Birmingham City will visit Emirates Stadium for the first time on Saturday, hoping that perhaps a change of venue might just mean a change in fortune against Arsenal. The Blues have not left the red side of north London with all three points for 50 years and having won just twice on the road all season, the omens don't look good. One of those wins came at White Hart Lane, and under Alex McLeish the Midlands outfit are not to be under-estimated. This season Arsenal.com will be identifying the key battles for each Premier League game and bringing you all the statistics and information a fan could need. Swot up now and come Saturday you'll be impressing anyone who'll listen with your new-found knowledge.
Eduardo v Liam Ridgewell
Arsène Wenger called for patience when the Brazilian born Eduardo was signed in the wake of Thierry Henry's departure. It seems those who heeded the manager's advice were right to do so. The striker is in the midst of a hugely profitable spell for the Club having grabbed a stunning brace against Everton and equally sublime opener in the year's first game at home to West Ham. Many have tried to fill the No 9 jersey last worn successfully by Nicolas Anelka, but in Eduardo the boss believes he has finally found his 'fox in the box'. Five shots on target and three goals demonstrates a clinical edge, and two assists adds substance to his play. Working fully for the cause, the Croatian international has also only lost three tackles and been well-placed to clear on one occasion. Arsenal fans know a thing or two about a bitter local rivalry, and those in the second city certainly do too. In the summer Liam Ridgewell became the first player in over two decades to cross from Aston Villa to Birmingham. Rather than suffer a backlash from his new fans, the former England Under-21 defender put in performances which won them over. Given the captain's armband in the absence of the injured Damien Johnson, Ridgewell has thrived. A staggering 35 clearances proves a no-nonsence approach to defending and he has even weighed in with two assists and a goal of his own.
Gael Clichy v Sebastian Larsson
It's churlish to complain about a lack of goals from your left-back but, given the attacking prowess of Gael Clichy, it's a surprise that he has yet to break his duck. As defensively sure as he is on the front foot, the Frenchman's performances ensured the departure of Ashley Cole was not felt on the pitch. An impressive 35 tackles as well as 19 successful dribbles demonstrates a engine unlikley to be bettered by anyone else in the Premier League. His link-up play both in getting out of tight spots and when attacking the opposition is shown by a passing success rate of over 60 per cent, but 35 clearances gives the impression of knowing when to avert the danger. The first of two former Gunners to feature in this week's Key Battles is Sebastian Larsson. The Swede initially joined the Midlands outfit on loan but having played a pivitol role in the Blues promotion campaign the move was made permanent. One return to north London this season already yielded a morale boosting win - Larsson's spectacular late drive earning Alex McLeish's side a 3-2 win at White Hart Lane. It is one of two goals scored by 22-year-old this term. Add those to four assists and it is clear where Birmingham's threat lies. Not one to shirk on back-tracking, the former Under-21 international has 15 clearances to his name as well as 19 tackles.
Mathieu Flamini v Fabrice Muamba
One of the surprise packages in Arsenal mounting a title charge this season has undoubtedly been the improvement of Mathieu Flamini. The Frenchman did play a major role in the Gunners' run to the 2006 Champions League Final, however he was deployed as a utility man. This season he has been undroppable. Stamping his authority on the midfield, the 23-year-old is so effective in a holding role which allows Cesc Fabregas to roam forward absence, but Flamini has also been adept at getting forward when Fabregas has not been available. His two goals is testament to that, whereas eight interceptions, 13 clearances and 21 tackles made is evidence of his defensive strengths. Resourceful with the ball - completing over 50 per cent of his passes - the No 16 has an acute footballing mind that allows for the more creative minds around him to run wild. England Under-21 star Fabrice Muamba has been a wonderful asset to the Blues since signing permanently in 2007, playing a crucial role as Steve Bruce guided Birmingham back into the Premier League. The midfielder has enjoyed similar success under new boss Alex McLeish, featuring in 20 games so far this season. Built much like former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira, Muamba's fierce approach has unsettled many of the league's top midfielders. An impressive 25 tackles explains why, but five successful dribbles speaks volumes about his attacking mindset too. When allowed space in the final third, the 19-year-old can be effective - two assists and four shots on target shows that.
Please note: These statistics are from the 2007/08 Premier League season .Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 11 Jan 2008