By Bulldog Drummond.
“If God exists and one day I go up there and He will ask: ‘Do you want to come in? What have you done in your life?’ And the only answer I will have is, ‘I tried to win football games.’ He will say, ‘Is that all you have done?’ And the only answer I will have is: ‘It’s not as easy as it looks’.”
Thus spake Arsène Wenger on his birthday. So, what sort of birthday will he have?
Middlesbrough beat Sunderland away in August and that has been their only win of the season thus far. Since then they have played seven games and scored five goals. As a result of being on the back foot they have made more tackles than any other club in the PL this season. Extra shin pad protection for this one I think.
Of course they could decide to throw everything at Arsenal today, but their fixture list coming up looks a bit problematic:
- 29 October: Bournemouth-on-sea (home)
- 5 November: Manchester Airport (away)
- 20 November: Chelsea Abramovich (home)
- 26 November: Leicester Only Once (away)
If they have any sense they will lay off the wild tackles against us for fear of losing men before some of these upcoming games – although on the other hand seeing who the ref is, perhaps not.
Anyway, Mr Wenger always wins on his birthday (we beat Man C 1-0 in 2005, and Reading 4-0 in 2006.
As for Boro one of the games we all remember is the one that equalled the Nottingham Forest record of 42 unbeaten – and Arsenal promptly went 1-3 down. Here’s a film if you have five minutes to spare.
This time around the prediction ratio is 88 for a home win, 3 for a draw and 8 for an away win. The voting in the Independent has gone even further with 92% going for an Arsenal win at the time I registered my vote.
You know the Arsenal form run – just keep writing the letter W lots of times and you could be a newspaper football correspondent, rather as if you had two and a bit world wide webs.
Middlesbrough’s form on the other hand is a little less exciting and currently reads DLLLDL
On the unavailable front we have lost Granit to suspension, and maybe Santi with an Achilles problem. Some are saying Santi could be back today, but when I did my Achilles I was in agony for weeks. Maybe Santi is made of sterner stuff – which would not be difficult.
Mr Wenger said of the other crocked players, that Giroud could be involved on Tuesday and Ramsey the following weekend against Sunderland. Of Akpom there is no news – the Guardian have him as both injured and on the beach.
So back to Middlesbrough today. Here’s the overall league table with gaps in the middle.
|3||The Tiny Totts||8||5||3||0||13||4||+9||18|
Middlesbrough have scored seven and let in 11 – certainly not the worst in the league. We’re on 19 for 9 against, and a continuation of the midweek form could help take us above Manchester City with their one goal fewer conceded. (They play Southampton on Sunday).
Home form for us is interesting…
Looking at the away form at the foot of the table for the visitors we hae
|15||West Ham United||1||0||3||5||9||3|
We can see that Arsenal under perform at home against their position and Boro over-perform away. But the numbers are still based on modest totals of games, so probably not too much to worry about. Interesting how Leicester have utterly flopped away this year, however,
And one more away thought about Leicester in passing: they have had eight (count them) away shots on target.
As for past meetings we all remember the 5-3 noted above – but I also have fond memories of being at Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 6. Middlesbrough scored their goal at the end, and the cheers that went up from the Arsenal fans were huge – most of the rest of the stadium was empty so it was just us left to cheer for them. And we hit them again that November with a 5-1.
Here are the more recent results starting with the 5-3. We have lost two in 11, but did have a run of five where we couldn’t beat them. Time to return to the big scoring game methinks.
|22 Aug 2004||Arsenal v Middlesbrough||W||5-3||Premier League|
|09 Apr 2005||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||W||0-1||Premier League|
|10 Sep 2005||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||L||2-1||Premier League|
|14 Jan 2006||Arsenal v Middlesbrough||W||7-0||Premier League|
|09 Sep 2006||Arsenal v Middlesbrough||D||1-1||Premier League|
|03 Feb 2007||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
|09 Dec 2007||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||L||2-1||Premier League|
|15 Mar 2008||Arsenal v Middlesbrough||D||1-1||Premier League|
|13 Dec 2008||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
|26 Apr 2009||Arsenal v Middlesbrough||W||2-0||Premier League|
|15 Feb 2015||Arsenal v Middlesbrough||W||2-0||FA Cup|
The limitations of the Boro aspirations today however was shown with this comment from Aitor Karanka when asked if he was worried about being fourth from bottom at the moment.
“For me, I don’t care because I want to be in this position in May. We are in the Premier League now and if in May we finish 17th, I will be really, really pleased.”
As you will know we have just won six league games in a row, the best run since an eight-match streak between February and April 2015. And so far this season we have been behind for just 52 minutes, less than any other side in the Premier League.
Speaking of stats here is one you might have missed…
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). Now isn’t that something.
As for the visitors, their total of six points from eight games is their lowest ever in a PL season. They have kept a clean sheet once, and five of their seven PL goals have come in the first half – a higher percentage than any other club.
Let’s try one more thing before the teams. Arsenal’s home form from WhoScored.com
- Possession and pass success is remarkably similar.
- Boro make many more tackles and concede more fouls. We do many more interceptions.
- We have almost double the number of shots per game and more than double the number of shots on target when compared with Boro
- And Arsenal dribble a lot more.
Arsenal’s line up
Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerin
Santi Caz(?), Coquelin
- Having fun on the beach: Gabriel, Gibbs, Ooooooospina, The Ox, Elneny, Lucas, Reine-Adelaide.
- If Santi Caz is injured then I would play Elneny in that position, with encouragement to move forwards (remember the goal last season?) and put Rob Holding on the beach, just to show we haven’t forgotten him.
- Right all done. Time to go. With luck Walter will oblige with the after-match service. Tony won’t be around to watch the site tonight as I hear he is using Blacksheep’s changing facilities after the game and then shooting straight off to a dance. I wonder, is that wise at his age?
Recent tales from Untold and the Arsenal History Society
- Özil responsible for a new word in the English dictionary