By Nick Teale
Over the last four seasons Birmingham City have alternated between the Premier League and the Championship. Relegated at the end of the 2007/08 season, the Blues are back in the top flight again after they finished Championship runners-up last term.
And this year, their expectations have been raised. City fans will be hopeful that their team will no longer yo-yo between divisions now that Carson Yeung has completed his takeover at the club, promising millions in transfer funds.
However, the first match of his regime is at Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal will be looking to continue their rich vein of form.
As always, we like to get an opposition perspective on the forthcoming match, and this week we spoke to Colin Tattum of the Birmingham Mail to find out a little more about Saturday's visitors.
THE STORY SO FAR
"It's been more or less a point a game, which is the sort of pace they were hoping to set. I think there have been some games where they’ve deserved a little bit more, especially at Tottenham, and other games where they've given a good account of themselves, like at Manchester United. They've made a decent start, it's been steady, but there is room for improvement by the same token as well."
BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL
"They are confident of survival and they have experience, which does count for a lot in the Premier League. They've got a few players there who've been through it before. But the last two Premier League seasons have ended in relegation so there is an inherent fault there, which the manager is trying to address. And there was the news yesterday after Yeung's takeover that there is going to be significant transfer funds to spend. I think that can only help their chances of survival."
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
"The fans have been looking for a change in ownership for several years now and the previous regime admitted as well it was time for them to go. Yeung breezing into St Andrews has been the main talking point in and around Birmingham. People are discussing what his plans are for the team and what he wants to do. He's already made the right noises and made some good waves and there is a real sense of excitement and optimism among the supporters. "
"I think they will probably play with one up front and look to squeeze the midfield and deny Arsenal space. Basically, that's what's available to them; it's the personnel the manager has to choose from. They’ve had some injuries to key players in recent weeks, so they cannot be open and go out and try and make it a footballing match because they would probably get taken apart by a team of Arsenal's quality. I think Arsenal are going to have to prepare themselves for quite a familiar sight with a team being quite reticent and looking to basically keep themselves disciplined and solid first and foremost and hope to spring something on the break or via a set piece."
THE ONE TO WATCH
"Although he may be on the bench because he's been away for World Cup qualifiers in South America, Christian Benitez is a real livewire. He's definitely a player who has got that whiff of something; he's creative as well as a direct threat on goal himself. There is also James McFadden. When he's on form Birmingham tend to be all the better for it. He's been dogged by injury problems and maybe isn’t fully fit but he's a player that can take the ball and pass it and keep things moving along but also find openings for other people and maybe come up with the odd spectacular goal himself."
THE MAN IN CHARGE
"There are a few grumblings but the vast majority of fans, I would say, are quite happy with Alex McLeish and they can see what he's trying to do. He's trying to evolve Birmingham into more of a passing team whereby their game is based more on possession. But that will take time and also that will take resources and money to bring in a certain quality of players that ideally he would want. I think overall the fans can see what he is trying to do with the team but ultimately first and foremost Birmingham need to stay up this season then try to move on and progress from there; that’s the be-all and end-all. However they do it this season, they just need to stay in the Premier League to give themselves a foothold and then I think we can really see the meat on the bones of the Carson Yeung regime."