Whenever Arsenal travel to St Andrew's one image immediately comes to mind.
Almost 24 months ago the Gunners went to Birmingham for a match which has since become seminal in threcent drought years of the Arsene Wenger reign. Back in February 2008 the Gunners were top of the Premier League table and the title was theirs to lose. And then everything imploded.
Martin Taylor’s brutal tackle on Eduardo da Silva was the catalyst. James McFadden’s controversially-awarded penalty in the 90th minute was gut-wrenching. And William Gallas’ famous strop on the pitch came to signify how Arsenal’s confidence was sapped in an instant.
On Saturday evening Arsenal claimed a fabulous 3-0 away win at Birmingham, pointing to their newly found mental resilience, and a noticeable aspect of the victory was the manner in which the Wenger Boys managed to overcome a series of rough collisions with their Brum counterparts. Rather than collapsing like a house of cards, this time the Arsenal players took their punishment like men.
Stopping short of accusing Birmingham of deliberate up-and-at-'em tactics, it was undoubtedly the home team's desire to stamp their authority on the contest. And often a little too literally.
After only eight minutes Roger Johnson set the tone. The centre-half delivered a shuddering tackle on Cesc Fabregas in midfield, leading to a mass chest-bumping posse around the writhing Spaniard. While there was a lack of malice in the challenge, Johnson was booked for following through a bit too much on Arsenal's skipper.
Just before the half-time whistle Laurent Koscielny became the second Arsenal player to incur a painful blow. The French centre-half made a lovely sliding tackle to clear the danger with Cameron Jerome on the charge. But when Jerome aimed to jump over Koscielny's sliding legs, the Birmingham forward ended up coming down right on the defender's ankle. Arguably more reckless than anything, Jerome's stamp went unpunished.
In the 53rd minute probably the most controversial of the tackles happened. Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna found himself in a physical battle for possession with Jean Beausejour and Lee Bowyer tight on the touchline. The result left Sagna on the turf scrapping unsuccessfully for the ball, and with his man fully exposed Bowyer appeared to take advantage with a sly stamp on the right-back's inner thigh. The incident went unnoticed by the match officials but not the TV cameras, and Bowyer could yet be punished for his aggressive behaviour. (See here.)
Related Link: Highlights of Birmingham 0 - Arsenal 3.