Arsène’s birthday message: “It’s not as easy as it looks”. Arsenal v Middlesbrough – the teams and stuff.

By Bulldog Drummond.

“If God exists and one day I go up there and He will ask: ‘Do you want to come in? What have you done in your life?’ And the only answer I will have is, ‘I tried to win football games.’ He will say, ‘Is that all you have done?’ And the only answer I will have is: ‘It’s not as easy as it looks’.”

Thus spake Arsène Wenger on his birthday.   So, what sort of birthday will he have?

Middlesbrough beat Sunderland away in August and that has been their only win of the season thus far.  Since then they have played seven games and scored five goals.  As a result of being on the back foot they have made more tackles than any other club in the PL this season.  Extra shin pad protection for this one I think.

Of course they could decide to throw everything at Arsenal today, but their fixture list coming up looks a bit problematic:

  • 29 October: Bournemouth-on-sea (home)
  • 5 November: Manchester Airport (away)
  • 20 November: Chelsea Abramovich (home)
  • 26 November: Leicester Only Once (away)

If they have any sense they will lay off the wild tackles against us for fear of losing men before some of these upcoming games – although on the other hand seeing who the ref is, perhaps not.

Anyway, Mr Wenger always wins on his birthday (we beat Man C 1-0 in 2005, and Reading 4-0 in 2006.

As for Boro one of the games we all remember is the one that equalled the Nottingham Forest record of 42 unbeaten – and Arsenal promptly went 1-3 down.  Here’s a film if you have five minutes to spare.

This time around the prediction ratio is 88 for a home win, 3 for a draw and 8 for an away win.  The voting in the Independent has gone even further with 92% going for an Arsenal win at the time I registered my vote.

You know the Arsenal form run – just keep writing the letter W lots of times and you could be a newspaper football correspondent, rather as if you had two and a bit world wide webs.

Middlesbrough’s form on the other hand is a little less exciting and currently reads DLLLDL

On the unavailable front we have lost Granit to suspension, and maybe Santi with an Achilles problem.  Some are saying Santi could be back today, but when I did my Achilles I was in agony for weeks.  Maybe Santi is made of sterner stuff – which would not be difficult.

Mr Wenger said of the other crocked players, that Giroud could be involved on Tuesday and Ramsey the following weekend against Sunderland.  Of Akpom there is no news – the Guardian have him as both injured and on the beach.

So back to Middlesbrough today.   Here’s the overall league table with gaps in the middle.

Middlesbrough have scored seven and let in 11 – certainly not the worst in the league.  We’re on 19 for 9 against, and a continuation of the midweek form could help take us above Manchester City with their one goal fewer conceded.  (They play Southampton on Sunday).

Home form for us is interesting…

Looking at the away form at the foot of the table for the visitors we hae

We can see that Arsenal under perform at home against their position and Boro over-perform away.   But the numbers are still based on modest totals of games, so probably not too much to worry about.  Interesting how Leicester have utterly flopped away this year, however,

And one more away thought about Leicester in passing: they have had eight (count them) away shots on target.

As for past meetings we all remember the 5-3 noted above – but I also have fond memories of being at Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 6.  Middlesbrough scored their goal at the end, and the cheers that went up from the Arsenal fans were huge – most of the rest of the stadium was empty so it was just us left to cheer for them.   And we hit them again that November with a 5-1.

Here are the more recent results starting with the 5-3.  We have lost two in 11, but did have a run of five where we couldn’t beat them.  Time to return to the big scoring game methinks.

22 Aug 2004 Arsenal v Middlesbrough W 5-3 Premier League
09 Apr 2005 Middlesbrough v Arsenal W 0-1 Premier League
10 Sep 2005 Middlesbrough v Arsenal L 2-1 Premier League
14 Jan 2006 Arsenal v Middlesbrough W 7-0 Premier League
09 Sep 2006 Arsenal v Middlesbrough D 1-1 Premier League
03 Feb 2007 Middlesbrough v Arsenal D 1-1 Premier League
09 Dec 2007 Middlesbrough v Arsenal L 2-1 Premier League
15 Mar 2008 Arsenal v Middlesbrough D 1-1 Premier League
13 Dec 2008 Middlesbrough v Arsenal D 1-1 Premier League
26 Apr 2009 Arsenal v Middlesbrough W 2-0 Premier League
15 Feb 2015 Arsenal v Middlesbrough W 2-0 FA Cup

The limitations of the Boro aspirations today however was shown with this comment from Aitor Karanka when asked if he was worried about being fourth from bottom at the moment.

“For me, I don’t care because I want to be in this position in May.    We are in the Premier League now and if in May we finish 17th, I will be really, really pleased.”

As you will know we have just won six league games in a row, the best run since an eight-match streak between February and April 2015.   And so far this season we have been behind for just 52 minutes, less than any other side in the Premier League.

Speaking of stats here is one you might have missed…

Mesut Ozil has scored or set up 51 goals in 90 league games for Arsenal (18 goals, 33 assists), the same total he had after 90 league games for Real Madrid (14 goals, 37 assists).   Now isn’t that something.

As for the visitors, their total of six points from eight games is their lowest ever in a PL season.  They have kept a clean sheet once, and five of their seven PL goals have come in the first half – a higher percentage than any other club.

Let’s try one more thing before the teams.  Arsenal’s home form from

Possession 52%
Pass Success % 83%
Aerial Duel won per game 14.5
Average Rating 7.00
Shots conceded per game 12.3
Shots blocked per game 3
Tackles per game 17.8
Fouls per game 9.8
Interceptions per game 22
Shots per game 14
Shots on target per game 4.5
Dribbles won per game 13.3
Fouls won per game 10.8
Offsides per game 4.5
And compare that with Boro away stats
Possession 53%
Pass Success % 81%
Aerial Duel won per game 22.3
Average Rating 6.77
Shots conceded per game 15.3
Shots blocked per game 4.3
Tackles per game 25.3
Fouls per game 13
Interceptions per game 16.3
Shots per game 7.8
Shots on target per game 2
Dribbles won per game 5.8
Fouls won per game 10
Offsides per game 2
Thus we get
  • Possession and pass success is remarkably similar.
  • Boro make many more tackles and concede more fouls.  We do many more interceptions.
  • We have almost double the number of shots per game and more than double the number of shots on target when compared with Boro
  • And Arsenal dribble a lot more.

Arsenal’s line up


Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerin

Santi Caz(?), Coquelin

Walcott                                Iwobi

Ozil Alexis

Having fun on the beach: Gabriel, Gibbs, Ooooooospina, The Ox, Elneny, Lucas, Reine-Adelaide.
If Santi Caz is injured then I would play Elneny in that position, with encouragement to move forwards (remember the goal last season?) and put Rob Holding on the beach, just to show we haven’t forgotten him.
Right all done.  Time to go.  With luck Walter will oblige with the after-match service.  Tony won’t be around to watch the site tonight as I hear he is using Blacksheep’s changing facilities after the game and then shooting straight off to a dance.  I wonder, is that wise at his age?

Recent tales from Untold and the Arsenal History Society

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

The “Striking Department”. How Arsenal have avoided the trap of the one man strike force.

Arsenal v Middlesbrough, 22 October 2016 – The Match Officials

Özil responsible for a new word in the English dictionary

Ref review: Arsenal – Swansea, lots of decisions to make

Arsenal in the 30s – February 1935. Despite one slip, Arsenal remain top.

How football has its meaning stripped away, leaving us supporters to sort it out for ourselves

Why the predictions of Arsenal’s season have thus far been soooo wrong

Former Arsenal player John Barnwell talks about his years at Highbury


73 Replies to “Arsène’s birthday message: “It’s not as easy as it looks”. Arsenal v Middlesbrough – the teams and stuff.”

  1. Update: Cazorla has trained ok. Maitland Niles training with the first team. This season’s new superstar….. who cost £zero

  2. First of all, let me congratulate Le Prof on his 67th birthday anniversary and I wish him many happy returns.

    Le Prof is ever improving in his coaching methods at Arsenal. He has gone through many revolutionary evolutions in his coaching career at Arsenal, from 1G to 2G, 3G to 4G LTE and now he has appeared to be switching over to the 5G LTE coaching system ahead of his top rival coaches some of whom are still operating on the 3G coaching operating system platform.

    Arsenal have already put their money bet on themselves winning not only the PL title this season. But have as well but their money on themselves also winning the quadruple this season too.

    Any Arsenal title rival manager who thinks winning the title this season can’t is unpredictable and will be too close to call should have a rethink. For this afternoon today, Arsenal have put in place the necessary unfailingly plans to mould Middlesborough by 5 goals to nil and climb to the top of the PL table and continue to sit there until the season ends. In fact, I won’t be surprised if the Gunners got angry as a result of any unruly behaviour by Middlesborough rough tackling any Gunner on the field and consequently punish them by extending the final score-line to 7-0 in favour of Arsenal.

    My starts once again:
    Bellerin Mustafi Koscielny Monreal
    Coquelin Elneny
    Walcott Ozil Oxchambo

    My bench:
    Cech Debuchy(no chance) Gabriel Gibbs Adelaide Iwobi Perez.

    I want Le Prof to be flexible a bit in the starting of his 2 top goalkeepers and swap Ospina and Cech for today’s ‘borough PL game and for our Ucl away game against Ludogorets so that each of them will already have had a PL start and Ucl start feelings. And not wait until something happens to one of them before playing him in the PL or Ucl games. Maitland Niles training with the senior team squad? Something we don’t know must be cooking then. Let’s wait to see.

  3. I’m guessing one of the Bellerin’s is actually Monreal.

    What was the International Nacho day or something that was twitted about on

    Sending Dean out to officiate this game, is pretty much a big FU from 😈 Mike Riley to Wenger for his birthday. I hope Riley chokes on a chicken bone for lunch.

    Here’s hoping for a good home game out of Bournemouth. Wilshere with the hat trick? That would be a present!


  4. No Andy Mack, Bulldog is correct in putting in Hector twice. I spoke to one of the coaching staff this morning at it seems that M. Wenger has decided to give Nacho ‘so-Nacho’ Montreal an extended rest after his recent excursions and is able to do so because Hector ‘billy whizz’ Bellerin is SOOOOOOOOOOOO fast that he can cover both sides of the pitch at once.

    So there you go

  5. Thinking about Dean being a present from 😈 Mike Riley to Wenger. We’ll get Dean for a game in the Christmas break. I would like to say the game closest to Christmas, but probably the game with the biggest chance of Arsenal injuries. For example, if we got Stoke for a game (I’m being lazy and not looking it up). If St.Totteringham is close, we’ll get Dean for game 38. And we need another present, so Dean for a game at Valentine’s Day. Do we need another day? How about Dean for Easter?

    Thinking about football corruption, I guess I could have described the present as a big FA. But, the head of the FA said his people did their due diligence (see FA Glossary below) on Fat Sam. And parliament wants the FA to investigate corruption in football and the FA?

    FA1: We are supposed to do our due diligence. What is due dilligence?
    FA2: Read the FA Glossary.

    FA Glossary

    Due-Diligence: Read about Due-Diligence in the FA Glossary.

    Investigate: Open an investigation (and then promptly close it). Sweet FA.


  6. In our weekly referee reviews I have Middlesbrough as having been denied 5 points so far, a draw they should have won and a loss they should have won. My fear is that today Dean will give them three of those points. I just hope we start positively and score two or three goals that will effectively put the game to bed. If we mess around then it gives Dean a chance to “do his thing” and influence the game with an unwarranted sending off , phantom fouls leading to free kicks in dangerous positions or foul play taking out our players.

    We have the class to win this game by two or more goals providing we take things seriously.

    I’m off to meet Tony and Blacksheep before the game and my Son at the stadium so I’ll have an enjoyable time till kick off at least and trust our team to make that last all weekend.


  7. In our weekly referee reviews I have Middlesbrough as having been denied 5 points so far, a draw they should have won and a loss they should have won. My fear is that today Dean will give them three of those points. I just hope we start positively and score two or three goals that will effectively put the game to bed. If we mess around then it gives Dean a chance to “do his thing” and influence the game with an unwarranted sending off , phantom fouls leading to free kicks in dangerous positions or foul play taking out our players.

    We have the class to win this game by two or more goals providing we take things seriously.

    I’m off to meet Tony and Blacksheep before the game and my Son at the stadium so I’ll have an enjoyable time till kick off at least and trust our team to make that last all weekend.


  8. Well his birthday is then the perfect reason for crap to appear again in form of our favorite fitness and player health expert reportedly criticizing AW again. And look there, it is the Sun and Daily Star who by coincidence bring it out. Or maybe they have a calendar of running some stories every x days, weeks, month ? Would make sens to save money.

    Just wonder why they do not show the injury league table however. Or maybe not…

  9. @ blacksheep

    Can’t agree more with you about Hector ‘Speedy Gonzales’ Bellarin’s pace to cover both positions but I’d like Wenger to give Gibbs an extended run as LB owing to Monreals recent failing and his showing in the UCL.

    Don’t get me wrong about Monreal but I think he was really roasted against Swansea and his lack of pace was exploited even when he is one of the best LB’s in the league.

  10. Happy birthday, Mr Wenger!

    Boro… They were one of three teams to beat us in 2007-08. In fact, we spilled five points against them and missed the title by four.

    On their goal is Victor Valdes, a guy who probably denied us our best chance to win the Big Cup by saving Henry’s sitter at 1:0. I have never rated him but that doesn’t mean much to him as he won CL three times with Barca making big saves in the final to deny Henry (against us) and Ronaldo (against United). He was at Man United for a while and managed to concede an equalizer in our 1:1 draw in 2014-15.

    In their attack there is Alvaro Negredo who used to be at Man City. He was on the score-sheet when Atkinson-inspired City won 6:3 against us. (It was the last time City won a league game against us.)

    Their manager Aitor Karanka used to be Mourinho’s assistant which means his negative football is no surprise at all.

  11. Gord – you’ve got the FA almost to a t. They truly chose the initials perfectly. FA sweet FA.

    Blacksheep – spot on with Billy Whizz.

  12. Watching the Spuds play at Bournemouth.

    Pretty frantic play – a lot of pressing – Bournemouth have been knocking long to get around it, Spurs with some nice passing…Spurs sure do play on the edge. Lamela (sp?) should have been sent off already for his late challenges. They have been given 4 yellows already- Bournemouth 1. Jack has been pretty peripheral. Hilarious…either team string 4 passes together and the commentator calls it slick play. I guess they’ve never visited London N5.

  13. rose holds a player then brounemouth do something similar and get a yellow double standards

  14. spurs should be down to 9…ball goes into touch…Sissoko elbows Arter in the face…nothing given.

  15. Spurs have better technical players than the Cherries and you felt that one defensive error could cost Bournemouth a goal but they are also a side that pulls shirts and dives in at your ankles repeatedly. Pochettino has to take credit for their skilled play BUT he must also take responsibility for their dangerous and dirty play, too.

    0-0 – 2 points dropped by Spurs…The way they play they are going to win a lot of matches 1-0. Here’s hoping that referees take their blinders off and start giving them the red cards they deserve. As it is, Sissoko should be called up on the mat in a day or two.

  16. Is there an unwritten rule exempting Spurs players from getting red cards. They should have been down to nine, some may say eight, players against Bournemouth today. Last year they got away with it as well, no red cards all season.The ref and linesman appear to have seen the Sissoko elbow and bizarrely decided no action required, not even a yellow, so presumably there will be no retrospective punishment.

  17. If the referee mentions it in his game report nothing will be done. However, he may spend some time in the referee sin bin, aka The Championship. His problem is that it was caught clearly on camera.

  18. Arsenal were unlucky not to concede?
    This does not make sense unless.

    Commentators remark.

  19. Boro had three chances in a minute but Cech with a double save and a post saved us.

    They play with a deep back-line and flog long balls for Negredo and Traore in the attack.

    Absence of Santi is a big blow, some of his qualities are unique in our squad.

    This might be a game for Perez at some point though.

  20. Boro looking for the long ball or set-piece… Dean has talked to about three of their players so far for bad tackles, let’s hope he shows same leniency when our players make bad tackles

  21. This is one of those days it seems. Lads we need more today else its going to be bad. Boro have some good set pieces that surprise.

  22. We’re lacking sharpness. They’ve had 3 good chances at least and us…

    It’s not coming off for us right now but in general I like that our forwards are tracking their off ball runs

  23. Para
    Think you’re being a little harsh, possession stats were 87-13 and just now 71-29%, sure overall for first half will be something like 75-25%, that doesn’t look like a tired team to me 🙂

  24. Al
    I did not mean physically tired, they seem to be a little distracted, you know when you are there but just a little distance away in your head?

    It cost more energy to close down, than having possession, so its good we have the possession.

  25. A little restless at half time. Lots of endeavor but few products. Nacho linking well but expect more from the Theo bellerin side as they Seem to have space. They have arguably been more of a direct threat on goal.

  26. We are top of the PL now so a win will take us further. I dont want any bogeys today, saying that AW probably does not want to go top yet? 🙂

  27. Ayala(that’s a name from the past) completely took Sanchez out with an arm across his face . Only got a free kick out of it

  28. If effective bus parking requires extensive study of the opposition to best disrupt the opposition, maybe we need a sub or two who has less data for the opposition? Perez?


  29. I have to say there has been a number of times when Mike Dean has stood in either Coquelin or Elneny’s potential passing line. Not to say he’s biased against Arsenal (this time) I thought he made a few generous decisions for Arsenal early in the game, I just think he’s a crap referee. And possibly corrupt, after reading some UA articles!

  30. This is dreadful from boro, think Fifa need to introduce half a point based on possession and territory..

  31. You would think that nothing has happened in this game form the commentaries I am reading. There are almost no entries, and the only card is a yellow to Mustafi at 64 minutes.


  32. At least one of the commentaries has mentioned the time wasting, leading to 5 minutes of time added on.


  33. Not a great performance…to be honest Middlesboro had the better chances…we sure missed Santi pulling the strings in the middle.

    Middlesboro were dire the last 20 minutes but we couldn’t do anything.

  34. 1 point at least, but i expected this today after CL week. And we are playing Tues again too.

  35. Middlesbroug for relegation, they need to back to the championship with their 18th century football… Atrocious

  36. The quality of the commentating I find is horrendous. Read 3 different commentaries, 3 different games. Then you see Walter’s report, and it is different again.


  37. Al
    The Middlesbrough’s wage bill is a one sixth of Arsenal’s.
    What formation do you think the should’ve adapted ,away to the in form league leaders, a 3-4-3 ? 🙂

  38. I thought there was a case for a pen first half. Mustafi was lucky not to get a red. Dean was not as bad as previous.

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