Into the sixth millennium: Arsenal v Middlesbrough FA Cup preview

By Bulldog Drummond

So, with 5000 articles done, it seems I lead us off into the sixth millennium (and yes I know literally millennium means not just any old thousand, but a thousand years, but points are there to be stretched and anyway I don’t think that there is a word meaning 1000 editions).

But as you will see from the note at the end of this piece, we have already played Middlesbrough in the fifth round of the Cup on this day.  It was under Herbert Chapman, and was part of the cup run that gave Arsenal their first ever major trophy.   Not a bad day to have the match.

And Mr Wenger knows it.

“We have won the FA Cup five times during my period here. Nobody has won it more in the last 18 years, so we have always taken the competition seriously,” he said.   (In fact we’ve been in 18 finals and won it 11 times, starting with Chapman’s losing final in 1927 and his win in 1930 – although I have just spoiled part of the warm up of the History Society quiz – another note at the end of the piece).

As we all saw, and as Arsène Wenger said, we were “not the sharpest” midweek but we got through it and out the other side despite some, what shall I say, curious, refereeing.

For today there is talk in the papers of Alexis Sánchez, Jack Wilshere and Gabriel Paulista all being in the team.   Gabriel I can imagine, for Mr Wenger said this week,  “He’s very close [to making his debut]. He likes to defend. It’s more and more difficult to find people like that. [He is] a player who has overall good qualities: good pace, good in the air, good in one against one. But it’s best I don’t talk too much and let him play and he shows how good he is.”

But I can’t see why Jack would be rushed in, and with so many important games to come if Alexis is still recovering, why not make sure he has all of this week to get properly better.  There is a week until we play Palace, but then Monaco, Everton and QPR all come in quick succession when he really will be needed.  Mr Wenger said, “Alexis Sánchez is still not able to train. He could be short,”

On the other hand Middlesbrough are second in their league.

Pos Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bournemouth 31 17 8 6 65 32 33 59
2 Middlesbrough 30 17 8 5 48 20 28 59
3 Derby County 30 17 7 6 58 28 30 58
4 Ipswich Town 31 16 9 6 50 31 19 57
5 Watford 31 17 5 9 63 37 26 56
6 Norwich City 31 15 8 8 59 36 23 53

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy are of course all out.  The Ox is two to three weeks away.   Ramsey I presume is added to the list for three weeks, although my apologies, I can’t seem to find the details of how long he’s out for.

“Wojciech Szczesny will play,” said Mr Wenger and that’s good enough for me.  But he added, “He is completely ready and determined to play.”   He didn’t need to say that because I’d already got him listed, but he said it, just to make sure we all got it.

I suspect that the BFG will make way for Gabriel, and, well its just a punt, but I do like a wild bet sometimes, Oooooooospina might make way for Szczesnynsezczs.

Middlesbrough will be making changes too.  Adam Forshaw has rather foolishly tied himself to a cup and so can’t play and Daniel Alaya was injured playing on the sand at Blackpool.  The Chelsea man Tomas Kalas is also hurt, but the Tottenham player Ryan Fredericks could play.   He’s number five so you know who to boo.

And we need to give Arsenal all our support from the off.   As the Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka said, “We go to Arsenal in good form and it’s going to be a massive game, because everyone’s thinking we can beat them.   We beat Man City and played really well against Liverpool, and we’re not a surprise now. But if we go there thinking we can beat them by not playing our best, we will be making a big mistake.  We have to prepare in the same way we did against Blackpool or Man City. We have to think it’s a tough 90 minutes against a very good team.”

So no thinking this is going to be easy from either side.

This is the eighth time meeting between the two teams in the FA Cup, and we’ve won five of the last seven.  We have also lost one of our last 40 (yes really 40) home FA Cup games.  30 were wins and nine were draws.

And although Middlesbrough did beat Man C the fact is that they have only won two of their last 12 FA Cup games against Premier League or First Division clubs.

And one more for fun: if Arsene Wenger wins the Cup again this season he will equal the all time FA Cup record for a manager.  That is currently held by George Ramsay with Aston Villa.  He won it in 1887, 1895, 1897, 1905, 1913, 1920.   That is of course impressive, but it must be remembered that in the early days the FA Cup was different from now.  In the 1886/7 season for example 30 of the games in the main competition either resulted in clubs be given byes or a club being disqualified, or the match being declared void.  On one wonderful occasion on 24 November 1883 Blackburn Park Road lost at home to Accrington 2-3, and then both teams were disqualified.  In the second round Queens Park beat Manchester 15-0 and such scores were commonplace.

But the records are there and it is up to us to help Mr Wenger and Arsenal beat these records.

Mr Wenger is equal with Thomas Mitchell (who was also manager of Woolwich Arsenal for a while) who won the Cup five times in 1884, 1885, 1886, 1890, 1891 and with A Ferguson.

One more victory in the final will make Arsenal the team that has won the cup more than any other, and one more for Mr Wenger will make him the manager to have won the cup most in modern times, and equal with George Ramsey as the all time greatest FA Cup manager.  We owe that to him.

The team


Bellerin, Gabriel, Kos (he wants his own song), Monreal

Coquelin, Flamini


Theo, Giroud, Ozil

The most obvious change would be to play Rosicky from the start instead of Flamini – it depends how Mr Wenger rates the opposition midfield and attack.

On the beach we have some of Ooooooospina, the BFG, Chambers, Gibbs, Rosicky, Akpom, Welbeck


Anniversary of the day

  • 15 February 1930: Middlesbrough 0 Arsenal 2 in the fifth round of the FA Cup as Arsenal moved towards their first major trophy

And if you want something more recent, although not on this day, try this one…

  • 14 January 2006: Arsenal 7 Middlesbrough 0. Henry scored a hat-trick.  This equalled the highest Premier League win for the club, achieved on 11 March 2005.

And also….

The Arsenal History Society FA Cup Quiz


13 Replies to “Into the sixth millennium: Arsenal v Middlesbrough FA Cup preview”

  1. Cup ties are notorious for freak results, the leveling of sides in different divisions and the most horrendous of howlers by players who should know better.
    In today’s game I notice that Middlesboro are miserly over conceding goals and are equally shy over scoring……make whatever you like about those two statistics.
    On paper Arsenal should win, as there is a substantial gap between the two divisions and the Emirates is a veritable fortress for ANY team to overcome.
    Having said that, Arsenal are notorious for clutching defeat from victory, particularly when tipped to win.
    ’nuff said….

  2. Expect a rough game. ‘boro have the most ( 49 ) yellow cards in The Championship. Info via #7amkickoff.

  3. I am amazed to see Wilshere even in contention for this game, I thought he would out until the summer. The biggest enemy today is Mike Dean and then complacency – I”m hoping the former is ‘off message’ and the latter is well and truly identified by M. Wenger and Steve Bould, lest anyone in the Arsenal dressing room thinks this is going to be easy.
    I’m just getting ready to set off

  4. Hoping for a good result. The ref is always a concern, and given he didn’t send a player off and awarded us a penalty last time out, he might feel we’re ‘due’ one?.

  5. may be Bielik for Coqelin, rosicky for cazorla and welbeck and akpom up top in place of ozil and giroud. we play a lot of league games soon after this

  6. Your starters are good enough to start this Cup tie against Middlesborough. But as you are well aware, hardly does any pundit has correctly guessed the boss starts. Taking into cognizance the Gunners cannot afford not to beat Boro on the first time of asking today’s evening at the Emirates stadium ahead of their busy games to Crystal Palace and their CL home game with Monaco. MY ANTICIPATING GUNNERS STARTS: Szczesny.Bellerin.De-AbereuChambersGibbs. CoquelinFlamini. WalcottAkpomOzil. MY BENCH: Martinez.CazorlaGiroudRosickyMonrealRhinosackerWelbeck. I am resting Koscielny.The boss must rest some Gunners that includes my bench for Alan Pardew’s Palace game and our CL home game. My starts are dynamic and they will white-wash Boro as AFC 5-0 MBFC at full time.

  7. My guess is that it is still too early for the game sheets to have been turned in. But, the Guardian has Koscielny playing in the center, and not being able to play because of an injured shoulder. Which is a good story (and poor journalism).


  8. Samuel,
    I hope your prediction proves right but I fiat you are a little optimistic. Borough are, first and foremost, a very solid defensive team. They don’t score many goals but concede far fewer. I am expecting a tight game, Arsenal to win by at most two goals. The important thing is for us to start fast and positive and not to give Sean a chance to penalise us.

  9. Well, Alexis worked himself back in. 🙂

    From the Daily Mail:
    > Szczesny, Chambers, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Cazorla, Welbeck, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud
    > Subs: Martinez, Mertesacker, Monreal, Rosicky, Walcott, Coquelin, Akpom

    Welbeck, Alexis and Giroud to start is a lot of firepower.


  10. With fear of being called a turd, troll, AAA, PPP or even an ABC easy as 123, we need to play far better than we have in the last two games.

    We have been slow, sluggish and playing far too many safe, side passes to keep the ball.

    I am hoping for better movement not only from the front three but I want to see more third man running from our midfield and less passes to players with their back towards the oppositions goal.

    Play the fast passing game we all know we can and we will win, that will also negate a lot of damage the ref can do to us as by the time the opposition player gets to ours, the ball and the passer have gone.

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