Saturday, 16 October 2010

Arsenal 2 Birmingham 1: Jack Wilshere sees red but Gunners' get title bid back on track



Marching orders: Jack Wilshere is shown a straight red by referee Martin Atkinson after his late challenge on Nikola Zigic (floored)

Jack Wilshere contrived to ruin what should have been a celebration of Arsene Wenger’s 800th match as manager of Arsenal.

Instead, the 18-year-old expected to have a glittering future on the international stage with England gave Wenger cause for indigestion when he was sent off for a reckless tackle in stoppage-time at the Emirates.

Wenger’s very public demand for his players to be protected from those blessed with less talent were words that must have stuck in his gullet last night.

Wilshere’s studs-first assault on Birmingham’s Nikola Zigic was without provocation and indefensible. It was exactly the kind of tackle Wenger wants to be outlawed and punished punitively.

Yet on an afternoon when Birmingham’s players felt incensed that Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh had been awarded a match-changing first-half penalty when, according to all those closest to the incident, he had not been touched by Scott Dann, Wenger tried hard to act as the counsel for the defence for Wilshere.

‘You have to acknowledge that he got the red card and deserved it,’ said the Frenchman. ‘But he didn’t want to hurt the player, he just mistimed the tackle.’

Wenger must have temporarily misplaced his moral compass. For that is precisely the argument Birmingham delivered, and Wenger dismissed, when Arsenal striker Eduardo sustained a broken leg at St Andrew’s after being tackled by Martin Taylor two years, ago. Last night, Birmingham manager Alex McLeish reminded Wenger of the inconsistency in his attitude.

‘We’ve had to put up with the Eduardo stuff for a couple of years... and it’s become scandalous,’ said McLeish. ‘But we always said that Martin Taylor was not a dirty player and it was a mistimed tackle that caused terrible damage to Eduardo. We are not citing Jack Wilshere as a dirty player, but it was a mistimed tackle that could have caused my player terrible damage.

‘It is time for Arsene Wenger to recognise that. People can mistime tackles in the hurly-burly of this game.’

Despairing dive: Birmingham's Ben Foster is helpless as Marouane Chamakh rounds the keeper to put Arsenal 2-1 up

Zigic left north London with mixed emotions. His right ankle was sore from the tackle inflicted on him by Wilshere, but he had the consolation of scoring the kind of goal that will encourage him to believe he can flourish in this country.

Birmingham had been required to soak up a great deal of pressure, before they conjured the lead from a moment of inspiration in the 33rd minute from the 6ft 7in striker.

When Keith Fahey crossed from the left, Zigic climbed at the far post to deftly flick a header into the far corner of the goal. His first goal in the Premier League is not one he will easily forget. ‘It was a wonderful header,’ conceded Wenger.

But Birmingham’s hopes took a downward turn five minutes before the interval. As Chamakh scurried into the Birmingham area, Dann stuck out a foot and, next, the Arsenal striker was on the ground.

Referee Martin Atkinson instantly awarded Arsenal a penalty to provoke hysterical protest from a collection of Birmingham players who felt that the Morocco striker had gone down too easily. Samir Nasri planted the penalty into the left-hand corner as Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster travelled in the opposition direction.

Afterwards McLeish admitted: ‘It looked like a penalty from where I sat. Scott put a foot in and when you do that you are vulnerable to having a decision given against you. But my players insist Scott never touched him. It was a difficult one for the referee, though.’

Level pegging: Samir Nasri makes no mistake from the spot after Chamakh was felled in the area

But McLeish could offer no defence for the manner in which his team capitulated two minutes after the interval, when they never properly reacted to a back-heel from Alex Song to Wilshere.

The man whose afternoon was to turn rancid showed touch, composure and vision to release Chamakh into space and the striker skipped past Stephen Carr and Foster before sliding the ball home.

Giant strides: 6ft 8in striker Nikola Zigic connects with Keith Fahey's cross to nod beyond Lucasz Fabianski

Wenger expounded on the contribution Chamakh has made to Arsenal since he was brought to the club from Bordeaux in the summer.

‘It was imperative for us to get three points,’ he said. ‘It is clear how influential he has been to the team in decisive moments at 0-0, or 1-1.’

But yesterday that will not have played on his mind as much as the moment when Wilshere lost control of his senses... and hugely embarrassed his manager.

source :dailymail

No comments:

Post a Comment