Arsenal 2—Birmingham 1
Nicola Zigic scores his first Permier League goal and Jack Wilshere his frist Premier League red card.
The first thirty-three minutes could have been a replay from any number of games. For the first thirty-two Arsenal controlled the game, but couldn’t score. Then from a routine cross, Nicola Zigic scores off a header to put Birmingham ahead.
As soon as Zigic deplaned on English soil he became the the tallest player in the league. Johan Djourou, marking Zigic on the cross, stands at 6’4″, and was out-jumped. No one should be able to jump higher than Zigic who looks more like a foreign-born NBA player. His height advantage is a one-dimensional threat that can only be neutralized by denying his head the opportunity to touch the ball. With this in mind, why would Arsenal permit such a breezy cross to waft into the penalty box?
Defensive disorganization. Eboue uselessly stands at the edge of the penalty box forcing Nasri (top left) to defend too deeply, leaving Jeff Fahey (off screen to the left) unmarked and with time to cross the ball in to Zigic.
Eight minutes later Arsenal equalize off a Samir Nasri penalty. Scott Dann’s foul was soft on replay, but little contact is necessary when a trip comes in low. Unfortunately, Marouane Chamakh felt the need to sell the foul, albeit without much conviction. The penalty was well taken by Nasri, but credit belongs to Jack Wilshere who, from forty meters out, cut through Birmingham’s spine with determined penetration and a perfectly timed pass.
Wilshere was also responsible for setting up Arsenal’s second goal. Off a poor Liam Ridgewell clearance, Wilshere deflected the ball to Alex Song who flicked it back to Wilshere. He again controlled the ball with his chest and found Chamakh for the winner.
Wilshere’s injury time red card for a studs-up lunge on Zigic dampened what was otherwise a fantastic performance in Cesc Fabregas’ absence. It wasn’t a particularly ugly tackle, but lunging studs-up, even if benign, justifiably warrants a sending-off.