene Wenger had made four or even five changes I think that Arsenal would still have had enough to come through the game with the three points they wanted. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and there is no point crying over spilled milk, as the saying goes. Arsenal have to try to ensure that they get the three points against Birmingham, and then follow that up with another three points against Man City on Wednesday night.
I am fairly sure that the boss will play the same team against Birmingham as he did against Chelsea. There is no point in resting players for the City game if it costs Arsenal points against Birmingham. With the extra couple of days rest I hope that Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie and Alex Song will be at their best again, after the boss said that they are all to rejoin the squad.
Birmingham play a very pragmatic game that isn't exactly pretty on the eye, but it can be quite effective at times. They did very well to finish in the top 10 of the Premier League last season in their first season back after promotion. However their failure to win enough games has them in a position just outside the relegation zone. They have only lost at home once this season, and that record stretches back for more than a year. It means that all of the top club have gone to St. Andrew's and left without three points. So far this season they have beaten Chelsea and drawn at home to "Manure", and it will be a very difficult game for Arsenal.
The Arsenal players can expect tackles to come flying in at each and every opportunity, and the likes of Lee Bowyer just loves to get the boot in on his opponents. Added to that they have the gigantic Nikola Zigic up front, and he is sure to cause Arsenal problems from set pieces. I hope that Johan Djourou plays because he is the only player Arsenal have who has any chance of challenging Zigic in the air. I'm not fond of the central defensive pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci, and a recent poll I ran found them to be the least favourable pairing in that role among all of Arsenal's centre backs.
Arsenal need to play the game at their pace, and push Birmingham players when they are in possession. That tactic worked very well against Chelsea, and led to Arsenal's second and third goals, and Chelsea are a far better team than Birmingham. That's of course supposing that Birmingham are actually in possession of the ball, as the chances are they will play it lonf as quick and as often as possible.
I thought Cesc looked like he is finally on his way back to his best as he scored one goal, and made the other two against Chelsea. When he's on form he's a dream to watch, and his ability to see a pass and execute it are second to none. RVP still has a way to go as he looks to regain his best form, but I saw enough against Chelsea to suggest that it's a battle he is winning.
I also think that Samir Nasri has the ability to make Stephen Carr look very ordinary in the right back role for Birmingham. I hope that he sees enough of the ball to put Carr under real pressure, as I feel it's an area Arsenal can exploit. He should also swap sides occasionally with Theo Walcott, as the young Englishman is far too fast for Carr, and he is well able to capitalise when he cuts in from the left on his right foot. I have been very impressed by his finishing this season, and I hope to see plenty more goals from him.
To be honest any team that Arsenal put out should have the ability to win, but football games aren't won on ability only. If Arsenal play with the drive and enthusiasm that they showed against Chelsea I think that they will win, but it won't be easy. I'm predicting a 2-1 win with RVP hopefully getting on the scoresheet. With "Manure", Chelsea, Man City and The Spuds all having what look like much easier tasks this weekend it's vital that Arsenal get the three points to stay right in the middle of the title race.
With the news that young Havard Nordtveit is set to join Borussia Munchengladbach, as he looks for first team football, the boss said that he has not ruled out signing a player in January. He also said that Arsenal are not close to signing anyone, but I think that he will possibly pursue a target if Thomas Vermaelen doesn't recover from his injury very soon. He also said that Carlos Vela may be allowed to go out on loan, as he deserves to play some football, and he isn't getting the chance at Arsenal at the moment.
With Aaron Ramsey's loan deal with Nottingham Forest not being extended due to Abu Diaby's injury, the boss is hoping that Ramsey will be fit to play for Arsenal in February. He rued the fact that the poor weather meant that Ramsey didn't play as often as was hoped with Forest, but there was nothing that could be done about it.
Here's Samir Nasri's brief cameo away to Birmingham last season in which he almost won the game.
See You Tomorrow.