Arsenal's opponents on Sunday afternoon boast a noteworthy distinction among Premiership clubs - they are one of just a handful of teams who have beaten Arsenal the first and last time they faced them.

The last meeting was settled by Emile Heskey's late strike which gave the Blues a 2-1 final-day win last season. The first encounter between the sides was way back in 1892 in the FA Cup and Birmingham ran out emphatic 5-1 winners.

The first league encounter also went the way of the Midlanders as they emerged 4-1 winners in October 1893. In fact, Birmingham won the first five games between the sides, racking up 21 goals along the way.

The Gunners had to wait until March 1898 to break the early hoodoo and record a 4-2 win - their first success against the Blues.

But if Birmingham had the better of the early meetings, Arsenal certainly hold the upper hand in the more recent past. Before that end-of-season reverse in the 2004/05 campaign, Arsenal had not lost to Birmingham since March 1983 - a 2-1 defeat in the old Division One.

Before their promotion to the Premiership, the Midlands outfit faced Arsène Wenger's Arsenal in the League Cup during the Londoners' Double-winning campaign of 1997/98. The Gunners were made to sweat before running out 4-1 winners after extra-time at Highbury. 

German midfielder Antoine Hey gave the visitors the lead after 20 minutes but Arsenal levelled through Luis Boa Morte. The game was emphatically decided in extra-time courtesy of goals from David Platt, Boa Morte's second and Alberto Mendez.

In an action-packed affair, both teams were also reduced to 10 men with Jason Crowe and Darren Wassall red-carded for Arsenal and Birmingham respectively.

But since Trevor Francis guided Birmingham back into the top flight for the start of the 2002/03 season, Arsenal have, by-and-large, dominated the encounters.

In August 2002, first-half strikes from Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord settled the game for the champions at a sun-drenched Highbury. Arsenal completed the double over Birmingham later in the season, destroying the Blues 4-0 at St. Andrews. Henry (2), Robert Pires and Lauren were on target that day.

Dennis Bergkamp was stand-in captain against Birmingham at St. Andrews the following year - and he certainly led by example.

Racing on to Henry's slide-rule pass inside his own half, the Dutchman sprinted forward, rolling back the years as he eased clear of the hosts' back-line before applying a typically composed finish, coolly chipping the ball over the goalkeeper to make it 2-0.

Freddie Ljungberg had given Arsenal the lead in the first-half and Pires rounded things off with a third late on.

Last season, Arsenal beat Bruce's Birmingham 3-0 at Highbury and Henry again assumed the role of chief tormentor with two second-half strikes.

On Sunday however, the talismanic marksman will be absent through injury. One still suspects though, given the results over the last few years, that Jose Antonio Reyes et al have enough fire-power to compensate for the captain's absence.


Copyright 2014 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 29 Sep 2005