Journal: John RSS

Why the win against Birmingham was much more than a victory for Arsenal

As I sit nursing a throbbing head sustained not through over-zealous revelry celebrating the change from one calendar to another but through absent-mindedly thumping my head into a beam in my French house, I can feel some sympathy with how the Arsenal players must be feeling this morning nursing their many wounds from a bruising encounter away at Birmingham yesterday.

Of course my pain can be said to be self inflicted and it is about time I learnt to duck when walking around a house built for people several inches shorter than me, but not even the viciously vindictive would comment that it was good to see the beam get stuck in like that or that the beam let me know he was there.

Arsenal's assured 3-0 win over Birmingham yesterday showcased an extreme clash of footballing styles, with Arsenal at their free-flowing attacking best, while Birmingham's footballing style - well come to think of it, calling it a 'footballing style' would be something of an affront so lets go with 'cowardly thuggery style' instead.

Before the game, fans of ancient history who remembered Birmingham's previous penchant for dismantling Arsenal players limbs will have expected more of the same this time and were certainly not disappointed.
Within minutes of the start of the game Rodger Johnson went in late over the ball in a challenge on Fabregas, planted his studs forcefully into the Spaniard's leg and was extremely lucky to receive only a yellow card.

And so it continued, there was of course plenty of niggling from the Birmingham players within, without and bending of the rules, while the Arsenal players admirably attempted to continue with a game of football.

A foul on Robin van Persie created the free-kick for Arsenal's first goal, Nasri rifled in a sumptuous strike for the second, and Rodger Johnson poetically profited from the fact that he had managed to stay on the pitch by turning the ball into his own net after a delightful interchange between Nasri and Fabregas for the third.

Arsenal's third goal gave the Gunners the opportunity to step off the pace and conserve control of the ball against their hapless defeated opponents. With any hint of a contest throughly vanished from the game Lee Bowyer - himself famed for being an upstanding and thoroughly decent gentleman, found Arsenal's superiority a little too much for his taste and made this disgraceful stamp on Sagna, and later raked his studs down Sagna's Achilles.

Earlier Jerome had made this stamp on Koscielny which is possibly defensible as in-deliberate, benefit of the doubt and all that.

And this is why I said in the title of this post that it was more than a victory for Arsenal yesterday. More broadly it was a victory for football over cowardly thuggery and for the Gunners it was every bit as important as the win over Chelsea, showing that they will no longer be bullied out of games by such base tactics.

The Guardian and Daily Mail report that Bowyer faces possible F.A. sanctions over his assaults on Bacary Sagna, the poor lamb!

Arsene Wenger after the game said he had yet to see replays of Bowyer's attacks on Sagna and would thus restrain from commenting until he had. Birmingham manager McLeish for his part said he "did not see" any of the assaults perpetrated by his players during the game. Did you see what he did there? The cad! How very witty of him!

Danny Murphy was ridiculed by the League Managers Association and many pundits recently when he suggested that managers were winding up their players before games, telling them to go out on the pitch with the intention of hurting the opposition's players.

My question is does anyone in their right mind really believe this is not the case?

It is a true problem of English football that rather than take on board Murphy's comments at the time, he was quickly and broadly ridiculed. The same of course is true for Arsene Wenger whenever he has the audacity to complain about the assaults on his players.

The fact that teams get away with these sort of assaults match after match, season after season lends legitimacy to their tactics and as long as they are unpunished, they will continue these filthy tactics. It's really best that we do not get into the reasons why this behavior is not punished by referees during games as logically there are only two possible reasons why it is consistently unpunished - Either the referees are willfully ignoring these assaults (where I come from this is called cheating) or they are just consistently grossly incompetent.
Which really is quite a mess that should be left to be unraveled in another post at another time.

And with that I am off to nurse my aching head and the feeling that this may be the year where I complete my metamorphosis into a grumpy old man.

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