Arsenal are not too much behind in the title race but the draw against Wigan would have hurt them badly as it was a game which provided them the opportunity to close the gap at the top. Despite the confident victory against Chelsea, the Gunners still find themselves trailing the leaders by two points, with Manchester United having a game in hand as well.
Arsenal cannot afford to lose any more ground in the title race and need to string a good run of results and if they do remain inconsistent, it could be very hard to come back into contention for the title race. Arsene Wenger made eight changes for the clash and was criticized for doing so because Wigan could only draw the game.
However he could not have done anything about the central defence, where the only option was to play Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci considering Johan Djourou is not risked for midweek games. If the team is able to score two goals against a team fighting relegation, they are expected to win the fixture.
If they do not win, then it is more due to the poor performance of the defence than that of the manager's decision to make changes. Laurent Koscielny conceded the penalty which looked quite harsh while Sebastien Squillaci scored the equalizer for Wigan heading it past Lukasz Fabianski.
Although they could only manage a point, they do remain in the title race and the fixture against Birmingham City could prove to be an extremely important one. The last two meetings between them at St. Andrews has been bad for the Gunners as they lost ground in the title race on both occasions. The meeting in February 2008 will forever be remembered for the injury to striker Eduardo who ultimately cost him his Arsenal career and cost the Gunners the title.
Arsenal only managed to draw last season as another Almunia howler made Arsenal's task of keeping up with the title leaders very hard. However, they should be confident going into this game despite achieving only a draw at the DW Stadium.
Wenger made as many as eight changes from the side that conquered Chelsea but it is expected that he will play a strong team against Birmingham with Cesc Fabregas making a return following his suspension. The captain Cesc Fabregas is Arsenal's leader on the pitch and when he is playing, the Gunners seem to be playing with a lot of confidence especially when he is also good.
Robin van Persie is also fit for the clash and is expected to start the game which can be expected to be another feisty encounter. Van Persie's experience and leadership is crucial for the Gunners as he adds a lot to the team. His movement and creativity creates a lot of space for the midfielders to get into excellent positions.
Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie have got a lot to do and have to lift their teams. They are experienced campaigners who have tasted defeats on a number of occasions for the Gunners and will be desperate to do well. It is that time of the season that the leaders stand up and guide the others to follow the path.
Thomas Vermaelen is also an obvious leader for the Gunners but his injury has meant that Arsenal cannot completely depend on him for the second half of the season. He could yet suffer any set-back which would mean the onus is on the other three defenders to perform. But if Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie can instill confidence in the side, everyone will be able to perform at their best.
The game against Chelsea was the first time in which Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie started since the game against Blackburn in august and the duo is crucial to the Gunners. There is obviously an excellent understanding between the two which is why Arsenal tend to perform better when Cesc Fabregas plays in the attacking midfield role behind Robin van Persie.
Though all the players in the squad are important, the experienced players who are desperate to win the title should guide the Gunners in the right direction. With more than half the season to go, it is important that they start 2011 on a positive note with a win against Birmingham.
It has not been easy in 2010 where the Gunners hardly had the opportunity to start both Fabregas and Van Persie but should 2011 be more lucky for the Gunners, they will end their trophy drought in style.