Arsenal Premier League Player Ratings vs. Birmingham City: 3-0:
3 (Robin van Perise 13, Samir Nasri 52, Roger Johnson og 63)
Arsenal began 2011 in emphatic style with a dominant, composed performance against a doughty Birmingham City outfit. In recent seasons the Blues rough, combative approach had caused Arsenal problems but the Gunners dealt impressively with the hard hitting physicality of Alex McLiesh's men to take a deserved victory at Saint Andrews Park.
The North London giants were under immense pressure to perform after dropping vital points after somehow drawing with Wigan Athletic mid week. During the shock 2-2 draw with the Latics, manager Arsene Wenger had implemented nine changes from the side that beat rivals Chelsea two days prior.
The Frenchman opted to reinstate the exact line up that defeated the reigning Champions and it paid divedends as the Gunners dominated from the opening minutes. The game looked destined to be another foul filled one from Birmingham as centre half Roger Johnson took out Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas with a stud showing tackle.
Speed demon Theo Walcott then showed great pace to beat Liam Ridgewell but the England international could only manage a feeble effort into the side netting. Walcott's recent form suggested he should done better after scoring a brilliant goal against Chelsea.
However Arsenal kept their composure and strength with the weight of possession and constant free kicks finally paying off. In the 13th minute when striker Robin van Persie had his free kick deflected by Lee Bowyer into a gaping net.
However despite the weight of possession, Arsenal were unable to capitalize on their chances, Robin van Persie proved wasteful in the opening half alongside Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere all having half chances.
Samir Nasri showed great speed and balance and set up van Persie on two occasions only for the Dutchman to show that his recent injury ensures he will take a few more matches to return to his clinical best after failing to capitalize with weak efforts.
Birmingham then had a glorious chance to take the lead in their only real threat of the half. Arsenal defensive frailty of set pieces was again evident as Cameron Jerome managed to head the ball on to an unmarked Roger Johnson who was unable to keep his shot down in a basically open net.
Arsenal went into the half the better side and returned stronger, despite Birmingham returning sharper and livelier. Theo Walcott sent an elegant cross into the area which found the inform Samir Nasri who was able to lay the ball back to Jack Wilshere 12 yards out.
However the English starlet couldn't control his power as the ball was skied over the net in what was a glorious chance to potential put the game out of Birmingham City. The game was never to sty at 1-0. The Blues had a trend of scoring late equalizer's against the Gunners and deja vu was beginning to cross the Arsenal faithfuls mind.
However five minutes later a superb Samir Nasri struck to give Arsenal a deserved two goal advantage. After good work from Fabregas, Nasri found himself on the edge of the box. The Frenchman evaded one defender before putting off Roger Johnson firing elegantly into the bottom corner past a hapless Ben Foster.
Minutes later Nasri was at it again as the 23 year old cruised past defenders with pure pace only to have his effort well saved by Foster. But on the 63rd minute Arsenal put the encounter to bed in style. Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna, Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas all exchanged passes to have the Birmingham defence working tirelessly.
Nasri then found Fabregas who returned to the Frenchman before Nasri played a superb ball to Fabregs who found himself at an acute angle with the goal. The Spaniard fired anyway straight into Foster who turned the effort into fellow teammate Scott Dann who then turned into Roger Johnson who saw the ball rebound of his shin into the goal.
The Gunners could of added more late on but it ceased to matter as the Gunners reinstated their presence on the EPL table and look set to continue their title challenge.
Lukasz Fabianski:7: A relatively quiet evening for the Polish shot stopper who when called upon delivered emphatically. No longer looks tentative off set pieces and has finally discovered a solid punch. Signs look good for the Polish international.
Bacary Sagna:6.5: The Frenchman was solid and composed in defence and was an able contributor in attack, linking well with Theo Walcott. However Sagna's crossing was atrocious often failing to penetrate the box.
Johan Djourou:8: Arsenal's defence has been shaky this season and thats usually come when Djourou's not played. The imposing Swiss was calm and strong, particularly in the air, making a number of vital aerial clearances. The Arsenal back line looks much stronger with Djourou's presence and Laurent Koscienly plays much better with him too.
Laurent Koscienly:7: The Frenchman looked strong and calm against a straight forward yet powerful Birmingham attack. Made a number of strong tackles and showed good strength too.
Gael Clichy:7: The French left bak enjoyed a strong showing. Solid in defence and a useful option in attack with some strong crosses.
Alexandre Song:7.5: The Cameroon had a typical no nonsense performance, cutting down the Birmingham attacks with ease. Song also aided the back four well ensuring they were not under immense pressure. Lively as always in attack too.
Jack Wilshere:7: Turned 19 and capped of his birthday with a win. The English sensation had a matured, calm performance in which he handled Birmingham's physicality well. Should of scored early in the second half.
Cesc Fabregas:8: The captain was sensational as he was involved in all of Arsenal's threats. Combines strongly with all his attackers and took the constant batterings from Birmingham midfielders and defenders. Deserved a goal but will have to settle with the own goal from Johnson.
Theo Walcott:7: The Englishman was very dangerous down the right flank and caused the Birmingham back line a host of problems. Provided strong crosses to and was unlucky not to score early on.
Samir Nasri:8.5: Superb from the inform Frenchman. Tormented the Birmingham back line and was instrumental in all of Arsenal's potent attack. Took his goal emphatically before assisting with the third.
Robin van Perise:6: Granted the Dutchman has recently returned from injury and he scored the opening goal but in truth van Persie was horrid. The 27 year old linked well with his midfielders but the striker missed numerous easy opportunities and his control seemed to have evaded him.
Denilson:6: The Samba star came on and calmly aided the defenders as well as contributing in attack credibily.
Andrei Arshavin:6: The Russian dynamo had a chance to score moments after coming on only to have his effort well saved by Foster.
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