On fire Alexis, Mesut & Theo will give Wenger a 67th birthday present to remember
Match Preview: Arsenal vs Middlesbrough- Premier League – 22.10.2016
What has happened to me? I used to get slated on Twitter for being so positive that, as @Attwood10 once put it, Arsène Wenger could murder my entire family and I’d still offer to be pallbearer at his funeral. I admit to trying to argue the positives in most situations but I’ve never considered myself a believer in the infallibility of the manager. So it comes as a surprise that each time I come to write these previews I feel a degree of apprehension.
32 goals this season, undefeated in 10, 7 consecutive wins and facing a promoted team at home is hardly the foundation for concern and any feeling of unease I possess about this match will likely dissipate within moments of kick-off but but we’ve all been stung too many times to take anything for granted. On paper we should breeze through this match and if Arsenal approach this match with the same professionalism they have every other match this season there will only be one outcome – a convincing Arsenal win.
This will be my first visit to the Emirates of 2016/17 and I still feel a great sense of excitement the night before a match I’m attending. It’s not Highbury but I think the Emirates has its own magic so prefer not to compare and just enjoy the experience.
It’ll be a special match for me because I’ve had a soft spot for Middlesbrough since Parlour joined. Ray was my favourite player as a child and I was heartbroken to see him finish his career with another team. That said I was pleased with the destination he chose as Boro are one of those sides you don’t mind seeing do well. They’re a good family club and I was content to see Chambers go there on loan this season. It’s a shame he isn’t allowed to play against us – I think it’s a stupid rule that can potentially obstruct the development, and thus the point, of a loaned player. If he scored the winning goal against us then so be it; we’ve loaned him out to perform so cannot whine if he did against us.
The Gunners have looked imperious in recent weeks, full of creativity and goals however the equilibrium that has allowed our creativity to flow could be in jeopardy. Santi Cazorla is rumoured to miss the match with a slight knock and with Granit Xhaka suspended the midfield is likely to consist of Elneny and Coquelin. Both players have performed well when called upon but lack the vision and intuitive passing of our diminutive Spaniard.
However, we have three players on absolute top form in Özil, Alexis and Walcott. Mesut and Alexis have both exceeded their personal statistics from their time in Spain and Theo has already beaten his offensive tally from last season and his defensive contributions from the previous two seasons combined.
Arsène Wenger turns 67 tomorrow and he has a 100% record for fixtures played on his birthday. Should Cazorla miss out I think the form of our forward line will overcome the gap in creativity we’ll have and still put a fair few away for a memorable result.
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Elneny; Özil; Alexis, Iwobi, Walcott
I expect to see substitute appearances from Lucas and Ox.
“We live in a jungle where everybody wants to eat you, and you have to survive by keeping your vigilance. That’s what competition is about. Every day you have to fight again to survive.” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Arsenal 2-0 Middlesbrough (15.02.2015—FA Cup)
- Arsenal 2-0 Middlesbrough (26.04.2009)
- Middlesbrough 1-1 Arsenal (13.12.2008)
In the words of Arsène Wenger: “Away from home they have done extremely well, they play, they are not afraid to take responsibilities in their game and they are a team who is good going forward and looks like they can score goals. We will need a good defensive performance.”
However that may be extremely generous. Boro have only had 8 shots on target this season and that they are not in the relegation zone can be partly owed to how poor Sunderland, Swansea and Stoke have been so far.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in eight Premier League home games against Middlesbrough (W6, D2).
- Boro’s only victory in their last 31 top-flight matches at Arsenal came in April 2001 when own goals by Edu and Sylvinho put them on course for a 3-0 win.
- The most recent meeting between the sides came in the 2014-15 FA Cup when Olivier Giroud scored twice to send Arsenal into the quarter-finals.
- The Gunners have scored one, two, three, four, five, six and seven goals in Premier League matches against Middlesbrough.
- Arsenal have won six league games in a row, their best run since an eight-match streak between February and April 2015.
- Boro have won only one of their last 14 Premier League matches (D5, L8).
- The Gunners have been behind for just 52 minutes this season, less than any other side in the division.
- The Teesiders have taken two points from six games since beating bottom club Sunderland in August.
- Arsene Wenger turns 67 on Saturday. He has won his two previous Premier League games on his birthday: 1-0 v Manchester City in 2005 and 4-0 v Reading in 2006.
- Middlesbrough’s tally of six points is their lowest after eight games of a Premier League season.
- Theo Walcott has scored five Premier League goals this season, equalling his final tally for each of the previous three seasons.
- The Teesiders have kept just one clean sheet in their last 19 top-flight away fixtures.
- Mesut Ozil has scored or set up 51 goals in 90 league games for Arsenal (18 goals, 33 assists), the same total he had after 90 league games for Real Madrid (14 goals, 37 assists).
- Five of Middlesbrough’s seven Premier League goals have come in the first half this season, a league-high proportion of 71%.
4-0 to Arsenal. Walcott brace, Alexis and Iwobi to score. Double Mesut assist.
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