By Walter Broeckx
A few changed compared to the team from our last match. No Santi Cazorla so he will not have been completely fit and maybe a bit of rest for the Spanish midfielder. Elneny taking his place. Cech back in goal for Ospina. Monreal came back at left back. And Iwobi came in the place of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
On the bench we also had the youngsters Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Maitland-Niles.
Team at the start: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis.
On the beach: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Reine-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas.
The match after a big win is always a difficult match. We had to see how the midweek efforts would be digested by most players. Confidence is one thing but you have to cope physically. Lots of possession for Arsenal in the opening minutes but not really much open chances. A free kick from Özil goes over the goal. A shot from Elneny from distance but a few meters wide. No real goal mouth incidents from both teams in the first fifteen minutes.
Özil almost with a shooting chance but a defender with a challenge made sure he couldn’t shoot at goal. Koscielny then losing the ball and Traore on his own towards Cech but luckily the stopped could stop both efforts and then Bellerin made a foul. Ramirez curled the free kick against the cross bar and the rebound was wasted then finally Arsenal could clear the danger. Alexis then with a free kick at the other end but the keeper could save for a corner. No goals after an half hour of played.
A cross finds a Middlesbrough striker but again Cech with an amazing stop. Cech certainly the best Arsenal player so far. Mustafi then went down after landing bad on his ankle. But he could continue after some treatment. Walcott with a low cross but Özil just can’t reach his cross-shot. Arsenal with a very high percentage of possession but Middlesbrough with the best chances on the counter. No score in the first half.
A free kick for Arsenal after a foul on Alexis, the Middlesbrough keeper spilling the ball under pressure from his own defenders, Alexis brings it back but Koscielny just couldn’t reach the ball. A low cross from Bellerin just can’t find an Arsenal player. A free kick from Alexis after a foul on Özil goes wide. Alexis then with a great shot but a good stop from Valdes who can just push it around the goalpost. Valdes then goes down injured. Or feigning to be injured. Bellerin with a good interception before Middlesbrough can have a shot at goal. Traore goes on a run but Cech can push it away for a corner. Still no score after one hour.
Mustafi then with a bad pass and he has to make up for it by fouling Ramirez, lucky Elneny was behind him. A yellow card was what Mustafi got. Arsenal can clear and attack at the other end but the shot from Alexis was too weak to beat Valdes. After 66 minutes Iwobi goes off and Lucas comes on. Arsenal pushing Middlesbrough back but not able to find lots of openings. Valdes heads the ball out of his penalty area but Walcott his attempt can be saved by the keeper. After 73 minutes Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Elneny.
Middlesbrough wit all 11 players defending and the passing from Arsenal not quick and precise enough. Walcott with a good run on the right flank but the cross ends up with Valdes. Valdes who was wasting time in the extreme. A combination from the right flank but then the shot is too weak. A header from Walcott but Alexis can’t put his foot against the headed cross. Middlesbrough now taking their time with the subs. The passing needs to be 100% to beat such teams who come to defend and hit us on the counter and so far it wasn’t good enough. Traore breaks but a important tackle from Koscielny prevents a heart breaking goal for Middlesbrough.
The ball bounces around in the Middlesbrough penalty area but always a wrong leg in the way from an Arsenal point of view. The Ox with a dribble and a shot and Özil touches it and puts it in the goal but it was clear offside. Seconds later Bellerin to Walcott but again offside given but Walcott missed anyway.
Middlesbrough got a point by defending for 90 of the 95 minutes. Oh we missed a player like Santi today to help create openings against such packed defences. Some tired legs maybe from the CL matches ? Every winning run comes to an end and for Arsenal it is mostly when you don’t expect it. Time to start a new run.