Robin van Persie curls in Arsenal's opener from a free-kick on 13 minutes
By Alistair Magowan
Arsenal stayed in touch with the Premier League leaders after a win which keeps them two points adrift of Manchester United and Manchester City.
Robin van Persie gave Arsenal the lead with a deflected free-kick.
The Dutchman should have then doubled it with a chip, and was almost made to pay when Roger Johnson fired over.
But Samir Nasri scored his 13th goal of the season before fine interplay between the Frenchman and Cesc Fabregas saw Johnson skew into his own net.
Seven points out of possible nine for Arsene Wenger's team over the festive period will breathe confidence into a team which faces Manchester City on Wednesday and will be eyeing the title with added fervour as 2011 begins.
But the result against a side which other big teams have struggled against - Manchester United drew at St Andrew's on Tuesday and Chelsea lost there in November - will give the French boss a hint that his team are developing different methods of winning.
This was a sometimes bruising encounter with Fabregas and Bacary Sagna on the end of the some rough treatment from Birmingham but Arsenal weathered it convincingly, whereas West Ham's win against Wolves earlier on Saturday means that Birmingham start the year in the bottom three.
Alex McLeish's decision to stick with the side which snatched a point off Manchester United seemed justified but the Birmingham boss will need to inject goals into a team which has only registered 18 in the league all season.
As if to highlight this fact, Arsenal's trio of Nasri, Marouane Chamakh and Theo Walcott have 21 between them and it was not long before the England winger hared past Liam Ridgewell, only to shoot wide of the near post.
Although Arsenal began to stroke the ball around with their customary confidence, perhaps expected after making eight changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Wigan, the opening goal came from a disjointed period of play.
It started when a poor touch by Johnson meant he lunged in on Fabregas and although the Birmingham player got the ball, the excessive force meant he picked up a booking.
A back-pass that Ben Foster picked up then allowed Van Persie to tee up a free-kick which he curled into the Birmingham keeper's hands, serving notice of the danger to come.
Moments later Fabregas put the Dutchman through near the edge of the area and when referee Peter Walton adjudged he had been pulled back, Van Persie took full advantage, slamming the ball into the net via a deflection off Lee Bowyer in the hosts' wall.
The home supporters saw the free-kick which led to the goal as a soft one and let Van Persie know about it when he next touched the ball, so it was with ironic cheers that they celebrated a Birmingham free-kick down the other end.
'Outstanding' Arsenal delight Wenger
Sebastian Larsson stepped up and curled a shot over the wall from 25 yards but Lukasz Fabianski tipped his effort round the post.
Thereafter, Arsenal reaffirmed their grip on the game and when another Van Persie free-kick was almost touched in by Johan Djourou, the Gunners reduced the Birmingham supporters to near silence.
The action was never far from the lone Arsenal forward in the first half. McLeish was left screaming after a cross appeared to hit Van Persie's arm in the Arsenal penalty area, and the 27-year-old then duffed a chip from only a few yards out when he wrongly thought he was offside.
Birmingham were close to making him pay for that poor decision almost immediately but a deep free-kick was somehow put over by Johnson from six yards out.
Even though the hosts were beginning to contain Wenger's side after half-time, it was the visitors who continued to look more threatening as the game wore on.
Walcott took the long way round Ridgewell on 53 minutes and when his cross was laid back to Jack Wilshere the birthday boy could not accept the gift, volleying over.
Nasri was then denied by a fine stop by Foster when he was one on one with the England keeper, but a minute later the Frenchman proved that his mental fortitude is a growing force when he swapped passes with Fabregas, who was returning from suspension, and steered in his 13th goal of the season.
Birmingham should have had a penalty - McLeish
It was a classy goal and soothed any anxiety Arsenal and their fans were suffering.
Cue the Arsenal supporters to belt out a chorus of songs about their leading goalscorer and many of their other players - surely a sign that the game was over as a contest.
The hosts' fate was sealed when Fabregas and Nasri again played a one-two, although it may have been a three-four they were so in tune.
It ended with Nasri laying off a beautiful pass to the Spaniard and although Foster saved his shot, the ball rebounded off Scott Dann and then Johnson and into the net.
Walcott, and substitute Andrey Arshavin, could both have made it 4-0 and the game was closed out with the Gunners oozing confidence and looking very healthy as the race to the title hots up.
Birmingham substitute Nikola Zigic, on for a lucky Bowyer after he seemed to stamp on Sagna right in front of the dugouts, mustered his side's only chance of the second half when he hit the bar from a header in stoppage time.
90:00+3:47 The referee blows his whistle to end the game.
90:00+3:19 Short corner taken by Samir Nasri from the left by-line.
90:00+2:11 Corner taken by Sebastian Larsson, clearance by Gael Clichy.
90:00+2:07 Centre by Kevin Phillips, Johan Djourou manages to make a clearance.
89:52 Francesc Fabregas sends in a cross, Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save by Ben Foster.
87:41 Foul by Francesc Fabregas on Roger Johnson, free kick awarded. Roger Johnson takes the free kick.
86:21 Samir Nasri decides to take the corner short.
85:54 Short corner worked by Robin van Persie.
85:45 A cross is delivered by Bacary Sagna, blocked by Liam Ridgewell.
84:38 The assistant referee signals for offside against Roger Johnson. Lukasz Fabianski takes the direct free kick.
84:13 Corner taken by Sebastian Larsson, Alex Song manages to make a clearance.
84:03 Stephen Carr sends in a cross, blocked by Bacary Sagna.
81:52 Gael Clichy produces a cross, clearance made by Liam Ridgewell.
81:22 Short corner worked by Robin van Persie.
81:09 Neves Denilson takes a shot. Blocked by Roger Johnson.
80:40 Robin van Persie decides to take the corner short.
80:29 Andrey Arshavin takes a shot. Save by Ben Foster.
78:23 Nikola Zigic is caught offside. Lukasz Fabianski restarts play with the free kick.
78:23 Substitution Kevin Phillips comes on in place of Cameron Jerome.
78:23 Substitution Andrey Arshavin is brought on as a substitute for Theo Walcott.
78:23 Substitution Neves Denilson on for Jack Wilshere.
78:04 Craig Gardner sends in a cross.
77:29 Corner taken by Sebastian Larsson from the left by-line, save made by Lukasz Fabianski.
72:35 Alex Song concedes a free kick for a foul on Alexander Hleb. Barry Ferguson restarts play with the free kick.
72:24 Theo Walcott takes a shot. Ben Foster makes a save.
Correction - 70:07 Effort on goal by Francesc Fabregas from just outside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.
70:07 Robin van Persie takes a shot from just outside the penalty area which clears the crossbar.
68:11 Substitution (Birmingham) makes a substitution, with Nikola Zigic coming on for Lee Bowyer.
65:01 GOAL - Roger Johnson:Birmingham 0 - 3 Arsenal Roger Johnson concedes an own goal. Birmingham 0-3 Arsenal.
64:58 Francesc Fabregas takes a shot. Ben Foster makes a save.
62:59 Cameron Jerome challenges Lukasz Fabianski unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Lukasz Fabianski.
62:54 Craig Gardner sends in a cross, save made by Lukasz Fabianski.
59:37 Centre by Craig Gardner, Johan Djourou makes a clearance.
58:47 Substitution Alexander Hleb is brought on as a substitute for Jean Beausejour.
57:17 Assist by Francesc Fabregas.
57:17 GOAL - Samir Nasri:Birmingham 0 - 2 Arsenal Samir Nasri finds the back of the net with a goal from the edge of the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal.
Birmingham 0-2 Arsenal.
55:41 The assistant referee signals for offside against Stephen Carr. Free kick taken by Lukasz Fabianski.
53:38 Samir Nasri takes a shot. Save by Ben Foster.
52:25 The ball is swung over by Theo Walcott, Shot on goal by Jack Wilshere from inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
50:16 Free kick awarded for a foul by Scott Dann on Theo Walcott. The free kick is delivered left-footed by Robin van Persie from
right wing, clearance by Roger Johnson.
50:16 Booking Scott Dann booked for unsporting behaviour.
48:27 Stephen Carr gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Francesc Fabregas. Direct free kick taken by Lukasz Fabianski.
46:47 Theo Walcott has an effort from just inside the box that misses to the left of the goal.
45:53 The assistant referee signals for offside against Liam Ridgewell. Lukasz Fabianski takes the indirect free kick.
45:26 Free kick awarded for a foul by Francesc Fabregas on Lee Bowyer. Scott Dann restarts play with the free kick.
45:01 The game restarts for the second half.
45:00+2:15 The half-time whistle blows.
43:48 Theo Walcott takes a shot. Save by Ben Foster.
39:29 A cross is delivered by Stephen Carr, Johan Djourou manages to make a clearance.
37:21 Effort from outside the penalty box by Theo Walcott goes wide left of the goal.
35:59 Sebastian Larsson fouled by Alex Song, the ref awards a free kick. The ball is crossed by Sebastian Larsson, Close range strike
by Roger Johnson goes over the bar.
35:07 Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save made by Ben Foster.
33:32 Johan Djourou challenges Cameron Jerome unfairly and gives away a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Sebastian
Larsson from left channel, Robin van Persie manages to make a clearance.
33:32 Booking Johan Djourou receives a yellow card.
33:13 A cross is delivered by Samir Nasri, clearance by Scott Dann.
27:59 Liam Ridgewell concedes a free kick for a foul on Theo Walcott. Free kick crossed left-footed by Robin van Persie from right
channel, save by Ben Foster.
27:59 Booking Booking for Liam Ridgewell for unsporting behaviour.
27:03 Shot from long distance by Francesc Fabregas misses to the right of the goal.
26:23 The ball is sent over by Stephen Carr, save made by Lukasz Fabianski.
24:38 Unfair challenge on Cameron Jerome by Johan Djourou results in a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson,
clearance by Bacary Sagna.
23:09 Unfair challenge on Sebastian Larsson by Samir Nasri results in a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Sebastian
Larsson from right wing, clearance by Alex Song.
20:25 Unfair challenge on Liam Ridgewell by Robin van Persie results in a free kick. Barry Ferguson takes the direct free kick.
19:47 A cross is delivered by Craig Gardner, save by Lukasz Fabianski.
17:25 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Sebastian Larsson played to the near post, Robin van Persie manages to make a clearance.
16:33 Craig Gardner fouled by Francesc Fabregas, the ref awards a free kick. Sebastian Larsson has a direct shot on goal from the
free kick, save by Lukasz Fabianski.
16:20 Centre by Stephen Carr, clearance made by Alex Song.
14:54 Cameron Jerome is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Johan Djourou.
12:17 Free kick awarded for a foul by Scott Dann on Robin van Persie.
12:17 GOAL - Robin van Persie:Birmingham 0 - 1 Arsenal Robin van Persie fires in a goal from long range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Birmingham 0-1 Arsenal.
10:51 Cameron Jerome is caught offside. Indirect free kick taken by Lukasz Fabianski.
10:24 Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save made by Ben Foster.
9:25 Francesc Fabregas takes the free kick.
7:48 Francesc Fabregas fouled by Roger Johnson, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Gael Clichy.
7:48 Booking Roger Johnson goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.
5:12 Craig Gardner concedes a free kick for a foul on Francesc Fabregas. Shot on goal comes in from Robin van Persie from the free
2:30 Effort from deep inside the area by Theo Walcott misses to the right of the goal.
0:00 The match has kicked off.
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