Birmingham 0-3 Arsenal: I cannot praise Sagna enough

This is not a proper match report — I am still in Sweden for another two days and things will get back to normal for the Manchester City game on Wednesday — but a quick look at the things that stood out to me in our comfortable win over Birmingham.

Firstly, the squad rotation.

Arsene Wenger made eight changes to the team for the second game running, meaning the same side that ran out against Chelsea did so against Birmingham. Considering the way Manchester United fumbled and bumbled their way to victory over West Brom on Tuesday and considering the fact that Wenger can field as strong a team as he wants in the pivotal game against Manchester City, you have to say his gamble against Wigan was a fair one. Make no mistake, Wenger’s rotation will leave our team fresher than City’s on Wednesday and if we can come away with 10 points from 12, having played two of the other sides in the top four, it will be a terrific outcome.

Secondly, our defensive performance.

It seems in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen that Wenger has found his back-up defensive plan. Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny’s partnership laid the foundations for a terrific defensive performance against Chelsea and last night they largely responsible for our first clean sheet in nine games. Koscielny, like Vermaelen, is an aggressive battler on the ground and a wonderful tackler of the ball. Djourou is strong in the air, calm on the ball and positionally sound. Both players are extremely capable with their feet. What’s not to love?

Thirdly, Cesc and Nasri.

The adulation that Nasri has received this season has been fair, but somewhat misplaced. Just as Andres Iniesta is not Xavi, Nasri is not Cesc and does not have the ability to organise and run a team in the same way that our captain does. Many people have said that if we lose Fabregas in the summer we have, in Nasri, a player ready to step into his shoes. But this is not true and it’s a good thing.

Nasri has been so effective for us this season precisely because he isn’t Cesc. He has scored so many goals because he does not have to be involved in the play all of the time and his mind and body remains fresh when it matters most: around the penalty area. Cesc’s role is to establish the appropriate tempo and rhythm to our side, Nasri’s is to raise the intensity in and around the box.

In many ways Nasri is having the impact that we expected from Andrey Arshavin this season. Yet one of his greatest strengths is his versatility: an ability to play on both wings, in behind the striker or even more defensively to help out the team. He’s having a great season even if Cesc he is not.

Fourthly, Bacary Sagna.

Nasri has been most peoples choice for our best player of the season — indeed, the Premier League’s best player of the season — but what about Bacary Sagna? He’s having an absolutely storming campaign and Birmingham summed up everything good about him as a player: strong in the tackle, strong in the air, incredibly hard-working, increasingly dangerous going forward and hard as nails.

When Lee Bowyer stamped on his leg in act of petulance and an attempt at intimidation, Sagna barely flinched. When Bowyer later raked his studs down the back of Sagna’s calf he was back on the pitch to play in an instant. It’s an attitude towards the game we’ve seen time and time again and one which makes Sagna an remarkably endearing character.

In Australian sport we don’t give out awards for the best player in a season but instead, the best and fairest. For the first half of this season my award would go to Sagna. I cannot praise him enough.


Have your say on Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Birmingham by leaving a comment.



  1. You are spot on abt Sagna there.Good way to start 2011 with a clean sheet.Bring on Adebayor(If he would still be there come Wed) now

  2. I totally agree with your comments. Whilst I admire the way our boys just got on with it in the face of extreme adversity, the fact that there was little or no reaction to some serious foul play meant that the referee was none the wiser. If it was Arsenal dishing it out, I can only imagine how the media would have jumped on it.

  3. This possibly looks like our strongest eleven. When Vermaelen returns, I would certainly pair him with Djourou whose physical presence and recent form should form a formidable partnership. Clearlym our defence looks much better to last season but still, we are way behind in terms of defensive quality when it comes to winning the championship. We need more of those clean sheets and with Mancity around the corner and having beaten them 3 nil away from home, 3 points is not something beyond our capability. As you had mentioned, 10 out of 12 will be an incredible result and could be the required driving force for a strong title challenge in the second half of the season.

    In Wenger We Trust!!!

  4. Yeah and I suppose you condone this dirty bastard kicking our players at Eastlands earlier this year?

  5. I love Sagna. Best right back in the league for a few years now.
    But he still can’t cross.

  6. Not to be pessimistic, but would 8 out of 12 be acceptable? No doubt Nasri is great in almost any position; I especially like his apparent calm in traffic. Sagna has been excellent all season; we will miss him in the home leg against Barca. I also think his crosses are almost always excellent, especially when he goes deep towards the end line. Best of all is sense of when to go forward. You look up and there he is, right where you want him. Man$ity will be a test. I am curious as to whether a draw will be acceptable or a disaster?

  7. Pedmachine, who are you talking about? As for Bac? One of the Top3 right backs in the world for me. Can go unnoticed for all I care, we know what he’s worth.

  8. still it’s a bit of a roller coaster this season, we will see what Wednesday brings, will there be 8 changes again? probably not, it’s Man City, but you never know, the ‘B team’ has to click better, we will see 😉

  9. Great win by the lads last night. Sagna had great game, but I think clichy has been much improved since he has had someone work back and help defend in few recent games, which he has not had from AA23 this season. Think AA needs few more games on bench to give him kick up arse & let him know he can’t walk into team each week.

    Great roundup mate. Big game against city and yeah great point, that if we do win and get 10 from 12pts then u have to give it to wenger and I will owe him an apology for Wigan game. I was so frustrated watching that wigan game tho, right from when i saw starting line up of players out of form

  10. RvP is getting a good run of games & hopefully he’ll soon regain his sharpness (he wasted a couple of glorious chances yesterday but it’s understandable).
    I also hope Chamakh will get some action against City next Wed.
    No new injuries so far (except Diaby) during this festive period. Good sign!!

  11. In childhood our needs are basic and minimum: food, clothing and shelter. But as we grow we are influenced by our inner desires and expectations. Excessive desires and over expectations cause burden, pain and conflict.

    Cutting them down to proper size makes life easier, happier and hassle-free. It gives mental and emotional space to absorb distress, failure, insult, etc. Life does not always work out the way we plan it to be. It is not straightforward, exact and trouble-free all the time because there are many factors and variables in play.

    For example, we suffer because of others, mistakes, when people are rude and stubborn, our computer breaks down, etc. By lowering our expectations we will be surprised with joy when things work out, and when they don’t we will not be devastated.

    Lowering expectations should not be misunderstood with lowering our standards of excellence and effort. It simply means accepting bad moods, mistakes, failures and glitches to be a part of life.

    Over expectation is a sign of self-centeredness. By reducing it we broaden our purview to include others. We learn to consider others, appreciate them, reward them and serve them.

    A shift from being self-centred to all-inclusive takes places. Arrogance gives way to humility, power dissolves into service and dehbhav (believing one’s self to be the body) is eradicated to unveil atmabhav, which is the core to an eternal and blissful life. This is why we need daily prayer in life.

  12. They’ve got (or at least had) one of the meanest defences in the PL. Man U struggled for a draw there (less than a week ago) and Chelski lost there. In their previous nine home league games this season, Birmingham had conceded a total of seven goals and in one match, we score nearly half that number again. THIS is the Arsenal we’ve been waiting for! This is the side we can put out when we’re not wracked with injuries. Cesc, Nas and RvP are the class trio a side with eyes on the title needs. Theo, Song and Jack are an excellent supporting cast. Fabianski is looking more and more solid, as is the rest of the defence. And let’s not forget we have the likes of Chamakh and Arshavin on the bench, with Ramsey and Verm to return soon (I still think Arsh is a lazy git but what a player to be able to bring on for the last 20 mins – even he can run around for 20 mins!). We could still do with one more CB (the Mertesacker rumour are resurfacing) but the one downside to the team looking so good is that it will probably convince Arsene he doesn’t need anyone else. Injuries permitting, we don’t need anyone else and we are due some luck on that front, but please Arsene, don’t rely on it and don’t let this chance slip. Otherwise, one very happy Gooner here having one very happy new year! C’MON YOU GUNNERS!!!

  13. Arsenal’s passing at birmingham at times was a reminiscent of the highbury days. The second goal was stunning: a culmination of a flurry of passes. With such a display, it will be a question of when and who will score rather tham if. Whem will AW starts thomas rosicky regulary? He has the knack of scoring long range volleys.

  14. Andy, that was a great analysis man. Very good observation as to how good Sagna has been this season. I think we did really well with almost 3 new center backs this season. JD played so little the past few years, he is almost new as far as I’m concerned. Normally people would give you a couple of years to get used to the EPL, but these guys were just thrown right into the fire. Koscielny for me is the best CB on one-on-one situations. Yes, he was caught cold a couple of times when he was pulled out of the center covering the left or right backs before. But if you come down in the middle, he almost win every tackle on the ground. As good as Verm is he will struggle for a month or so to get back to match fitness after he comes back. Squil is not a bad defender as some suggested either, his partnership with Kosc seems not to work as desired. The whole defense also works so well when we have players who track back and help in defense. This may turn out to be our success or failure the next few months. If the boss sort this out, we have a very good chance to win it.

    We should also really feel very good as to where we are as our first 11 finally coming together in the second half of the season. We couldn’t say this in last 4 to 5 years. The intense pressure cooker these kids grew up in may finally start to payoff.

  15. totally agree with your comments.

    great to see van persie scoring again. he probably should’ve had a hatty, or even a double hatty. at least he’s making the right runs and in the right position. once he’s been back a little longer, and with his class i’m sure we’ll see the goals flow again. he is absolute class, his touches are poetic.

    i also loved watch arsenal passing in the final 3rd as if it was a training session. nasri and fabregas running a muck is just so nice to watch. we looked great without arshavin and bendtner.

  16. Great win for The arsenal, fantastic result, 7 points from 9 ,GREAT!!

    BUT, you know what made this game very interesting,

    still not convinced about vanpercy as the main striker he is not an opportunist, he missed an easy chance last match AND he is too slow.
    He wants to leave the middle and go all over to create, when he does that we can’t vary our balls into the box, he is not TThenry.

    But no sense fussing about this cause wenger ant going to buy no one full stop……

    As i said before look at walcott his technique is terrible BUT his pace scares the hell out of defenders and his work rate is good, lets keep it up….
    Go Arsenal…..

  17. as an Australian, I somewhat agree with you regarding Sagna. BUT sometimes I think, if you’re getting kicked in such a way, it’s better to go down as if you’ve been shot to ensure the ref sees it and the offending player is sent off. this isn’t diving, this is self-preservation; and the offending player doesn’t deserve any favors from sagna anyway.

  18. Yep Sagna is gonna be a miss for the Barca game, still not too sure abt wallcot his first touch seems to let him down again and again, and quite frankly speaking RVP shld have scored 4 goals, for a player of his class the chances he got he shld have converted them..

  19. Am very happy that Wenger got convinced that Chamak is not our first choice striker. The coach ha s at last restored the order.The reason we have won these two games when our best eleven plays is that the strikers know what to do in running forward and they command fear to any defenders. Guys the truth is that no defender fears Chamak. Happy the Rosicky is second choice to Whishere. Rosicky rarely makes forward runs and shoots on target.I only pray that Wenger brings on the second choice strikers against City in the 85th minute to pass time after we have won. Am always happy as long as Chamak is not a starter ahead of Persie or Bendtner. Walcott is an absolute starter no question.We shall give City a run for their money and Shreeks United will sweet contending with our pressure this season.

  20. Andy,
    Great insight into the Cesc/ Nasri roles, enjoyed that.
    Sagna has been a terrific buy but best player this season? ….Im not so sure mate, was pretty awful against Utd, maybe Im being harsh because of the standard we expect from him but I still think he has more in him, no doubt though he can be world class on his day.
    Kosielny/ Djourou were outstanding, once again I’l take you back to when the question was posed as to who our CD partnership was and how many of you said Squillachi/ Djourou or Squillachi/ Koscielny……this is the pairing and when Verm is back you would have to say Djourou is the selection, another coup for Mr. Webber who shouted from the rooftops for seasons that Djourou was the man for the job when the rest of us dissagreed.
    Anyway on to the City game, I see nothing but 3pts. The way Mancini has approached the big games this year has been to not get beat, managing a win against a shocking poor Chelsea and then playing out the worst goaless draw of the season against Utd…..both at home, hes happy to get a CL spot, its progress for him and I do not see them coming for a win on Wednesday night, and even if they do I cant see them getting a result against our boys in the mood their in, am not usually cocky but I seriously cant see anything but the 3 pts for us.
    Come on
    p.s does anyone remember Emanuel Adebayour?

  21. why is everyone so down on chamakh? the dude plays with heart and has created a number of chances/goals for the team. not saying he’s the greatest, but i don’t get the hate.

  22. Chokha – don’t know who you are but this is an Arsenal blog not a site for your religious prosletysing or rambling. Andrew, can you delete that comment as it lowers the tone!

    Still w’out foxtell here but it should be connected in time for the Man$ity game. They are on a bot of a roll at the moment and have kept few clean sheets so I expect a tight game. Three points would be fantastic.

    Sounds like Lee Bowyer was his normal charming self – leopard and spots…? The guy is and always has been a nasty little shit.

  23. Chamakh is actually way above the rest, is just that it takes time for others to read his mind and vision. Once they blend in,scoring GOAL will be easy because Chamakh makes everybody a scorer. So be patient and give him time. He is an asset to arsenal. Cool it yeah…

  24. Le Boss needs to leave this starting XI well enough alone and let El Capitan runs things on the pitch as he is doing with absolute aplomb right now. They are rampant when he is in form and in control, and he has fashioned a superb attacking midfield with Nasri and Walcott. This is brilliant stuff. Remember back to last summer when a lackluster (for them) Spanish side came alive against the Netherlands when Fabregas came on as a sub. It was his pass to Iniesta that found the back of the net, as his passes can and will do against Manchester City. This is game is another 6-pointer, so I’d like to see RvP upfront on Wednesday and Chamakh starting in the cup ties (I agree with those who have remarked on his quality, but now is the time for RvP as he is finding his flow and range).
    It’s been a great holiday with all nine points save one, and three more up for grabs in 48 hours. Happy New Year everyone (though what do those City malcontents know about happy?)

  25. Alex Hleb was a truly brilliant player when he was at Arsenal – what happened? I actually felt sorry for him to see him in that pile of stinking ordure that is the current Birmingham side.
    This was a cracking win. The leg-breakers tried every trick in the book, I think they even tried playing football for a few minutes near the end, but Arsenal took it and stuffed it back down their throats.
    I’m not getting carried away with our defence because Birmingham have been very poor in attack this whole season so well done to Kosh and Djourou but I’m still hoping AW will buy us a new defender.
    What happened after Nasri’s goal does anyone know? Looked like someone came out of the crowd and tried to have a go at the lads as they were celebrating.
    I’m feeling reeeeeeally pumped up for the man shitty game now. Cuuuurmon yooo Arsenallll!

  26. Ever since Arsenal were drawn against FC Barcelona in the Champions League people have said that we are on a hiding to nothing and that it will be like men against boys.

    Pretty much everyone on this Earth, and their dog, believes that it is simply a formality that Barcelona will crush us. We will be destroyed, or if you like, Barcered.

    In fact, we might be Barcered so bad, that it could be an embarrassment.

    Luckily I don’t follow this herd. Of course I know it will the hardest test we come up against this season. Barcelona ARE the best team in the world but the best team in the world doesn’t always win. The law of averages won’t allow it.

    Who knows? When the time comes around to play these beasts of football they might not look so good. They could be out of sorts, whereas we could be liquorice allsorts, I mean, bang-in-form.

    Football is a funny ol’ game of sorts.

    Of course Barcelona against English teams over two-legs can look superior but how would they cope with the rigours of the Barclays Premier League week-in week-out like we do?

    Teams kick the shit out of Arsenal in most games, that is a scientific fact, and I often wonder how Barcelona would deal with playing against sides determined not to be taken the piss out of all the time.

    Could you imagine Barcelona having to play away, in winter, in consecutive games at grounds like Ewood Park and the Britannia Stadium? Imagine how Carles Puyol and the like would deal with a 100 yard throw-in by Rory Delap or Christopher Samba in your face for 90 minutes?

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe Barcelona are mustard but I don’t think they could handle the English Premier League every week.

    A lot of people think that the standard of the English league has dropped slightly. Maybe in regards to the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea this is true. However the other clubs in the division have improved hugely, more hugely than Frank Lampard’s arse over Christmas.

    The Spanish league is lovely to watch but seriously, in my opinion, it is a glorified Scottish League in truth. I mean no disrespect to the Scot’s but they know the truth. The SPL is a poor league and of course the standard in La Liga is higher than that but you can predict the top two every year.

    I don’t think that Barcelona could walk away with the title in England like they do in Spain. Of course they would challenge for it but I would love to see how they would cope in our league over a season.

    I love the way they play football and could watch them all day long. Could they do that week-in week-out though with teams beating the granny of out them?

  27. great analysis, I gotta say I keep coming back and reading the older posts while waiting for the new ones, I’m quite hyped about the match vs Man City tomorrow, was hoping for some pre-match thoughts (come back from Sweden! :p ). I hope AW keeps roughly the same squad from the Birmingham game, even though some of the lads may feel a bit tired, as they may still go on for 60-65 minutes, I think, it’s better to start with our strongest 11 and do some changes after the break. I’m really hoping for a victory, took the day off from work :)) GO GUNNERS!

  28. Diffrence in Arsenals game is simple. They are pressing higher up the pitch. The wing players are helping the right and left full backs man mark players. In our last match you could see three players soround a player when he gets the ball. Walcot said le boss said they should mark from the front. It puts less pressure on the defence. It also helps the defensive mid fileder (song) to scoop loose balls. i hope we continue…… United are 5 points clear we can not afford to loose.

  29. Yeah i agree that Sagna has been great so far but still needs improvement.

    Wilshere for me holds higher than Nasri and Sagna.Sagna and Nasri spent more matches to achieve the level they have now,but compare wilshere.He adapted himself to the role where denilson ,diaby or even Rosicky failed to adapt after considerable chances.Everyone thinks wilshere as part of the first team now ,it says the rest.

    What else do you except from a young lad who filled the missing crux of our midfield?

    He deserves to be the player of the season for the first half of the season.

    Andrew why don’t you reconsider?

  30. @tres 5:41
    All ex-Gunners too. Maybe Wenger has nose for getting rid of the riffraff and sent them all to Eastlands? What did ol’ Mick sing all those years ago?
    “Cause in sleepy London town there’s just no place for a Street Fighting Man!”
    Seriously, I don’t know how well deserved the growing reputation is at City. I think any endeavor anywhere (read: big time sport) that pays a s#$tload of wages to teenagers and twenty-somethings to play a game can expect an excess of adrenaline and testosterone at practices and pretty much everywhere else. I’m amazed at how well the majority keep it all in check and how decent and level headed some of them genuinely can be (our Cesc being a prime example).

  31. Hi All, Back from the midlands which in these parts means Wisconsin.
    A fine performance by the Lads and by our supporters who sang the Birmingham rabble out of the park. Sagna is a true professional and worthy of all the praise he receives which isn’t nearly enough.
    Which Arsenal will show up against Man City is the only question. I’m hoping it’s the club that played Chelsea and Birmingham with such stout resolve and not the dis-interested XI that showed up for West Brom.

  32. i have read a few blogs around the web concerning this game. Much has been made of Lee Bowyer. How about that other jamoke who stamped straight onto Koscielnys ankle. The lad had no one else around him, and instead of putting his boot down on the grass, he places it kindly onto Kos’s ankle. C*nts, the lot of em!! heres to a good performance at Man$ity (Dzeko is the new savior!! just like Balotelli, Tevez, Jo, Roque Santa Cruz, Adebayor and whoever else they’ve binged on)

  33. How many bust-ups has Roberto Mancini had to deal with in his time at Manchester City? I stopped counting at 3421.

    It seems every week that the Italian has to deal with yet another spat between his players. To me it appears there are too many big time charlies at Eastlands with massive egos.

    Emmanuel Adebayor probably has the biggest opinion on himself on this planet. I’m sure this is a humongous reason why Arsene Wenger snatched up the £25m for him offered by City.

    The Togolese man has to decide whether he wants to box his team-mates or play football with them. I see today he has had another tear-up, this time with another former Gunner Kolo Toure.

    Now Kolo is a very mild-mannered player and peaceful person. We saw that in all his years with us, so for him to decide that he wants to be Rocky for 5 minutes says a lot about the tension up at Manchester.

    It’s not in Kolo’s nature to act this way, especially towards a team-mate, so I blame Adebayor. The man is a pure liability, despite having ability, and having someone like him in the squad is bound to cause serious grief.

    Looking at the amount of arguments and bare-knuckle fighting going on at Manchester City tells me that things aren’t all rosy behind the scenes at the club. Despite this they sit third in the table and I think Mancini is doing a good job there.

    People say it’s good to have feisty players and that a little bit of fighting between players is better than having a group of softies but I don’t 100% agree with that. Of course you want winners but surely its better to have a bunch of players who get on?

    You sense that with the Arsenal players. Arsene Wenger has had this squad together for a while now and its clear that they all get on. There is plenty of harmony within the Arsenal ranks, something that clearly isn’t there at City.

    That’s why I think Mancini is going a good job keeping Manchester City in the title race. It must be hard trying to keep on top of several egotistic footballers desperate to be the number one player at the club.

    Its easy to say that the players are professionals and a few disagreements shouldn’t affect performances on the pitch but in the end I think it will tell. I can honestly see Manchester City self-destructing this season.

    At the moment they are challenging for honours so these minor boxing matches can be overlooked but there could be a moment things take a turn for the worst and I can vision a Royal Rumble at the City of Manchester that not even Hulk Hogan could referee.

    If the City squad actually began to like each other like Arsenal’s do then the rest of the Premiership would probably be in serious trouble. You can say all you want about them spending more money than Elton John does on flowers, in my opinion they have the most talented squad in the league.

    Luckily for the rest of us they don’t seem to like each other much so a melt-down of extra-large proportions is most likely to be round the corner. We of course can take advantage of that, especially tomorrow at the Emirates. Maybe that is where the spectacular fall-out begins.

  34. @Coolman @ jet, no one hates Chamak. We all know he is intelligent in the air and equally know that he has slow feet and less intelligent at shooting not forgetting a lack of pace. Compared to our established strikers in Theo and Persie he does not fit at all as the two complement each other with speed and urgency in front of goal.Having noted that, Wenger shouldn’t be giving Chamak a whole 90 minutes when our usual suspects are there. With great respect to Chamak, i find no bigger difference between him and Bendtner though either of the two must be partnered with a pacy partner who we have in VELA.

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