Arsenal – Middlesbrough : 0-0 too slow and not precise enough in the passing

By Walter Broeckx

A few changed compared to the team from our last match. No Santi Cazorla so he will not have been completely fit and maybe a bit of rest for the Spanish midfielder. Elneny taking his place. Cech back in goal for Ospina. Monreal came back at left back. And Iwobi came in the place of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

On the bench we also had the youngsters Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Maitland-Niles.

Team at the start:  Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis.

On the beach:  Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Reine-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas.

The match after a big win is always a difficult match. We had to see how the midweek efforts would be digested by most players. Confidence is one thing but you have to cope physically.  Lots of possession for Arsenal in the opening minutes but not really much open chances. A free kick from Özil  goes over the goal. A shot from Elneny from distance but a few meters wide. No real goal mouth incidents from both teams in the first fifteen minutes.


Özil almost with a shooting chance but a defender with a challenge made sure he couldn’t shoot at goal. Koscielny then  losing the ball and Traore on his own towards Cech but luckily the stopped could stop both efforts and then Bellerin made a foul. Ramirez curled the free kick against the cross bar and the rebound was wasted then finally Arsenal could clear the danger. Alexis then with a free kick at the other end but the keeper could save for a corner. No goals after an half hour of played.


A cross finds a Middlesbrough striker but again Cech with an amazing stop. Cech certainly the best Arsenal player so far. Mustafi then went down after landing bad on his ankle. But he could continue after some treatment. Walcott with a low cross but Özil just can’t reach his cross-shot. Arsenal with a very high percentage of possession but Middlesbrough with the best chances on the counter. No score in the first half.


A free kick for Arsenal after a foul on Alexis, the Middlesbrough keeper spilling the ball under pressure from his own defenders, Alexis brings it back but Koscielny just couldn’t reach the ball. A low cross from Bellerin just can’t find an Arsenal player. A free kick from Alexis after a foul on Özil goes wide. Alexis then with a great shot but a good stop from Valdes who can just push it around the goalpost. Valdes then goes down injured. Or feigning to be injured. Bellerin with a good interception before Middlesbrough can have a shot at goal. Traore goes on a run but Cech can push it away for a corner. Still no score after one hour.


Mustafi then with a bad pass and he has to make up for it by fouling Ramirez, lucky Elneny was behind him. A yellow card was what Mustafi got. Arsenal can clear and attack at the other end but the shot from Alexis was too  weak to beat Valdes. After 66 minutes Iwobi goes off and Lucas comes on. Arsenal pushing Middlesbrough back but not able to find lots of openings. Valdes heads the ball out of his penalty area but Walcott his attempt can be saved by the keeper. After 73  minutes Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Elneny.


Middlesbrough wit all 11 players defending and the passing from Arsenal not quick and precise enough. Walcott with a good run on the right flank but the cross ends up with Valdes. Valdes who was wasting time in the extreme. A combination from the right flank but then the shot is too weak. A header from Walcott but Alexis can’t put his foot against the headed cross. Middlesbrough now taking their time with the subs. The passing needs to be 100% to beat such teams who come to defend and hit us on the counter and so far it wasn’t good enough. Traore breaks but a important tackle from Koscielny prevents a heart breaking goal for Middlesbrough.

The ball bounces around in the Middlesbrough penalty area but always a wrong leg in the way from an Arsenal point of view. The Ox with a dribble and a shot and Özil touches it and puts it in the goal but it was clear offside. Seconds later Bellerin to Walcott but again offside given but Walcott missed anyway.


Middlesbrough got a point by defending for 90 of the 95 minutes. Oh we missed a player like Santi today to help create openings against such packed defences.  Some tired legs maybe from the CL matches ? Every winning run comes to an end and for Arsenal it is mostly when you don’t expect it. Time to start a new run.

42 Replies to “Arsenal – Middlesbrough : 0-0 too slow and not precise enough in the passing”

  1. A good game and thoroughly enjoyable despite the disappointing scoreline and well done Middlesbrough even though they parked the bus. Dean was fair enough I thought, no complaints on his performance today at least. It was one of those nearly but not quite days that happen from time to time but at least we did not lose.
    I think the Ox deserves a start next week in place of Iwobi who I thought looked a bit under par today.
    We will probably have to put up with the moaners in the next few hours unfortunately but such is life!

  2. Totally agree with you, Iwobi looks tired and Monreal looks a weak link over again. Couldn’t keep up with the speed of Traore. Santi was missed. El & Coq were just trading passes nothing incisive at all.

  3. Absence of Santi was a huge blow. We didn’t have that usual inspiration in the middle of the pitch as neither Coquelin nor Elneny are that type of a player. Come to think about it, I can recall of very few players being capable of doing a Santi on the pitch. Also, absence of either Giroud or Welbeck as our plan B didn’t help either. We had eight corners and nothing came out of them.

    Čech was amazing and made three superb saves to keep the visitors at bay. Valdes made a few saves himself to frustrate his former team-mate Alexis.

    It’s weird when you think about it but at this moment we are top of the league. In the worst case scenario, both Liverpool and Man City will leapfrog us if they beat West Brom (at least by two goals) and Southampton respectively.

    Hopefully Chelsea and Man United will draw tomorrow.

  4. A classic defensive display by Middlesbrough who could have won this game with their first half chances. That’s how to play against teams like Arsenal. We always struggle against this tactic and the lesser teams know it.
    I thought Dean was pretty good to be honest, but he let Ayala off with his off the ball foul on Sanchez in the second half, and did Ozil dive in the first half? People with better eyesight than me might have an opinion.

  5. It’s just one of them days, at least the team tried to win, it’s difficult to break down a well organise opposition whose first priority is to get a draw and are also in a relegation battle.

    I’m beginning to think it must be a curse or something that the team seem to struggle whenever there’s an AW milestone.

    Again, the opposition attacking Monreal’s side with success, expect more teams doing this. Arsenal was fortunate today, against better teams we would have been in serious trouble. Monreal seem to struggle against opponents who has strength and pace like Traore today.

    Anyway, Arsenal are top of the league for now.

  6. I’m glad we salvaged a point. I agree that Arsenal passes were too slow and not perfect. Still, Arsenal did the needful. If you cannot claim the three points, settle for one.

    That said, our opponents were an embarrassment to the Art of Football. While parking the bus is always celebrated against Arsenal by pundits, commentators and the media, Middleborough display today went to the very bottom of negative football. Even the Moaning One could have done better. What was that, that a football team in the top tier of league football in a LEAGUE game could not string together at least FIVE passes among players neither in their own half, midfield nor in the third half? “Oh lads, just give the ball to Arsenal and stand in front of the goal for NINETY-FIVE minutes!”
    They created chances from hoofed balls, not because of their discipline(the commentators’ excuse for the eye-sore) but because of the inevitable consequence in only one team playing the game the right way.

    Today, I was appalled at what I watched as a football match. Arsenal consistently having over 70% possession all through the game without a clear-cut chance says it all.

    Honestly, English football is dying by the day and stupidly, the commentators, pundits and the media are the willing standby undertakers.

    My consolation is that unlike in previous seasons, negative football can no longer frustrate us into losing all points.

    I pray Reading play football next week and not a repetition of the eye-sore I witnessed today as a football match.

  7. in match like this should have Ollie G play up front but unfortunately he’s not 100% match fit yet. anyhow it was still an entertaining match but Arsenal just couldn’t find the way to unlock Boro defense much earlier and left it to late to go all out attack. i don’t know’ i could be wrong but anyway it’s not that bad for Arsenal, City could lose or draw against Southampton. roll on to the next match against Reading in the EFL cup. c’mon Arsenal

  8. Ono r’Arsenal
    When Cech was arguably the man of the match ,then perhaps Middlesbrough’s squad , which wage bill is one sixth of Arsenal’s, weren’t really that embarrassing.
    Also I’m pretty sure stringing five or more passes together wasn’t their game plan to execute against a high flying Arsenal.
    But hey, look at it this way, it could always be worse. At least none of their players admitted to being gay 🙂

  9. Tom…….WTF? What’s wrong with a player coming out? Are you homophobic or just idiotic to defecate a comment like that on UA? I know you’re the yang to our ying but seriously show some class mate!

  10. Omg Arsenal
    Absolutely nothing, in my book.

    The same can not be said about Omo r’Arsenal position on gays unfortunately.
    This was a dig at him 🙂

  11. A draw is much better than a loss.
    carzola’s genius was missed but then again i realised the only other player that can replace him is wilshere.
    Maybe acertain rosicky.

  12. Omgarsenal
    Now don’t go falling all over yourself trying to at least acknowledge my post, or perhaps even apologizing for your words 🙂

    Some three weeks ago you were part of a discussion that ensued after the article about homophobia in professional sports and football in particular,
    and even though Omo r’Arsenal was unequivocal in his(her) stands on gays, comparing homosexuality to beastiality and pedephilia and calling gays despicable. Yet , There’s was no angry reaction from you , the likes you felt prompted to issue against me for saying jokingly :” at least none of them admitted to being gay”.

    I wonder why the drastic change in your sensitivity to the gay cause.
    A double standard perhaps? Surely it couldn’t be 🙂

  13. Just a few percent off our usual game today.
    They tried, sometimes, a team gets a lucky bounce, or a misdirected clearance to let them in, but nothing like that doing for our boys today.
    Can only agree, we really missed Santi, or a similar type of player.
    I read this morning Santi is getting near the end of his contract and has yet to be offered a deal? If true, perhaps a bit surprising.
    Also missed a Giroud today, we couldn’t get round them on the ground ,so started putting higher crosses in, but Alexis and theo, tho they tried, are now overly endowed with height.
    From where I was sitting, thought Dean did ok, if a little liberal in his reaction to some blatant time wasting.
    Have a feeling this was one of those days where if we scored first, we would have had three or four, but just not to be.cant win them all.

  14. I’d just let it go Tom. No point adding fuel to the fire. And yeah, the lack of posts on that post was a little disappointing :/

  15. I listened on Arsenal Player, got the impression Nigglesbrough got away with a fair few yellows,and yet only Mustafi was booked.

    Still, can’t win ’em all, and at least Cech kept a clean sheet.

    I wonder if the plan is to let Santi go at the end of the season, and replace him with Ramsey and Wilshere.

    With Wenger likely to field a completely new team for the Reading game, at least the lads will be fresh for the Sunderland game.

  16. Yes disappointing today but if you follow Tony’s excellent series on ‘The History of Arsenal’ about the 1930’s you will see that winning championships is always difficult, with many a slip up and depending on your rivals dropping points, even in those glorious years for Arsenal. Accept,learn and get on with it is the best attitude but I know on this site most of us see that.
    However on that other site that purports to support Arsenal, tonight I couldn’t resist having a peep, some of their so called fans had a personal and nasty dig at Santi and also insults at Ozil. Shocking. Also skits at Untold but understandable because we actually support our club through thick and thin but they couldn’t comprehend that. Many of them are objectionable with their manner and rudeness and how their editor can put up with the unrelenting aggression at Arsene Wenger is surprising as he can write decent articles himself. Criticism is fine if fair and constructive but on that site it is the opposite. They appreciate nothing. I feel sorry for the few good fans who post on there but it is like swimming against the tide. They should come to us where they will be respected.

    Tonight we are top of the table and that’s where we want to be at end of season so lets all of us get behind them, but on Untold I know you will.

  17. Wouldn’t worry too much about that other site, think half the posters on that forum are angry and frustrated because their team of choice got exactly the same result as we did today

  18. The Sun has a report that Abou Diaby is in London for ankle surgery. Of course, they surmise his career may be over.

    Sad to hear.

  19. Walter, a bit disappointing that you made no mention of Perez in your masterly report.
    And what makes it even worse, not a single comment on the guy from my friends on Untold.
    Surely he contributed something? 😉

  20. Nicky I wasn’t able to form much of an opinion on Perez today he was largely ineffective but no more than the rest . Playing Elneny and Coquelin seemed to slow our forward movement and without Cazorla we lacked the guile to break them down .As much as I agree that teams that play like Middlesborough have to scrap for anything that they can get and use whatever method they can , I can’t help thinking that it was 11 hours of my life that I can’t get back and that if the game goes on in this direction eventually it will start to lose it’s appeal.

  21. eduardo792
    October 22, 2016 at 11:27 pm
    Ahmed ‏@Ahmed91Gooner 3h3 hours ago
    Arsenal played (25) league games without @19SCazorla since 2014/15:

    6 times 0-0
    40% win rate

    Some interesting stats on Caz posted over on PA

  22. Perez did a few good things, but like the rest of them, ran into blocked alleys in a 9 man defence.
    Think he shows a lot of promise, but he needs more games and familiarity before we start to see his true potential. But he certainly works hard, puts himself in the firing line, look forward to seeing more of him.
    Giroud was a huge miss today

  23. Has anyone seen MOTD? Did they show any of the Spurs elbowball I have np been hearing about…..or are our neighbours too protected by the media for that?

  24. Tom…..I have consistently called out homophobia or any other form of demeaning others for their lifestyles, race,creed or whatever. I didn’t see Omo r’Arsenal post that you mentioned but had I,I would have the same reaction as I had to yours. IF ,as you say, it was meant as a gibe at Omo r’Arsenal’s style of homophobia, then my apologies…..all’s well that ends well!

  25. Arsenal were mental tired it seems, but the main thing was Cazorla missing. We have not at the moment got a replacement for him, and that time is coming soon when we need one.

    Jack is out on loan and Zelalem i dont know if he continues to be that type of player.

    Elneny and Coq seem not to work as well as other pairings, at least that is my observation.

  26. They showed it and with the same reaction from the commentator as in the ems when we saw it “omg”. The pundits: “He’s going to get done for that”. They also thought lamella should have gone.

  27. It wasn’t this or that player missing that cost us, Middlesbrough snuffed the life out of that game by playing 9 men in defence. When there is no space even the best players are ineffective; seen Barca get this kind of result from same kind of opposition lots of times now despite having the most potent striking trio in the world on the pitch.

  28. I thought they had so many opportunities to get behind the defence with the Theo bellerin combination but preferred to pass it back round and try to walk/pass it through through the congested middle. Need to find a way to dominate in a bus box. Could even treat it like continuous corner practice and have Giroud and Per as front 2.

  29. Curse those who made the full bus totally acceptable in our game.

    Must be at least half the league who will (a) attract no significant criticism on any individual day if they go full bus, (b) are happy enough merely to survive in the league, (c) go full bus often enough to be adept at it.

    It means we’ll face it 10-15 times at home each year. Much depends on the individual team and on luck but I’d say for most of those opposition teams ultra defence, as opposed to defensive or reasonably attack-minded, increases the chance of not losing by something like 10-25 per cent. That makes it inevitable we will continue to see so much of it.

    One consequence is that the early stages of games become disproportionately important in terms of how enjoyable a game you’ll get to see : a goal and you could get to see a relatively open exciting game; no goal and it’s bus, bus, bus; frustration in attack and the threat of those damn breakaways.

    Hard for me to get a fix on just how much these tactics are being used elsewhere in the league, thanks to caring so much less about those games than ours, but if it’s fairly close to what we see against us that has to make for a hell of a lot of average or poor quality football. A lot of the games so far have been pretty poor.

    Oh well. I figure we can afford to not win something like 3 to 5 of the bus games at home and still have a great season. Hate to lose one of those ‘lives’ at this stage, when all was going brilliantly, but by no means the end of the world.

    Get well soon Santi and Oli!

  30. Robido, thanks for that, glad they did show,the Spurs fouls, hopefully will put some pressure on the ref for allowing it, and on the FA to act in Sissoko.
    Rich, agree, whilst,you cannot blame a club whose prime aim is survival, it does rather ruin the game. Expect more of the same at Sunderland , hope Caz is fit by then

  31. It seems some of the WOB are extremely upset that Mustafi wasn’t sent off yesterday, couldn’t see it too clearly and haven’t seen MOTD but if Mr Dean decides not to send off an Arsenal player, surely it was a yellow

  32. Mandy

    I’d forgotten for a moment it was Sunderland next. As you say, more of the same (with extra fouling as it’s Moyes)

    Chief frustration for me is that individually and collectively there’s just, just enough football being played to stop match-going fans and television watchers from being turned off the game and rebelling.

    In fact, we probably see more of the full bus than any other set of fans, bar West Brom and Sunderland, maybe. They might only see it in about a 3rd of their teams games, we see it in about half of ours. Boo!

    Can’t help think we should aim to Bayern up our game a little. They use width and crosses of all kinds so extensively and effectively to make breakthroughs against defensive opponents.

  33. Having had a stadium experience for once, there are a few elements worth noting:

    – Dean being his usual Gollum, he allowed the (overly) physical play of our opponents to go unpunished. While this is not technically outside the law, the manner in which their defenders blocked our runs was a lot of times akin to obstruction. Which brings me to the next point:

    – We did suffer physically from the CL match. We seldom won duels, and hence were restricted to probing, looking for a gap that never came. The quick one-twos that could have broken them down were missing. That because…

    – Ozil spent most of his time away from the opponents’ box. It’s a pattern I noticed from him when he’s not entirely ready to take on the opponents, for physical or mental reasons. Again, understandable given the circumstances, but we need to find a way to compensate for this. Which we didn’t find because…

    – While Coq and Elneny are excellent defensi0vely, they need to practice more going forward. They left the bulk of the transition and creative work to their teammates, which is also why Ozil partially dropped back to help the midfield play, but took away from the chance creation potential.

    – Alexis’ regular attempts to take on the defenders were undermined by his teammates being mostly static. No possibility of quick combinations around their box meant no chance of success.

    – The away supporters were noisy throughout the whole match. Our gallery rarely got going.

    – Not one foul in their box during the whole match? Must be Mike Dean.

  34. With the new TV deal paying 100 million pounds to the bottom club alone, so much is now riding on a team simply surviving in the PL. Expect to see much more bus parking as a consequence.

    And frankly gate revenues, at least for the smaller clubs, have become so inconsequential compared to broadcast revenues that expanding a stadium or replacing it for those smaller clubs is now pointless as the marginal gains are so small.

  35. Well yes it’s hard to break down a ten or eleven man defence. But it worked for them. We lacked the fluidity and pace of passing to trouble them but when you have coquelin and elneny in central areas that’s what happens. Personally I thought elneny was outstanding and a points better than none. Well next week we have Sunderland so we should put this game out of system and in between reading and ludogrets. The only other positive is that other teams failed to capitalise so far this weekend. Spurs haven’t looked the same team that beat city a few weeks ago the pressing and energy seemed to drop in last couple of games and they have two or three tough games before facing us.

  36. Mandy
    In the interview Arter said he got an apology and not intended then ok. Just now on Goals on Sunday everyone agreed it was bad but seemed to suggest that because there was an apology it was perhaps not as bad as it looked. The one thing for sure was that the ref was looking at it and he put the whistle to his lips. Hopefully he wasn’t thinking “**** if I saw that right I’ve got to send him off and that’s not in the script”. If only they could explain.

  37. I was amazed to count 8, 9,even 10 players in d defense of ‘borough at every point in d match! Is dat football? I wonda. Anod observation is dat our players refused to shoot on d edge of d box through d slight openings available wich I believe culd result in a goal by bouncing off a player taking a deflection; especially as Valdes – king of tym wasting wich Dean allowed estempore,culd hve bin taken by suprise; I saw many of such chances in d game.shooting unexpectedly is one great solution to parked bus tactics nd Arsenal shuld begin to use it bcos hving seen its success for ‘borough, oda teams will begin to adopt it against us; over all it wasnt a bad game,though too slow as opposed to d usual fast pace game we are used to playing, dis however culd hve bin a direct consequence of exhaustion frm d Ludo game! Its necessary for us to realise dat such high tempo matches cannt be sustained wit d crowded skedule! Shallom!!!

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