Gun Powder Match Review: ARSENAL 0 VS 0 MIDDLESBOROUGH. ARSENAL FORCED TO SHARE THE SPOILS

I have a fellow Arsenal supporting Pal who is a betting man but never stakes on Arsenal games regardless of how easy the opposition seems or how good the form is going into the game. When i asked him why he never bets on Arsenal his response was simple : “im not that Rich”.

His response is symptomatic of some Arsenal fans knowledge of just how unpredictable their team can be. I’m probably not the only one who saw this sort of performance coming following the good form we have been in. Long standing fans have seen it all before: 6 wins on the trot in the EPL, Top of the Champions league group, scoring goals for fun, Talk of the title coming to Emirates and all the annoying predictions that Middlesbrough will be be torn apart at the Emirates where all indicators that warned me that today may not quite end the way we want.

And so it proved. We certainly did not produce anything close to the standard required to take all three points yesterday and even though credit must be given to a very well drilled Middlesbbrough side who were determined to stifle us and spoil the party on Arsene Wenger’s 67th bithday, if we produced 1/2 of the Chelsea game performance for instance we would have settled this tie comfortably. The players looked jaded , the attacking verve never got into 2nd gear and whisper it but ..we have a lot of appreciation to offer to our Goalkeeper Peter Cech. He saved our blushes on more than one occasion.. this story could have ended even worse.

here’s how we lined up for the game: Arsenal:

Cech , Bellerin , Mustafi , Koscielny , Monreal , Elneny (Oxlade-Chamberlain ), Coquelin , Walcott , Ozil , Iwobi (Lucas ), Sanchez

Unused subs: Gibbs, Gabriel, Ospina, Reine-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles

Cazorla missed out entirely due to the knock he received Midweek versus Ludogorets and my goodness how we missed the little spaniards industry in the middle of the park. The combination of Elneny and Coquelin proved too defensive at times, preferring the safer sideways passes as opposed to the forward minded probing ones to keep the opponents on the backfoot. In Cazorla’s absence the only other central midfeilder with an attacking nous would have been Xhaka but the Swiss player is serving out a suspension following his red card last week versus Swansea. As a result the burden of the creative hub was left to Mesut Ozil who it appears has discovered a new love for scoring goals than providing for others.

Arsenal are not new to spoiling milestones for Arsene Wenger, and this draw was hardly the ideal way for the boss to celebrate his 67th birthday.

Arsenal had dominated the early stages but those expecting a goal rush after the excesses of midweek were disappointed. Arsenal probed and probed but Middlesbrough packed men behind the ball, leaving Negredo alone near the half way line, and their defence stood firm.

Then, out of nowhere, Middlesbrough nearly took the lead. Ayala pumped a long ball forward, Negredo nodded it on and Traore stole in front of Koscielny. The pacy forward bore down on goal but his shot was saved well by Cech and Negredo, presented with the rebound, could only drag his shot wide of the target. Big let off there.

But like a boxer against the ropes, Arsenal were still in danger as they conceded a free kick on the edge of their box. Ramirez curled it over the wall and as Cech scrambled to his right, it cannoned off the post and away to safety. At the other end, Sanchez saw a free kick of his own clawed away by Valdes when it was destined for the top corner.

Arsenal still dominated possession (we ended with a whopping 72%) but were still struggling to make any chances and ten minutes before the interval, it was Middlesbrough who once again created a golden chance to take the lead. The dangerous Traore was at the heart of things again.

This time, the former Barcelona player found space on the Arsenal right and curled in a cross with pace. Negredo rose to meet it and when his header cannoned off a defender it fell to Ramirez, who seemed certain to score. Ramirez went for power, not placement, with his header and as Cech spread himself like a canopy, the ball bounced off his chest and was scrambled away. Heart stopping moment for Gunner faithfuls.

Its funny what a winning streak can do for you if you are Arsene Wenger. Sometime earlier this season sounds of dissent, Banners of “WENGER OUT” and boos would have been ringing out from the spectators following the drama unfolding on the pitch as the Gunners struggled with a relegation team as at Half time. But the fans were patient and Arsenal soon weathered the storm and began to fashion openings.

Four minutes after the interval, Arsenal finally fashioned a goalscoring opportunity although they owed the chance to a horrendous mix-up in the Middlesbrough defence. When Koscielny ballooned a header into the air from an Arsenal free-kick, Valdes collided with two defenders as he tried to gather it.

The ball fell to Sanchez and left him with an open goal but the Chile forward was off-balance and could only hook his shot across the six-yard box. A little lower and it would have presented Koscielny with the most simple of opportunities but it sailed over the Arsenal skipper’s head.

Arsenal started to press more urgently now. One well-worked move ended with Elneny threading the ball through to Sanchez on the edge of the box and Valdes made amends for his earlier error by flinging himself to his left and palming the vicious, curling shot away for a corner.

Middlesbrough still proved they were dangerous, though. Arsenal had struggled to cope with Traore all afternoon and now he burst free again. He left Coquelin behind as he surged forward from the half-way line and then pushed the ball past Koscielny before drilling a shot goalwards that Cech touched wide at full stretch.

Arsenal created problems for themselves, too. Mustafi played a ball out of defence straight to Ramirez. He tried to put it right by rushing to try to dispossess the Middlesbrough midfielder but when Ramirez skipped past him, Mustafi brought him down with a rugby tackle. He was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.
The game was opening up and Sanchez should have done better when Walcott slipped him in with a neat pass. But as he advanced on goal, Sanchez could only slide a weak shot too close to Valdes. Valdes fell upon it gratefully and broke into a broad grin as he climbed to his feet. He knew his team had had a lucky escape.

For all Arsenal’s pressure, it was Middlesbrough who should have snatched victory at the end. Two minutes were left when Traore once again broke free through the middle before releasing Negredo with a brilliant through ball. With only Cech to beat, Negredo dawdled. And dawdled.

Eventually, he tried to switch the ball on to his right foot but he had delayed so long that he had allowed Koscielny to get back and make a saving tackle. Arsenal were grateful. A point was the most they deserved. What we do with this game is to *right click, scrool down.. delete file? click yes* ..and on to the next one.

luckily Liverpool who manged to do the business versus West brom in their own game ..conceded a goal to put them behind us on Goal difference. We then Go top of the league temporarily until at least Mancity play Southampton.

Heres hoping Cazorla makes a speedy recovery.

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