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Arsene Wenger pleased by Arsenal's mental strength

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'Outstanding' Arsenal delight Wenger

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said he was pleased by his side's mental and physical strength as they came through a tough game to beat Birmingham 3-0.

Goals from Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and a Roger Johnson own goal earned a win that keeps Arsenal in touch at the top of the Premier League.

After a match which saw several hefty tackles Wenger said: "We did well with everything that was offered to us.

"The physical challenges - we kept calm and played our game."

Wenger told BBC Sport: "Overall we had an outstanding game. The team looked very strong and can get stronger and stronger."

Birmingham defender Johnson was booked early in the first half for a strong challenge on Cesc Fabregas, while Lee Bowyer appeared to stamp on Bacary Sagna.

"The game was played at such a high pace that it is very difficult to speak about every free-kick that was given or not," added Wenger.

"Overall I don't think you can dispute this win because we had so many chances. We played at fantastic pace with great desire and great togetherness and that's what I would like to keep [focussed on] from the game."

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There were echoes of a previously feisty affair between the two sides in February 2008 when a challenge by Birmingham's Martin Taylor led to former Arsenal forward Eduardo breaking his leg.

That game was generally considered as a turning point when Arsenal's title challenge came to an end that season, as they conceded an injury-time penalty to draw 2-2 with captain William Gallas sitting on the pitch after the match had finished.

The win against Birmingham at St Andrew's this time around is further evidence that Arsenal are learning to secure victories in challenging circumstances and at a ground where their title rivals dropped points.

Chelsea lost at Birmingham in November while Manchester United drew there last Tuesday, and the run of seven points out of nine over the festive period also includes the Gunners fine 3-1 victory over Chelsea at the Emirates.

Arsenal are now third in the table, two points behind Manchester United and Manchester City, who they face on Wednesday at the Emirates. Leaders United have played a game less than Arsenal, while City have played a game more than their city rivals.

"We had a very difficult fixture list because we played Chelsea and then we had only two days to go to Wigan, and then three days to come here," Wenger said.

"They were two very different games and I must say that the overall attitude of the squad has been fantastic."

Birmingham should have had a penalty - McLeish

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish said it was "galling" that his side conceded too many free-kicks at the start of the game, one of them leading to Van Persie's opener.

But McLeish also believed they were soft infringements and thought his team should have had a penalty when Van Persie appeared to handle the ball in the first half.

"At 1-0 we were never out of it," McLeish told BBC Sport. "We should have had a penalty first half, how [the officials] never saw that I don't know.

"We made a sloppy start and the one thing you cannot do is concede free-kicks on the edge of your box against anybody because every team has a specialist and Robin van Persie had three or four attempts before he got the goal and even then it was off Lee Bowyer's shoulder.

"It was a bit galling for us to start that way but even then I couldn't say every one of them was a free-kick. There was a little bit of players going down quite easily and getting free-kicks in these situations but we know that is the law of the jungle and it happens worldwide."

Birmingham have only scored 18 times in the league this season and McLeish hinted that he could be adding to his striking options in the January transfer window.

But he said the club would take a "careful" approach when considering their options as they knew that prices could be inflated at this time of year.

Birmingham now sit second from bottom of the Premier League but only three points separates them from Newcastle who are in 12th.



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see also
Birmingham 0-3 Arsenal
01 Jan 11 |  Premier League
New Year's Day football as it happened
01 Jan 11 |  Football
Premier League photos
01 Jan 11 |  Football
Birmingham 2-2 Arsenal
23 Feb 08 |  Premier League



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