By Giuseppe Muro
After the disappointment of Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Wigan, Arsène Wenger and his side face another tricky away trip to St Andrew’s on Saturday.
Birmingham haven’t been beaten by any of the ‘big four’ sides at home in 18 months, but can Arsenal change that record in their first game of 2011?
We spoke to Colin Tattum of the Birmingham Mail to get a Blues perspective on the Premier League clash.
THE STORY SO FAR
They have been pretty inconsistent and have found it very hard to win games this season. So far they have drawn ten games, which I think tells its own story that obviously goals and creativity haven’t always been there. But defensive resilience, attitude and spirit has never once gone missing. So, although they have been struggling at the wrong end of the table, I wouldn’t say things are drastically wrong.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
That last-minute equaliser against Manchester United will be important because they hadn’t played for 16 days and they were coming off the back of a pretty shocking performance at Wolves, which was very untypical of them. Against all the big teams they do tend to raise their game, as Arsenal have found out previously. In 18 months at St Andrew’s not one of the ‘big six’ sides have beaten Birmingham. So they do have a sense of occasion and they do believe that maybe better opposition bring out the best in them.
I think Arsène Wenger and the Arsenal players will know from previous experiences that it is a tricky ground to go to. The fans will be very passionate and for various reasons they do have a bit of needle with Arsenal. If you combine that with the fact that Alex McLeish always has his teams very well-organised and defensively strong then it’s a tough place for any team to go. I know Birmingham will be keen to uphold that little record they have got against the top sides on home soil.
Having a settled back four was a great strength last season and it is again to a degree this season. Added to that Ben Foster coming in and doing a tremendous job in replacing Joe Hart and that is the bedrock of the team. With experienced players like Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson in front of that it gives them a very good structure. It’s just getting some creativity, flair and energy at the top end of the pitch which will hopefully give them more wins than draws and defeats.
ARSENAL OLD BOY
Alex Hleb has been unfortunate since the last time we spoke [ahead of the game at Emirates in October]. He looked very good and then he pulled his hamstring and was out for four weeks. He only came back as a substitute against Manchester United and has not really had any match sharpness. The message is getting through that a lot is going to be put on his shoulders and when he is 100 per cent fit he will be able to make the difference. He’s been unlucky in the sense that it’s been stop-start all the way along. I’m not sure he will start the game because it might risk further injury.