Arsenal caught a serious case of the Blues on Sunday, for sure.
I wasn’t terribly surprised by the 2-1 defeat to the old boys from the second city in the Carling Cup final. Birmingham can hold down the fort when they need to. The defense is often well-organized, stubborn, and capable of scoring on set pieces; the midfield is scrappy and confident; the forward line, while less than imaginative, can obviously take advantage of the odd bounce of the ball.
I’m not the first, nor the last, to praise Blues’ keeper Ben Foster. He was everywhere and anywhere on Sunday, playing as if it were his last match on earth. Quite a superb solo effort by England’s future number two!
As for the Gunners: With Cesc and Walcott nursing minor injuries, I had hoped against hope that Rosicky would remain on the bench, that Nasri would move to the attacking, central midfield role, and (gasp?) that Bendter would start on the right wing. Alas, it was as I predicted: Rosicky in the middle, Nasri on the right…
Despite Rosicky’s lack of ambition, and Van Persie’s yet-to-be disclosed injury–which forced him to exit the match prematurely–the loss nestled itself quite comfortably on the shoulders of Arsenal’s goalkeeper and left-center back. (I can’t even mention them by name. Not that I’m ashamed, I just don’t have the energy to look up Eastern-European vowel and consonant combinations…)
I can’t help but wonder if Arsene Wenger might share a bit of the blame for Sunday’s loss. For three years, Gooners have clamored for solid, experienced, goalkeepers and center halves/backs. The signing of Vermaelen was a wonderstroke, but a niggling, mysterious, Achilles injury has rendered him unavailable until hell freezes over. William Gallas was a delicate genius, but now he cries for the Spurs. Sol Campbell had a brief spell of nostalgic leadership for the Gunners late last year, but now he warms the cheap seats at St. James’ Park.