Arsenal defeated Birmingham City 3-1 at Emirates Stadium on Saturday to capture its seventh straight win in all competitions, but the Gunners have lost Theo Walcott to another spell on the sidelines after the young winger limped off the pitch during the first half of the Premiership victory.
Robin van Persie and Abou Diaby scored early goals to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead over Birmingham before twenty minutes had elapsed on Saturday. With the home crowd expecting another easy victory for their high-scoring Gunners, Birmingham pulled a goal back before halftime when Lee Bowyer directed one home from six yards out after reacting quickly to a failed clearance from Vito Mannone.
Arsenal lost some of its fluidity in attack after the break, but did have some chances on goal to extend the lead in the second half. And after some nervy moments late on for Arsene Wenger’s side, Andrey Arshavin settled things in minute 85 with a neat finish off a counter attack, slotting the ball past keeper Joe Hart for the final tally.
Manager Wenger was pleased with the 3-1 result, but did tell reporters in his post-match interview (seen on http://www.arsenal.com) that the recent international break may have affected some players’ performances. “We were cruising, in control, two goals up and it looked like we could get more,” said Wenger. “You were wondering who would score the third goal. But we made a mistake defensively and they got back to 2-1.
“In the second half we did not have the same fluency or control in the game, not the same pace, but in the end I still believe 3-1 is a fair result because we had plenty of chances,” continued the manager. “Birmingham regrouped very quickly when they lost the ball and we lacked a little bit of sharpness. I feel also we tried to force the situation a little bit individually, especially in the second half, and that’s why we didn’t score more goals.”
“When we stick to our game, when we focus to play our game, it looks like we can play the ball through any space and that we can create space just as we want,” added Wenger. “That is something fantastic but we have of course to be focused on that and keep our composure.”
Walcott, replaced by Arshavin just after the half hour mark on Saturday, was on the receiving end of a crunching tackle from Liam Ridgewell earlier in the match and looked to be having a problem with a knee.
News from the club after a doctor’s scan on the knee on Monday was not good, with Walcott set to be out of Arsenal’s lineup for longer than first expected.
“We thought it would be just 48 hours, but it is a medial knee ligament, which is what I feared after the game. He will be out for three to four weeks,” said Wenger in a press conference the day before the team’s Champions League match at AZ Alkmaar in Holland.
The Birmingham City match was Walcott’s first start of the season after missing a couple of months due to a back injury suffered in preseason. The 20-year-old has managed just 54 minutes of competitive action this term, coming off the bench a week ago to score a goal on his return against Blackburn.
Other injury news from Wenger revealed that Tomas Rosicky has been ruled out of Tuesday’s Champions League encounter. Also diagnosed with a knee problem, Rosicky is expected to be fit in a few days, according to a quote from Wenger in an article from Chris Harris on http://www.arsenal.com.
However, Gael Clichy has been passed fit for the Alkmaar match, after recovering from an ankle injury that left him out of the Birmingham game. Carlos Vela also makes the trip to Holland, after returning to London later than other Arsenal first-teamers out on international duty last week.
But Nicklas Bendtner, Eduardo da Silva, Denilson and Johan Djourou remain on the sidelines, according the report from Harris, who added that Samir Nasri and Lukasz Fabianski will each begin their comebacks from long-term injury spells by playing in Tuesday’s reserve team match at Wolverhampton.