By Walter Broeckx
The starting line for the match against Middlesbrough who surprised City in the round before was Szczesny, Chambers, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Cazorla, Özil, Alexis, Giroud and Welbeck. On the bench we had Akpom, Coquelin, Rosicky, Walcott, Martinez, Mertesacker, Monreal.
So Gabriel with his debut in the first team for Arsenal. Gabriel playing in the Mertesacker position. Alexis being fit enough to start. And the expected changes at the full back positions. Santi Cazorla was the captain for this match.
After a foul on Giroud a good free kick from Cazorla but an equally good save from Mejias the Middlesbrough keeper. Özil with some nice turns and passes from the start. Arsenal starting the match very determinate not to let Middlesbrough getting in to the match. Good pressing on the players from Middlesbrough high up the pitch and looking for an opening early on. A low cross from Gibbs was intercepted by the keeper and a minute later Gibbs came one yard too late and the keeper was first on the ball.
Koscielny being very strong after some 10 minutes to hold off Kike and to sniff out any possible danger. Welbeck then with a good back heel to Alexis but a good block on the ball stopping him. A shot from Giroud was then pushed away and Alexis could only hit the outside of the net from a difficult angle. A next chance went begging when Giroud over hit his pass to Welbeck. Giroud with a shot from distance when a pass on Welbeck might have been a better option.
Meanwhile Cazorla playing deeper than Özil so far this match. Gabriel doing his job without any hesitance or stage fright. After 26 minutes a great combination over lots of players starting with Gibbs ended up with a great pass from Cazorla to Gibbs and his low cross was turned over the line by Giroud. 1-0 to the Arsenal after 27 minutes.
A minute later a corner to Arsenal which could have been a foul on Alexis. Alexis with the corner and Giroud with a great volley at the first post. Wonderful goal. 2-0 to the Arsenal after 29 minutes.
Arsenal all over Middlesbrough again now. Even Özil battling himself through 2 Middlesbrough players. A shot from Cazorla ends up the back of Giroud and in the arms of the keeper. A great counter from Alexis who got an amazing ball back from Özil and the ball was going goal bound but a defender could save before the line. It could and should have been more than 2-0 by now.
After 38 minutes the first shot from Middlesbrough on goal but Szczesny with a comfortable save. Özil with some amazing touches and passes at times and his work rate was great to see. Picking up the ball deep, running forward with it, but alas sometimes his team mates not on the same wavelength. Some Middlesbrough players getting a bit frustrated it seems. Welbeck then with a chance but his shot was well wide but there might have been a pull when he wanted to pull the trigger. Arsenal completely in control in this first half and the only negative thing was that they could and should have been more than 2-0 up by now.
In the second half Welbeck needing a bit too much time and then a shot from Alexis flew over. Flamini then with a shot but well wide. But Arsenal continuing the same intensity as in the first half. Chambers with a strong run but his cross was cut out just before Welbeck was on the end of it. Gibbs also giving a strong performance on left flank. Chambers then with a great ball to Welbeck but he hesitated between a shot and a cross and it came to nothing.
Another fine combination between Alexis and Özil with a great shot but the keeper could stop his effort. Middlesbrough then showed that they knew that Arsenal was too strong and they took off Tomlin who performed so good at City. Gabriel then doing what he should do and blocking a Middlesbrough attack at the cost of a yellow card. Flamini being another brick in the wall from the resulting free kick.
Just after the hour mark two big chances for Arsenal. Gibbs with a one-two with Giroud but a good stop from the keeper prevented a third Arsenal goal. And a bit later another amazing save when Alexis headed a free kick towards goal. That was a real amazing stop.
Arsenal then made two changes. Alexis and Welbeck then came off and Walcott and Rosicky came on. A great counter after a Middlesbrough counter but the shot from Cazorla flew over. Walcott with a left footed shot but a defender could turn the ball away. And match winner Giroud was replaced with Chuby Akpom with 8 minutes to go.
Arsenal controlled the match, slowed the tempo down when they wanted, speeded it up when they wanted. Middlesbrough player Vossen getting a bit frustrated and bringing Cazorla down and earning himself a yellow card. Some signs of frustration and not just by him. Özil with a low shot on the footballing part of things.
Rosicky with a great ball to Walcott but Mejias with another great stop saving for a corner. And just with one minute to go a shot from Adomah from Middlesbrough going well wide. And in the last minute of extra time a good cross and a header against the post from Middlesbrough. But Middlesbrough didn’t get a consolation goal.
Arsenal completely dominated the match from start to finish and didn’t give Middlesbrough much hope during the 90 minutes. Gabriel did well for his first match. Özil was majestic and made Arsenal tick. The only regret is that we should have won by a larger margin. Good work ethics from the whole team. And that was needed after they showed what they did at the Etihad a few weeks ago.
Arsenal march on to the quarter finals.
- Partey setback, AFC man hauled off, new C Ronaldo signing, Arteta desperate
- How the media always knocks Arsenal, but ignores England’s failures.
- Left has never been stronger at Arsenal FC!
- The seven main things that are wrong with football in England
- 2022-23 WSL Arsenal v Spurs – Match Preview – part 2 comments from the manager and team news