Birmingham 0 Arsenal 2
Thierry Henry scored his 200th goal for Arsenal to help Arsene Wenger’s side end a miserable fortnight on a high note and plunge Blues deeper into Premiership relegation trouble.
The French star produced a typically classy trademark finish after 62 minutes to secure only the Gunners third away league win of the campaign after newcomer Emmanuel Adebayor had struck in the first half.
Arsenal went into the game without eight defenders and a disastrous spell which had seen them exit from the Carling Cup and FA Cup and suffered two league defeats which threatened their hopes of securing a Champions League spot.
On top of that central defender Sol Campbell had been absent since being substituted at half-time in Wednesday’s home defeat by West Ham, although his solicitor now claims he will be back in training on Monday.
But in this transitional period Arsenal will always pose a threat when they have Henry, who previously scored his 100th goal for the club against Blues.
And Wenger will take heart from the display of Adebayor.
He had only linked up with the Gunners on Wednesday after Togo’s elimination from the African Nations Cup but was in the right place at the right time to break the deadlock.
To add to Birmingham’s misery striker Emile Heskey was sent off for two bookable offences, the second of which was for a strong aerial challenge on Mathieu Flamini.
The former England player, the seventh City player to be red-carded this season, protested strongly at the Arsenal player and then fourth official Phil Dowd after leaving the pitch.
Blues midfielder Jiri Jarosik came close to breaking the deadlock when he seized onto a flick from Heskey and his rasping shot was turned around the post by Jens Lehmann.
The resulting corner from Pennant found its way to Heskey at the far post but again Lehmann was in the right place to block his close-range effort.
There was a big responsibility on Phillippe Senderos in the Arsenal back four and he showed good composure in shrugging off a challenge from Heskey.
But the visitors looked suspect at the back and a deep cross from Pennant picked out Jarosik who volleyed the ball into the ground and wide of Lehmann’s goal.
Thierry Henry was booked for dissent after arguing Arsenal should have been awarded a free-kick in the build up to that Jarosik miss.
Reyes had a 20-yard drive comfortably saved by Taylor but after 21 minutes Adebayor, a £5million transfer window signing, put the Gunners ahead with his first goal for the club.
Henry’s first-time ball played in the over-lapping Abou Diaby and his cross was inadvertently turned by Martin Latka against Taylor but the rebound fell kindly for Adebayor who headed home from two yards.
Blues still looked dangerous on the break and Heskey headed into the side-netting from a deep cross by Pennant while Jarosik had a shot blocked.
For all their defensive problems Arsenal still posed a massive threat on the counter-attack and Adebayor squandered a golden chance to double their lead.
He found himself with a clear run at goal after racing onto a pass from Reyes but failed to get any power into his shot and Taylor was able to save with ease.
Sebastian Larsson was then cautioned for bundling Mario Melchiot into touch.
Birmingham looked to build up some momentum at the start of the second period and Fabregas made a timely interception to head clear from Pennant’s cross.
Izzet sent a looping header straight at Lehmann after the ball had bobbled around in the box but play was increasingly scrappy.
A free-kick from Henry almost played in Gilberto after slack play by Sutton but his first touch let him down.
Heskey was booked after catching Senderos in the chest when lunging with his foot before, after 62 minutes, Henry put Arsenal firmly in command with his 200th goal for the Gunners.
The France striker pounced on a long ball from Fabregas and rifled a cross-shot past Taylor into the far corner of the net in trademark fashion.
Sutton was booked soon afterwards for a foul as City’s frustrations began to boil over and Bruce made a double substitution with 20 minutes remaining with new signing DJ Campbell and Mikael Forssell replacing Jarosik and Izzet respectively.
But the home side were reduced to 10 men after Heskey was given his marching orders.