By Walter Broeckx
A few big changes both in players as in tactics for this match.
Cech back in goal after his injury. At the back 3 central defenders with Gabriel – Koscielny and Holding. The first big surprise. I didn’t see that coming. Then we had a 4 man midfield with Oxlade-Chamberlain – Ramsey – Xhaka and Monreal. And up front we had Özil, Alexis and Giroud in the central attacking position.
On the beach we had Martinez, Bellerin, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Walcott and Iwobi.
A bit of a slippery opening 5 minutes with most Arsenal players slipping a lot. The Ox going in the book for a late foul when Fabio could have gone away. Leadbitter also getting a yellow for a lunge on Özil. If Moss was the ref and Xhaka doing the tackle we would be down to 10 man. Arsenal win a corner and Giroud is being dragged down. This is Taylor so nothing given of course. No real goal mouth incidents at either end in so far apart from the penalty incident.
Not much to be seen. Arsenal trying to go forward and Middlesbrough trying to hit us on the counter. With the many Arsenal players slipping there is always a chance for a counter. Talyor giving free kick after free kick in favour of Middelsbrough. Only when he really has no other option he will give a free kick in favour of Arsenal. The Ox with some good runs and hard working on the right flank and our most dangerous and creative player so far. Arsenal having more than 70% possession but no real goal chances. Middelsbrough think they have scored after a free kick but the player was clearly offside. Good decisions from the assistant. Still 0-0 after 30 minutes.
Both teams working hard but both keepers not really troubled a lot so far. Lots of free kicks against Arsenal. I think we predicted that one. Oh a free kick in favour of Arsenal just outside the penalty area. Xhaka was cut in two from behind. Even Taylor couldn’t let that go. But no card. Oh well…. Alexis behind the ball…. GOAL!!!! 1-0 to the Arsenal after 42 minutes. Alexis curled the free kick over the wall and it went in just under the crossbar. What a nice goal.
Gabriel goes in the book for a high kick against Negredo. No complaints about that card. The free kick is stopped by the wall. That was the last exciting moment before the ref blows the end of the first half. Arsenal go in the dressing room with a 0-1 advantage. That has been a while since that has happened.
Arsenal try to go forward in the second half. Alexis with a pass that is intercepted. Downing gets away on the left flank and curls a cross to Negredo who can put his foot behind the ball and put it past Cech. Middelsbrough equalise. 1-1 after 50 minutes.
Arsenal already low on confidence is visibly suffering after that goal. We were well in control but now Middelsbrough sense there might be more in this match. Cech twice with a good save to deny that upset.
At the other end Alexis with a pass to Özil who tries to put it past Guzan but the keeper can block the effort and then the ball bounces against the shin of Özil and hobbles wide. Gabriel then with a shot from distance when a ball is cleared but well off target. The match now being very open with Middlesbrough even more trying to attack.
Alexis on the left flank tries a second cross after the first being blocked. The ball comes to Ramsey who was on his own, a chest control to Özil who shoots with his right foot. GOAL!!!! 1-2 to The Arsenal after 71 minutes.
Arsenal with a break after a foul on Xhaka deep in our own half but credit where it is due for Taylor who played an excellent advantage. Alexis and Özil combine and Giroud tries to curl a shot in the top corner but his effort goes wide. Taylor gives a yellow card for the foul after that. Wow!
Arsenal now leaning a bit more back in the final 10 minutes. Isn’t that a dangerous tactic? Middlesbrough with a sniff when Traore goes past Holding and Gabriel but he can’t produce a shot. Cech has to go down on the ball after a free kick. Taylore still giving lots of freekicks in favour of Middlesbrough for every slight touch.
Arsenal make their first two changes in minute 89. Yes you read it well. Minute 89. Coquelin come son for Alexis and Bellerin comes on for Özil. 4 minutes of extra time is given.
The Ox gets a pass from Bellerin and with players arriving he tries a near post shot but Guzan with a great save. Lets hope we don’t pay for this miss. Would be harsh on The Ox. The Ox away again after a pass from Xaha but this time he shoots in the side netting. We could and should have added a third one now.
But lucky those misses didn’t cost us as the ref blows the end of the match. Arsenal can win again. Not the best performance but the players worked hard and with a new system and some new players.
My man of the match was The Ox for the way he went for it for 90 minutes.