Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham: A guest report from Emirates Stadium

AFCB’s newest writer Andrew Luck – the third Andrew on our team! – gives us a fascinating account of Arsenal v Birmingham from a place we would all love to be: in the stands at Emirates Stadium.

My route from the south of the capital, otherwise known as the London Outback on account of the absence of transport infrastructure and the countless feral gangs of disgruntled youths looking for a role (or maybe just a decent team to support), doesn’t really begin to pick up the Arsenal Trail until I reach King’s Cross.  There, as if by magic, countless thousands interchange and head on up the Piccadilly Line towards Ashburton Grove, past the temporarily closed nearest station at Holloway Road.

The resultant compression through Arsenal Tube Station is the predictable outcome, but fans squeeze through in the knowledge we at least have the only tube station named after a football club – our football club – and the warm glow generated by knowing full well this very fact still rankles like a festering wound with our friendly neighbours down the Lane of Pain, leaves everyone feeling very good-humoured.

The view from Block 127, Row 14

I reach The Clock End, camera in hand, with plenty of time to absorb the pre-match build up.  The mood is uncertain but we know we can’t afford to lose and a draw will only encourage the tiny but vocal groupette of anti-Wengerites.  Trouble is, following recent results against Sunderland, West Brom and Chelsea, do we truly believe we can win?

When I reach my seat, Block 127, Row 14, I’m delighted to see Wenger is planning on doubling our goals tally by taking the imaginative precaution of installing a second goal at the Birmingham end.  No doubt he’ll get criticised for that as well in some quarters but I think this could be a goer and certainly Brum seem to have already worked out their match tactics to counter this, lining up with a remarkable 4-6-0 defensive formation and one which would have surely been rejected at Dunkirk as being unnecessarily negative.

But enough of the nonsense – in the end, as we now know, Arsenal got back to winning ways against a Brummie side that remained as stubbornly bereft of attacking ideas as they were of ambition.  The first half saw a very welcome and much overdue return to form for both Clichy and Diaby; a rare case of an international break doing us favours although one wonders whether the benched presence of Gibbs and a soon-to-be-returning Fabregas had any impact on their respective mind

sets.  Prior to his leg break at Sunderland, Diaby was, for me, one of our brightest prospects.  There were prolonged glimpses of that young player today and whilst he didn’t get a much-deserved goal, he spent most of the afternoon threatening to do so.

McLeish really did appear to line up six in the midfield ahead of a flat back four throughout the afternoon. The most surprising outcome of the afternoon, therefore, was the goal this bizarre line up fashioned against an admittedly static Arsenal defence guilty, for once, of the kind of ball-watching I don’t believe would have been tolerated by either Vermaelen or Koscielny.  Their goal followed a prolonged period of interminable time-wasting by the Bores in Blue and as a way of softening up a defence through the novel tactic of ‘audience disengagement’, it at least made a change from the usual rough-house tactics, broken legs and stretcher-bearers.

As the first half closed and the sun started setting on a match strangely unbalanced at 1-1, the view out the window (below) from my pie-station across the London skyline (look carefully) was superb even by Arsenal’s magnificent standards.

A beautiful view

There were rumours before the game that footballing grey matter had in fact been detected inside the skull of ‘referee’ Atkinson whose hopeless sense of timing was the least of his worries.  Those rumours by the start of the 2nd half, had long been killed off, as were the hopes of anyone wishing to see a flowing game of grown up sensible football.  In one unbelievable sequence, having seen Diaby ride two blatant Birmingham fouls and go through on goal following a third, the moron, sorry, Man in Black called back play to book Bowyer for the third incident and allow Birmingham generous opportunity to regroup. Suffice to say, if Atkinson and his mercifully absence apprentice, Stuart Atwell, ever turn up to a ground near you, take my advice and just go home. Even if home is Sydney, Australia.  Seriously.

Brum will probably never get a better opportunity to put a win over Arsenal and though the headlines will be different thanks to Jack’s moment of madness at the end, those same headlines should actually train their fire on a Midlands manager up against an injury weakened Arsenal side, itself riddled with a spine of anxiety comprising a returning Djourou, a nervous Fabianski, an (over) eager to impress Eboue, and, in the Nick of time, an un-match fit Bendtner, finally returning to the fold.

Anxiety on the pitch was matched in the seats every time Song surged forward abandoning his old berth for the glamour and risk of dangerously advanced positions on the pitch.  This he can only be doing with Wenger’s blessing in order to mix up the play to avoid the opposition ganging up on Wilshire – that’s my only explanation and came to me having found a darkened room to lie down in and contemplate the matter at length.  After his sending off, one can only imagine Wenger will in future allow opponents to gang up on Jack, such must be his profound irritation with the gifted little scamp who has, with one fell double-footed swoop, taken the heat off Pulis, Allardyce and co.

Sadly for Wilshire, the headlines will probably be dominated The World’s Worst Referee making virtually his only correct decision of the day with his red card for the young player.  On an Afternoon of Irritation, this all happened towards the end of a lengthy, prolonged and entirely unjustified period of 2nd half injury time in a game of remarkably few injuries and even fewer correct decisions by the appalling official.  Atkinson was booed off at half time for ignoring blatant opposition time-wasting and for being rubbish. You could argue that it was wrong for his assistants to join in the booing but there you go, he was that bad.

The setting sun gave the stadium a gorgeous post-match glow

Both our goals came either side of the break and Nasri’s expertly taken penalty and Chamakh’s awesome presence of mind in taking the ball around the Birmingham defence brought much needed respite from the growing crowd anxiety and it would have surely taken a miracle for Birmingham to have scored a second equalising goal.  The tragedy for them is that had they taken note of Sunderland and West Brom’s approach to their recent games against us they may well have got much more from the game.  In the end, Fabianski was given a no more than a moderate workout and there were few alarm bells beyond the occasional long ball or hustled surge that was by and large dealt with quite robustly.

Our next game, against Donetsk will provide a more conventional challenge to our new found winning ways and aside from Jack’s dismissal, my only real regret on the day was not seeing young Theo hit the grass and I left the stadium, with one of the loudest cheers of the day still ringing round my head.  And this for a player read out as one of the substitutes.


Have your say on Andrew’s report from the stands of Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Birmingham by leaving a comment.



  1. That has to be the most one sided rose tinted view I’ve ever read on a game. No mention of the “Dive” for the pen and no mention of Eboue’s foul which also should have seen red. But I guess you must only see the same as Mr Wegner!!

  2. What absolute dross. How can you say we lined up 4-6-0 when we blatantly had Zigic up front with Hleb just off him? This article just stinks of the Arsenal superiority complex (we play beautiful football, we never go in hard on the opposition, how dare you tackle us we are ze beautiful team who will walk it into ze net).

    I agree with your sentiments re: Atkinson. The bloke’s an idiot. He also gave a ridiculous penalty against us at Villa last season. He also should of sent off Diaby for a horrendous tackle on Ridgewell. Still, nice to see despite your millions and fantastic talent you still need to dive like Tom Daley in the box to win penalties against ‘poor’ opposition.

  3. @ Mezz / Tom Hatton – I’m gathering you are both Birmingham fans by your comments.

    First things, thanks for coming onto the blog and giving your opinions. It’s always good to have opposition fans come on and leave comments that aren’t “UR SH*T, Wenger is a…” and so on.

    We could argue at length about the contentious points in this game – and there were a lot: the penalty, Wilshere’s red card, Eboue’s tackle, Johnson’s elbow on Chamakh (can’t say I remember Diaby’s tackle, dodgy stream maybe?) – but the point of this article more than anything was for Andrew to give us a bit of insight into life at The Emirates.

    I’ll be posting some more regular thoughts on the game later today and I encourage you both to come back and discuss, but in the meantime just bare in mind that this is an article for the fans who don’t get to watch live football in England every week to get a bit of a feel for it.


  4. The really shameful thing about this game was Dann lying that he never “touched” Chamakh. The tv clearly shows that there was contact, it’s possible to argue that the player went down too easily, but to claim “no contact” is plainly a lie, and a disgraceful one.

    My personal opinion, fwiw is that Chamakh had already lost his balance and was falling over when his foot was caught by Dann, far from diving, I din’t think there was any way he could have stayed on his feet. Was it a penalty? who knows, but my advice for defenders in the box would be to try and tackle by playing the ball, rather than the players feet, that way you will probably concede less penalties, if the ball has already gone it’s probably wise not to lunge in. And Carr committed a red card “tackle” and Chamakh was clearly deliberately elbowed in the face, and Bowyer should have had at least four yellow cards.

  5. yeah, I agree that the comments above needed this clarification, I like this sort of description very much, it’s rather a short – story than a Match-review, and with this pics: class 😎

  6. It amazes to see opposition fans commenting on Arsenal blogs.nice article though irrespective of what d critics say they should jst go watch the spud game to see absymal reffreing.

  7. Re: Famfam- Why would it amaze you? We’re all football fans and surely discussing the game at length is one of the things that makes it great. You can talk to other fans than your own you know?

    The Diaby tackle was actually the Eboue tackle, I got confused. I will hold my hands up regarding the Johnson elbow and maybe that evens out Nasri’s blatant knee in the back on Ridge. This game does have a bit of spice in it nowadays since the Eduardo ‘incident’. The same thing could of happened to Zigic on Saturday if his foot had been planted so hopefully the blinkered Arsenal fans amongst you may realise it is not targeting of certain players and purposeful dangerous tackles, it is just bad timing.

    It is very rare for the Arsenal to get out passed and out played (Albion game aside) so you have to come with regimented banks of four when you have inferior talent, this is part of football as well and shouldn’t be mocked or derided.

  8. @ Famfam – Yes, that is a strange point of view. I often read opposition blogs when we play them, it’s good to see what their opinions of the game are.

  9. Good article little different from the rest, but please tell how on earth that wasnt a penalty, there was definite contact, always ppl are gonna whine they got the ball no contact, where were all these stories when ronaldo was on the field??? When rooney dives against us??? oh we are arsenal dont have english lad’s so we are to blame.. OK bad tackle wilshire has agreed to it, and says will learn from it what more do you want??? your player isnt injured, the manager accepts it, the player accepts it, no one is coming out and saying thats part and parcel of the game.. And btw Zigic was more in the team to def than attack.. If you call your managers stratergy great plz tell me why people like Derbyshire etc werent called of the bench while you people were trailing also?

    Anyways moment of the match Wishire dispossesing Helb in the middle of the park..

  10. I have no problem reading and even discussing with the opposition fans their views on things, but read Tom Hatton’s original post again and you will see that it just spews vitriol against Arsenal more than it comments on the game. “Arsenal superiority complex”, mock French using “ze”, “your millions”, “dive like Tom Daley” andthen top it all with an entirely biased one eyed review of bad tackles in the game. Unwelocme in my view. (oh, and forr goodness sake, it’s “should have” not “should of” – English is not speak as you hear).

  11. I find it highly amusing when one resorts to mocking another’s grammar/spelling etc and then litters said response with mistakes. Anyway…

    I USED to have massive respect for Arsenal, the way you try to play the game has to be applauded but I feel that as time has gone on Wenger has caricatured himself into a one eyed manager with double standards. If my view on the ‘tackles’ during the game was so one sided why did I agree with the condemning of Johnson’s elbow? Is your eyesight as bad as your manager’s?

    At the end of the day a selection of your fans have done the rest of you no favours by being holier than thou with regards to tackling therefore you shouldn’t be surprised when fans of other clubs are up in arms when you behave in such a hypocritical manner. For instance the Eboue tackle was just as bad as De Jong’s, I’m really trying to be impartial when saying that, I genuinely feel it was a shocking challenge and worse than Wilshere (who looks a fantastic player by the way).

    Congratulations on the 3 points and all the best for the season.

  12. Mr Weber, surely if the idea of the article is to give a feel of the match to those that do not watch regular football then the article should give a true reflection of events. I have never read such a biased and untrue report on a game in my life. Not a word on the use of a tackle by Arsenal players that Arsene Whinger has been campainging for months to have outlawed. Of course, the Wiltshire tackle was purely bad timing, however when Taylor did the same at St Andrews, Whinger was calling for him to be banned from football !! The man is making a laughing stock of himself with his idiotic rantings. Can you imagine the fuss from Whinger if a Blues player had blantantly dived for a penalty. The truth is that Whinger will not be happy until his players can play without fear of being tackled whilst his own team can kick and dive at will. How can anyone take a single word that he says seriously?

  13. @Tom Hatton…..”For instance the Eboue tackle was just as bad as De Jong’s” the difference being of course while Eboue admittedly did end up with his legs in the scissor position his trailing knee did not shatter Ridgewell’s fibula thankfully negating the need for the oxygen and the defender having to carry his shattered leg to hospital in a tesco bag!
    I think this “holier than thou” crap is getting out of hand. Arsene has never once adopted a position other than “bad tackles have no place in the game” regardless of who does them. When you trot out that line you start to put yourself in the Robbie Savage mold and your post indicates more intelligence than that. As for Wenger’s eyesight he seemed to have no problem with seeing Wilshere’s tackle or Eboue’s unlike Alex McLeish who seemed to overlook the bad challenges of Johnson and co while suggesting Arsenal could have ended with 7. I do not approve of Samir’s actions but he was kicked by a Birmingham player…and red card offence as well if I am not mistaken.

  14. well it is really nice to hear from people(fans) who are not from arsenal, at least it shows that the bolg is growing….what i do not understand is them shouting since that day that Chamakh dived, they should pls tell me one stricker who does not dive?… and they should pls tell me if the elbow there stricker gace chamakh is good?… if they can not, then they should shut up… concerning Wishire to pls watch is tackels, this is no bolton…..pls, pls help me tell song to pls stay at the back, i am always having a heart attack anytime he goes forward, ls help me tell him

  15. It’s disappointing!

    I didnt read all the blog, but i’m more talking about the match result…

    When you have stats like the ones of this game (check below) you expect to put away atleast a good number of goals.

    20 Goal Attempts
    8 On Target

    We should be punishing teams like that… i have nothing against Birmingham, but we are a world Class team, we should be showing what we are week in and week out! We won’t win the league with performances like that.

  16. I personally felt that Wilshare’s tackle wasnt supposed to be a red card offence. I have seen worse that went away with yellow. Another reason was that it was one leg and left leg for that matter. lol

    Song wouldnt have gone front if Wenger hadnt instructed him. That is beauty of football, for us to have something to discuss about at the end of the ball. So, dont be annoyed, wait for your turn.

    One thing am certain and expecting is another penalty against Mancity. Chamak will earn one and Nasri another.


  17. Please learn to recognise the difference between poor typing and basic English grammar mistakes, Tom, but then why should I expect you to understand that. Perhaps if your first comment had been more measured like your latest response you would have earned more respect for your views and I could forgive your poor education ( but then that’s just my superiority complex forcing its way through). I enjoyed the three points.

  18. Football aside Shooy. Poor education? I understand that the value of degrees is being diluted by a reward happy education system but personally I feel my qualifications still carry enough weight for me not to be classed as poorly educated.

    All the best.

  19. You seem to be camped in the world of Arsenal today, Tom.

    lndeed, the value of degrees does seem to have been severely diluted since my time. I suggest you use the intelligence that would be required to obtain the qualifications you claim to teach yourself proper English grammar. Your repeated error really is very very basic. Standards, dear boy 😉

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist another dig, but you and the other pathetic Arsenal haters have really got on my nerves today, particularly with some of the cheap and boringly predictable digs at Wenger. Forget the myopia of fans on both sides (me included), but practically every other club in England would fall over each other if they got the chance to land Wenger as their manager tomorrow.

    Anyway, that’s enough of my own childishness. I’ll be ashamed of myself soon. Good luck.

  20. Shooy, you pompus git, should understand that poor spelling is just as bad as poor grammar. To hide behind poor typing as an excuse for being unable to spell is abysmal.

  21. Shooy,

    “Your repeated error really is very very basic”

    Should there not, great master, be a comma after the first very?

    Standards dear boy, standards.

  22. This is all getting a bit unsavoury. There’s no need to slag each other off over this, best to stick to the points from the game and discuss them in a respectful manner. Otherwise it brings the quality of conversation on the blog down and prevents others from wanting to have their say.

  23. I loved this article,I shall always think of Wilshere as a `gifted little scamp`…Iv`e always thought that he could star in `Oliver` as the artful dodger! I also wonder if the ref made an example of young Jack because of Wenger`s stance on bad tackling.If you actually read what the great man has said,he loves to see a `good executed` tackle,he only wants to stop the over aggressive,possible injury causing ones by twats that need to learn the art.Whatever is said about the game,Arsenal more than deserved to win.Birmingham fans need to accept this and stop whining about how hard done by they were.

  24. tried to bring it back to football on a couple of occasions though it appears Shooy is akin to a dog with a bone when it comes to grammer.

    I do feel that it is unfair to criticise us for coming to the Emirates with a game plan (getting a point and or nicking a 1-0). Surely it is sensible to play this way at your ground than to throw everything forward and get picked off by a superior side. I stand by the fact we are not a dirty side and DO try to play football (though Saturday wasn’t the best example of this). We don’t deserve to be in the same bracket as Blackburn and Wolves.

    Regarding the last post, yes you deserved to win but after seeing Blues defend superbly for the past 12 months to be undone by a very, very dubious penalty is disheartening. I feel that was the turning point that cost us at least a point despite being second best.

    Thanks for the reasoned debate (most of you).

  25. I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to write for this blog – in my opinion, one of the best around (or it was before I turned up) but thanks for all the feedback, much appreciated. Just by way of brief clarification, the photo taken at the top is from my actual seat which means there is plenty of the play that can be missed – at the time none of us at the Clock End had any idea why we had our headed goal ruled out, for example and that’s just part and parcel of the excitement and chaos at the game that you just don’t get in front of the tv. There ARE two big-screens in the main arena but these are not permitted to show anything even vaguely controversial, in case, presumably, the (bi)-partisan crowd rise up and, being largely English, actually come out and say something. I wrote everything based on what I saw at the time and deliberately avoided watching the tv coverage after the game to try to preserve this. I’m sorry if Birmingham fans take exception to my negativity towards their team’s tactics (and references to Dunkirk were I admit, partly tongue in cheek) but the bottom line is, despite having one of the league’s tallest strikers against one of league’s smallest goalies, your team declined to really seriously test our defence in the way that both Sunderland and West Brom did and ultimately payed a price for that. My final word – I can’t resist – having since read post-match reactions, how heavily ironic it is that Birmingham are complaining about how rough the Arsenal players are these days! I have no doubt the signings of Vermaelen, Squillaci, Koscielny and Chamakh were all motivated by a desire at least in part to ‘toughen’ up the squad and the loss of comparative lightweights (such as Hleb) will enable us to stand up to the Chelseas of the world as much as Blackburn, Bolton and the rest. And I think there will be more from where they came (not to mention that bully Wilshire!). Cheers people. A

  26. Pompous! – I am a pompous git – o u s – bluessince1964. You will find there is no need for a comma between the two verys; there is no pause in the sentence, nor is there an “and” that needs replacing, nor is it an enumeration. On the other hand, you should have placed a comma after “Standards”. 🙂

  27. I actually was able to watch this game from America online and since I’ve never actually been to a football match in England, period, I appreciated this. Thanks, Andrews.

  28. Much more reasonable, Tom. Why couldn’t you have started in that more civil tone? That post is indeed the basis for a reasoned debate. Valid points expressed in a straight forward manner without an Arsenal insult in sight. Now I am being a patronising git. I’m gone now!

  29. excellent Blog, thanks for a refreshing viewpoint the first 2 “contributors” are nutters and I bet they speak with that funny accent!

  30. Splendid article Andy, save for these anti-arsenal retards! Arsenal play clean football and you say they don’t have the grit to win games or they go down too easily (like Eduardo and Ramsey did). Now when they get nasty you morons start whining about double-standards from Arsenal. C’mon you never expected us to turn the other cheek. You are just trying to justify Shawcross and I bet Wilshere learnt from him, only not too well! if you play in a dirty league you are bound to get dirty(a case of bad company ruining good morals) If Arsenal play dirty football as often as you want to make it look, you ought to have said this long ago. But oh well, you were never justified to make this noise before, because this never happens as often as you would like it to. Get a life and try gaining points. Need I remind you that you’re just a point above relegation Zone? GOONER FOREVER!

  31. The tackle from wilshire was bad and got what it deserved. BUT you know what, Arsenal have been victims of bad tackle for years.
    BUT i look at this in two ways
    1. If its one thing i agree with wenger with (and I don’t agree with many) and that’s the point of the FA being the ones to make and enforce the laws to prevent these types of tackle because wilshire is using the fact that it was mistake made because he is young. I disagree YES he’s young but that is no a good reason to lunge in on people if the FA had put the right laws in place they could have now gone back and punish him so he would think twice before doing it again.
    2. At last arsenal seem to finally finally get the point you cannot win this league without be physical being physical is a must
    I can bet you if we play like this at mancity for sure we won’t loose because as tomorrow will come they will be very physical and that’s the mentality if a team come’s to play football then we play if they come to fight and tackle high then we do the same full stop…………..

  32. I actually really appreciate the article of Mr. Andrew Luck, coming from the Philippines we only get to watch Arsenal play on the tube or on some horrible sports streaming websites. It would be nice to read more articles like such, gives us Arsenal fans in the far east a feel of what goes on there in North London during matchdays. Cheers!

  33. Thanks for your feedback Jay – I had many years of being unable to get to see Arsenal play so this post was written very much for people like yourself who can only admire a very special club from afar. I really take my hat off to all those of you who follow the club from distance, especially from abroad and the good people behind this site (kind enough to publish my piece) do a really great job in bringing the club closer to all fans, everywhere. I am now about to leave the London Outback and head off into the night to watch the Donestk match – I hope your sports streaming website treats you well tonight! Cheers to you. A

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