By Bulldog Drummond
We know most of the match facts by now – especially those that set out Arsenal in a bad light along with the fact that Middlesbrough have failed to win any of their last 14 games in the Premier League, and have failed to score in six of their last eight league games.
But as we noted last time we have not conceded in the last 3 games against Middlesbrough. A straw I admit, but it doesn’t say I can’t grab at once passing by in my job brief.
These sorts of facts and figures generally mean that we need to score first and get settled (or get settled and score first) so that we can do our thing, and let Middlesbrough fret. It will happen one day because ultimately all bad runs come to an end; it would be nice if it happened now, and next weekend we sailed through into another cup final.
And when looking for positives there is the fact that Arsenal have scored in their last 13 Premier League fixtures away to Middlesbrough while Boro have the worst attack in the Premier League.
Here’s another – I have not checked this one out but it comes from the BBC so ought to be reliable: Olivier Giroud is the only member of the Arsenal squad to score against Middlesbrough, with two FA Cup goals in February 2015.
And one more from the same source: two of the last three meetings between the sides at the Riverside Stadium have ended in a 1-1 draw, but the last was back in 2008.
So let’s have a bash at the team, given that we have not been doing well, and have a couple of players of note back in contention.
Bellerin Mustafi Koscielny Monreal
The Ox Ozil Alexis
By and large I would go for this line up – in particular with Giroud replacing Welbeck, because Danny has just not looked like that all firing guy who has previously come on as a sub on occasion. Obviously if we do go with this sort of line up then which of the two who doesn’t play will be on the beach ready to come on with 20 minutes to go – just as the defenders are tiring.
The defensive midfield is also a problem: Elneny and Coquelin could equally play there, and once again whichever two are left out, they will be lurking in the river.
But assuming that team set out above is right (a big assumption I know, and one I make from behind the sofa since I got the line up right for the last match and then look what happened… but assuming it is right, playing in the mud on the side of the River Tees while waiting to be called upon we might or might not have seven from this group of eight.
Martínez, Gibbs, Iwobi, Welbeck, Mertersacker, Elneny, Coquelin, Walcott
Arsenal can’t actually win this match of course, at least not in the sense of winning over any hearts and minds, nor in the sense of showing that they have turned a corner. The massed armies of bloggettists, pundits and journalists will see to that. But a 10-0 victory to Arsenal might at least persuade some of the anti-Wengerian flag wavers to put their banners away, at least until the cup semi-final.
Middlesbrough v Arsenal – the rest of the story