A test to show Arsenal’s true title credentials

Birmingham City FC stadium: St AndrewsIt was this fixture last season that really crippled the Gunners’ push for a first Premier League title since 2004. Having taken a late lead at St Andrews, Manual Almunia conspired to let in a last minute effort from Kevin Phillips costing Arsene Wenger’s men vital points and momentum as Arsenal imploded in the face of the easiest run in of the title contenders.

Observers may suggest that this season has taken a similar course. That Arsenal have already lost five league games at the halfway stage of the season does not bode well for the Gunners, and shipping late goals is a trend that has again come to affect their title push at exactly the wrong time.

Birmingham have impressed at home this year, with a win over champions Chelsea complementing their hard won point over Manchester United during the week. They may have been fortunate to have snaffled a share of the spoils with the eighteen time league champions, but Alex Mcleish will know that luck plays a major part against the bigger fish. He will certainly need some good fortune if his tired squad are to emerge with something from Saturday’s game.

These two could end up meeting in the Carling Cup final in a couple of months, and I would be very interested to hear if Arsene Wenger would swap victory there in pursuit of the biggest domestic prize available. The Gunners should have a great chance of beating their closest rivals to the trophy, however in the last five years we have seen a string of Arsenal sides promising much but not delivering enough when it really matters. From that viewpoint, Birmingham will be a strong test of the North London giants’ true colours.

Prediction: 0-2

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