Birmingham Vs Arsenal: Preview

Saturday, January 1, 2011
Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is poised to field an unchanged team in Saturday evening's home Barclays Premier League clash with Arsenal.

McLeish looks set to keep faith with the line-up which earned an impressive 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United in mid-week thanks to Lee Bowyer's late goal.

Blues have no fresh injury worries as they strive to maintain an impressive home record - just one league defeat in the last 16 months at St Andrews - with former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb again likely to be amongst the substitutes as he continues his comeback from a hamstring injury.

Ahead of the game, McLeish said he will focus on quality rather than quantity when he looks to bolster his Birmingham squad during the January transfer window.

McLeish has held talks with club owner Carson Yeung's right-hand man, Peter Pannu, regarding his strategy for next month.

The former Scotland boss would not reveal whether he is satisfied or not with the budget at his disposal.

But a striker is a priority for McLeish who has already been linked with Robbie Keane, Ryan Babel and Jay Bothroyd.

He said: "We've got some targets and we are working on them.

"We brought in a specialist number one in Ben Foster last summer and he has performed extremely well. Now we are looking for specialists in other positions."

Arsenal welcome back captain Cesc Fabregas from suspension, but fellow midfielder Abou Diaby will be out for around a month after suffering a calf strain in Wednesday night's 2-2 draw at Wigan.

Robin van Persie and Alex Song are expected to come back into the side having been rested against the Latics, but Thomas Vermaelen (Achilles), goalkeeper Manuel Almunia (ankle) and Kieran Gibbs (ankle) are all still out.

Defiant Arsene Wenger maintains the title is "Arsenal's to win" despite blowing the chance to end 2011 level on points with leaders Manchester United.

In what has become a frustrating trait of the Gunners' season, they failed to build on victory over championship rivals Chelsea by being held to a 2-2 draw at relegation battlers Wigan on Wednesday night after a late own goal from Sebastien Squillaci.

Wenger's men remain third, two points behind United, who have a match in hand, and Manchester City, who have played two games more, while Chelsea immediately clawed back a couple of points after ending their poor run of form by beating Bolton.

Nevertheless, Wenger has complete faith his young team can deliver in 2011.

"It is Arsenal's title to win. We have to go on a run and be consistent," Wenger declared when asked whether the championship was now United's to throw away.

"The only thing we have learnt from this first six months is that the team who will be the most consistent, with great emotional stamina and resolve will win it. It could be the league of the mentally strong. It is a league with a lot of ups and downs and the teams who deal the best with that will certainly win it."


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