Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Friday January 11 2008
The Emirates Stadium
Arsene Wenger will be confident that his side will still be at the summit of the Premiership after this weekend's round of games, as The Gunners' face Birmingham At The Grove on Saturday afternoon.
We'll see something much closer to Arsenal's first team after Wenger rotated for the last two fixtures - both against much lesser teams (Burnley and Tottenham).
No, in all seriousness, it's the sort of fixture that you have to watch out for. A team touted for the drop, playing under a new manager and their performances have greatly improved under new manager Alex Mcleish. Indeed, they gave United a run for their money at Old Trafford in the last round of Premiership games.
Unfortunatly for them, it's goals that win games, not just brave performances. Their last six games has seen just one win - a 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough. Last six: P6 W1 L3 D2.
Arsenal, however, have won four of their last six. Portsmouth are still the only team to have taken anything from Arsenal in the Premiership in those games. Last six: P6 W4 D2 L0.
Arsene Wenger says that his team are more likely to be suffering mentaly than physically at the moment after he rotated much of his team in the last two games. During his pre-match press confrence Wenger said: 'We rested a few players recently to give them a breather mentally. It is all more mental than physical at the moment.
'But you still need an edge in these kinds of games and I feel that is down to how well you prepare, especially mentally. That will make the difference.'
Birmingham midfielder Fabrice Muamba believes he made the right decision when he left Arsenal for Birmingham, and says it was not a hard one: No, it wasn't a difficult decision. I could have stayed if I had wanted to.
'The choice was to stay, but not be guaranteed playing week in, week out. So I went, and I have been playing week in, week out here. It was the best decision.'
'It's about being patient and I was losing my patience.
'I was here last year and I played almost 35 games and when I went back to Arsenal people said 'hold on, you're not quite ready yet' and I wasn't prepared to watch other people in front of me play when I could do just that. That's why I thought it was best to move on and try to do something with my life really.'
Arsenal will welcome back a whole host of first team players on Saturday. Gallas, Clichy, Fabregas, Flamini, Rosicky and Almunia will all return to the line up. In addition, Adebayor, Alex Hleb and Big Phill Senderos have all been passed fit to face Birmingham.
Eduardo is likely to partner Adebayor up front as the pair look to build a partnership.
The half-pint Spaniard hasn't scored for a while, and I think he'll back to his best after a two-week rest.
Muamba will give him a good game, but Cesc will run the show for 90 minutes.
The big news for Birmingham fans is that Oliver Kapo has been passed fit to play after recoving from a knee injury. Damien Johnson is set to play just two weeks after suffing a depression fracture of the skull.
Martin Taylor has been recalled after being told by his manager that he can leave if Birmingham recieve a good offer.
This lad has bags of class, and Birmingham were lucky to get him. He can pass, dribble, shoot and tackle. What more to you want from a midfielder? He gave Chelsea a torrid time when he faced them at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
Flamini will have his work cut out keeping him quiet.
Mr Phill Dowd will referee the match. He's officiated over only nine Premiership games this season, giving out 24 yellow cards and an astounding 6 reds. The only Arsenal player he's booked this season is Flamini.
It's not going to be an easy game, but I think the freshness of Arsenal's team will see them through to a convincing win. 3-1 Arsenal.
Date:Friday January 11 2008
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