Thoughts on Arsenal-Middlesbrough

Apologies for the delay since my last post. Things were a little bit busy over the weekend, what with Christmas and all just around the corner.

As a result, I didn’t get to do up a match preview or review of the weekend game against Middlesbrough. As you will surely already know now, the match ended in the Arsenal’s first Premiership defeat of the season, a 2-1 reverse at the Riverside. As most supporters have correctly pointed out, it was the worst performance of the season and it was a game that Arsenal deserved to lose. They boys were out-fought and out-thought in every facet of the game.

As a result of the loss a lot of Arsenal supporters are starting to worry about what lies ahead for the club. I just can’t understand this. There’s no denying that Arsenal performed poorly and are unquestionably going through a tough patch of late but when it’s all said and done the side is still top of the league and have made a huge improvement on last season’s showing. This is a much tighter title race than in previous years and Arsene Wenger’s side should be commended for their performances thus far.

Criticism of certain players has been unfairIt’s surprising to read the comments in a multitude of other blogs about some of the Arsenal players of late. According to many, because Gilberto Silva is getting older and losing a bit of ability he was never a great player. Apparently Emmanuel Adebayor does not deserve a starting position in the side despite the fact that he is the top scorer in the league. I’ve read that Eduardo is not up to Arsenal standard despite the fact that he has rarely, if ever, started in his favoured position as a striker. People are even criticising Manuel Almunia for failing to save the penalty and suggesting that he was directly at fault for the second goal despite the fact that he made an excellent save in the first place. It’s really quite ridiculous.

I am definitely not part of the ‘rose-tinted brigade’ that so many people speak of. I know that Gilberto has not played well of late, that Adebayor is an unpredictable and frustrating player at times and that Almunia is not Petr Cech. But the group of players currently representing Arsenal are top of the Premiership and the simple fact is that it is a position that the club has not been in at any stage over the past two seasons. That in itself represents great improvement. While the loss to Middlesbrough was definitely on the cards after some less than impressive performances against Sevilla, Aston Villa and Newcastle, I have no doubt that Wenger and his side will bounce back.

Injuries have made a differenceChance to make amends

People were predicting gloom and doom for Arsenal but Wenger and his players have risen above it and have performed to a standard than many people thought they were incapable of at the start of the season. There’s no doubt that the injuries are starting to show and the sooner Wenger can get one or two of Mathieu Flamini, Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas or Alexander Hleb back the sooner the results will improve. The manager has been quite careful with bringing back players too early and I feel that he is waiting for the Chelsea game to unleash a couple of his injured stars. Indeed, some recent comments from the manager suggest this may be true.

Before Chelsea I’m hoping that the side can use the Champions League clash at home against Steaua Bucharest to play their way back into some form. A good performance and result against the Romanian champions could instill the players with the confidence they need to believe they can beat Chelsea next weekend. Everybody has been saying that they want to see how Arsenal react to their first defeat of the season and with a tough few games ahead they’re soon going to find out. Personally, I’m not too worried.

Just a reminder before I go that the latest issue of the Arsenal FC Blog’s eMag, The Gooner Gazette has been released and can be viewed online here. There’s the usual opportunity to win a free shirt compliments of Arseshirts and heaps of other fun stage in there as well. Also, if you enjoy reading the blog then don’t forget to subscribe by joining the mailing list or via RSS. Cheers!

What do you think?

Have your say on Arsenal’s situation by leaving a comment.



  1. I just got myself a wonderful LCD to watch the match but we were beaten 2-1. As far as I am concerned it is better this is happening now than later.We played badly, too badly. I think the players needed time to gel and Boro broke down our fluent movement. Moreso we had Alidere causing some problems for us. My opinion is that Arsenal will bounce back. My view is that Hleb is a more improtant player than fabregas because he runs at players thereby opening the game. My opinion is that Diarra is a wonderful player. I think Alumina did well and should not be dropped. Gallas was at fault for the second goal.
    I hope we bounce back thats all. Moreso we need a central defender, big, tall and fast.

  2. I think the concern comes because this was at the end of a string of poor performances. With the exception of the first-half against Villa, the team has been outplayed in each of the last four games. Without Hleb and Cesc, the creative game broke down completely and we were left watching Toure lump 50 meter passes or try to dribble through the defense. Gilberto and Diarra together doesn’t work: they are too static and don’t come to support the man with the ball. Denilson coming on improved our ball retention although we still didn’t have any bite. So, some of the crazy comments aside (about Ade, Almunia, or whoever not being good enough), I think the concern was over the fact that a weakness has been exposed that other teams will try and exploit and the that we might juts be two injuries away from mediocre. I am also in doubt that the team will bounce back, and think that a loss might have done more good than a tie in that it will sharpen the will to step it up a notch.

  3. Sorry guys. (just in case you bothered to read through my whole post), I meant to say that I am NOT in doubt that the team will bounce back. I too am an optimist.

  4. I’m sorry to hear you LCD went to waste Scope Knight. Better times surely lie ahead though for your mighty TV! Some nice points there too, by the way. I think saying this player is more important than this player is difficult, Arsenal is all about team chemistry and when the first XI is there we look great.

    Cheers AusGunner. People are too negative 🙂

    I hope the loss does sharpen things up, vlcgooner. We were going to lose at some stage, and we’ll lose again. Let’s hope the boys can step up now.

  5. Sf- I’ve mentioned before on this blog That Martin O’neal found a formula in that second half you dismissed my idea. It worked and the rest of the teams will copy that. and that is exactly what happened they are closing all spaces snappy tackles in your face tactics and our players don’t seem to like it, an example of that is Eboue against Boro he lost his rag. But these tactics will not work against Fabregas, RVP and Hleb in particular. He can dribble through an eye of a needle. They can’t catch him. If they try to tackle him it will either result in a free kick or a penalty and that is why he gets tackled from behind a lots. So the sooner we get these guys back the better. to be fair there was no creativity at all in the middle of the park. Not all doom and gloom. The best result of the week for me is Liverpool losing the Scoussers will be fired up for the match against M.utd. I’m predicting M.utd will drop points in that match. To lose to Boro is better than losing to the big 3 teams. There is hope that Fabregas, Hleb Flamini, and RVP might feature against Chelsea. With the current team we don’t stand a chance.

  6. It’s a fair call – you certainly may be onto something. The tempo in the midfield definitely wasn’t there and the passes haven’t been sticking of late. With the type of football we play it only takes a few stray passes to hurt the flow and give the opposition hope. Diarra and Gilberto haven’t the dynamism of Flamini and Fabregas, so hopefully when they and Hleb (who, as you rightly say, can work in the tightest of spaces) return, we’ll look good. I think we’ll get two of the four back for Chelsea and that may be enough to help.

  7. good blog. it is different to play bigger clubs cos their game is much open and they play positive. my worries are only about the time that we will not have toure for the ACN.

  8. Losing Toure it has been a worry for all gooners but that was a well known fact right from the start of the season. assume Wenger has got this issue covered. I hope. The problem is when you have sudden injuries and you have to sort it out quickly. I just want to give a reality check to the Newcastles and Boros of this world they keep banging on about how finally their team is going to rise from the dead after getting a result against Arsenal. The fact is, these teams play against Arsenal as if their life depend on a good result like a cup final and then after that they go back to their usual rubbish football. We need to thrash a team very soon to send out the message that we are back in business. I hope that team is Chelsea

  9. “Assume Wenger has got this issue covered.”

    I like this point. He is not going to make a mistake with regards to being caught short of central defenders.

  10. I agree with the cup final analogy. And it’s something we have to learn to deal with. These teams go into every Arsenal match as if it is a cup final. So essentially, Arsenal have had to play four cup finals on their opponents home turf. Which team of players could do that without losing at least one of the matches?

    I also disagree about Martin O’Neill having found a formula. First of all it’s a tried and tested formula and it was our undoing last season. Secondly, it doesn’t actually work when the players on the park start to use their imagination and skill.

  11. Eboue needs a serious dressing down. His is not the Arsenal way. Hysterical overreactions to strong tackles, vicious retributions, absurd fawning assistance to grounded competitors once he has crossed the line – this is apart from his slow mind, poor choices and continual ignorance Bacary’s great overlapping runs. I have seen quite enough of this bufoon. Run Theo run.

  12. Arsenal will bounce back and there is no need for negativity at this time.At least teams have been playing Arsenal with a target of breaking their unbeaten run. we will come out strongly and for those opposition fans who booed me just after watching the last game here in Kenya will be in for a shock. I could not hide my pride by being an Arsenal fan as i had their replica jersey they played with.

    Arsenal have been brewed to go with the times and as some Wines mature with age our boys are just becoming sweeter and more sharper.


  13. Almunia hasn’t cut it the last games. He has conceded goals that he shouldn’t have. Thats why I want Lehmann to start agaisn’t Steau and if he does well, then to start agaisn’t Chelsea. RVP and Diaby will 85% be on the bench for the Chelsea match and Flamini is more than likely to start but Hleb n Cesc are 85% chance to not feature in the 16 man squad for chelsea. We have got to show a message to the premiership that arsenal will not lie down just because our start to December has not been great. We will beat Chelsea but it will be 1-0 at HT to chelsea, but 3-1 to arsenal FT. Come on Gunners!

  14. well im not happy with the results but it’s football they is losing & wining.when we lose we need to ask ourselves were we did go wrong.WE need more midfielders and strikers,so that when we do have injuries we replace with the best alternative.I must mention that we need to be switching players so that others get the right exposure and experience.”TO BE THE BEST WE NEED TO BEAT THE BEST”.WE ARE THE BEST TEAM NO OTHER.

  15. guys am so sad we performed poorly in the previous game.i don’t know who exactly to blame but i got the feeling Diarra and Gilberto are carrying the larger portion of it. they were not creative enough and they lost the ball too easily and ended up giving control to boroh…like one of the gooners here am glad it was boroh who killed our unbeaten record and not chelsea this coming wkend.the chelsea game is going to be so tough and wenger should pick his squad carefully especially if the likes of Cesc won’t make it back in time. the greatest of my worries is the central defence coz we’ve never played a single primier without Toure (we call him OCS in kenya) and the thought of Senderos stepping in for such a huge game, admittedly scares the crap out of me…let’s hope all will go well.
    for those who say Ade should be benched don’t really know how an important asset he is to the team..i know that he is totally unpredictable but trust me it is always good to have him upfront coz you never know what he will do this time round 😉

  16. I agree Ade should be one of the first players on the team sheet. Rvp will be in the 16 man squad :), but he will start on the bench. Wud luv him or theo to score da winner!

  17. Reading some comments here and other arsenal blogs, it makes me sad that a lot of my fellow arsenal fans are a bit pessimistic about the current situation.

    I know this comment is too long but hang on…….

    Contrary to one reader’s suggestion, we are not 2 injuries from mediocrity. And contrary to another, there is no formula against Arsenal. The reason we put in mediocre performances of late is the same reason that makes us very dangerous hard to play against and entertaining as well. Our game is based on creativity and ball retention in all areas ESPECIALLY our midfield. There was a reason Arsene has been stocking on midfielders for a while, all of whom appear to be creative and/or good holding players. Our entire game hinges on the midfield’s creativity, retention and distribution. Contrary to many supporters’ cries, we do not need outright wingers. Why rely on crosses into the penalty box, which are a 50-50 proposition at best, whereas you can pass your way into any penalty box where your chances are even better????.

    We have been mediocre of late as a result of Wenger trying to appease Gilberto and Diara AT THE SAME TIME. They are both good players but they should be playing in place of each other and not together. They do not create or retain the ball enough and their passing is not what our defense and our attack have been used to, or groomed for. Less creativity in the middle, less bite in attack, and in the absence of ample retention in the middle, the defense tries to take the midfield out of equation(since they can not rely on them) by hoofing balls forward(in case of Toure) to buy themselves some time. You lose the passing ability, that is not the Arsenal we have come to know and expect.

    Diara should not have played in Cesc position ahead of Denilson or even Rosicky. Missing the creativity and good service from the midfield led to Adebayor “trying” to carry the burden by himself and became a little too selfish, which in turn gave Eduardo a hard time whenever he was upfront because he never had the service from the midfield or “trust” of his partner in attack which in turn led him to drift deep and wide to try and “serve” himself.

    I have seen Gilberto in the AM role for a few minutes one evening and I am convinced that in the absence of Cesc, Hleb, Denilson, and Rosicky, I would preffer Gilberto there and leave Diara as a DM. With all of Adebayor’s work ethics, I believe our most potent strike partnership will be Van-Persie and Eduardo or Walcott. Eduardo is getting a lot of shtick at the moment but he has never been given the time and service other strikers have. And for what I have seen so far of him, he is as nifty as RVP and then some. (Confidence & time will bring that out). Ade can run the defense to kingdom come but defenders know he misses a lot of chances so are not as scared into making mistakes as RVP, or even Bendtner (because he is still an unknown quantity), or Eduardo (Given the chance and service). To summarize, I think Wenger knew what he was doing and although he would tell you he didn’t want to lose, He did not go all out for a win in all matches since the Seville game and the one at Slavia Prague. I think it was important to “ground” the team with reality rather that mere words of wisdom he has been preaching for a while, ahead of a crunch run in the second half of the season.


    As Wenger has alluded to, I believe he is deliberately protecting Eduardo from over-exposure as he sees him as his weapon in the second half of the season. He consistently deploy him wide whereas wenger, and everybody else knows he is not a winger/midfielder. Just like Theo, Hleb and Rosicky, playing them out of their natural positions waiting for the right players to partner them with. Hleb was always good, but in a Thierry Henry’s team he was not suited for it. There goes Henry and BooM! There is Hleb. He simply couldn’t roam as much. Unfortunately for Eduardo though, Ade is not going anywhere in January, ACN which would have been a perfect opportunity to unleash DaSilva. It will take a fit Van Persie and an Injured Ade (God forbid) for DaSilva to be able to have a consistent run and show what he can do. I don’t see Wenger droping Adebayor for anyone. Not yet.

  18. adebayor – 9 goals. Top prem goalscorer. He misses tonnes of oppuetunities but he still scares crap out of defenders and he is one of our best players rite now.

  19. Well said SF. Not sure if you mentioned it, but it is tough playing 4 games in a row away from homes. Hoping our midfield stars are back for Chelsea. RVP needs to be back in the team! Argh, why does he always seem to be injured?

  20. Some great comments all round. TayGoon your comment was long but there was a lot of wisdom in it. I have to say I’m very happy that a lot of the people around here, as opposed to some other blogs, are remaining very patient and positive with the team. Hardly anyone has been talking about spending millions on bringing in new players which just speaks volumes about the faith that everyone has in the current side. It’s really brilliant stuff and it’s a pleasure to interact with a group of such level-headed supporters. Keep it up!

  21. I’ve watched chelsea in Cl they looked sharp but no end product.No Drogba no goals.RVP Flaming Mathew and Diaby will be in the squad to face Chelsea which is good news there is hope that Cesc and Hleb may join them, I doubt it.We simply have to beat them on Sunday.We will do it.

  22. Hmmm, do we have to beat them? It would be nice, but if Liverpool take points of Manchester then a draw wouldn’t be an unacceptable result. I saw the couple of post hits from Cole and Kalou – Kalou’s was a real shocker! Chelsea generally struggle without Drogba and the 0-0 suggests the pattern will continue.

  23. Man U will drop points. Liverpool looked good today, and being that if Liverpool loose this game, you can almost count them out the title race, they will be ready to take down Man U. Torres will burn Man U for 2 goals.. you should enjoy watching that amiaq_ferguson

  24. ok chelsea to beat arsenal 1-0 with a late lampard deflected goal……united and liverpool to draw 1-1 …. goals to torres and tevez….. all 3 teams united, arsenal and chelsea equal at the top….united and chelsea to fight it out for the premiership….good bye arsenal

  25. as an arsenal fans surely a was said when i heard arsenal’s losing against the Boroh.But i think this losing was proper because we can’t win everymatch while some particular player is getting injury. We must evaluate why this happened and hopefully the gunners will soon seeking good and creative midfielders like fabregas and qualified striker to support adebayor or van parsie especially when one of them injure.

  26. “united and chelsea to fight it out for the premiership….good bye arsenal”

    Do you really believe that, Ronaldo7, because to me that’s all smack talk. Noone can deny that Arsenal are a threat, you’d be a very stupid supporter to suggest otherwise.

  27. arsenal are nothing without fabregas and hleb.. flamini can help u in defence but without attacking game, your defense will be very fragile. ur defense is not tested.. the only reason u look strong (in defense) simply becos u are very good in going forward (with fabregas and hleb).. without them, u cant do much.. u were outplayed by Aston Villa in 2nd half, and against Boro u are very much LUCKY not to concede 4-5goals..

  28. I don’t disagree with your last comment, but to say that the only reason we look strong in defense is because we are good going forward is rubbish. Defending is the responsibility of the entire team, not just the back four, and when Flamini and Fabregas are in the side they harass their opponents so well in midfield when they don’t have the ball that it helps our entire defence. You’ll see a new side when one of those two gets back into the side.

  29. “u dont disagree” meaning u agree lorrr.. it’s ok.. basically i understand ur message.. true enuff.. Flamini helps alot in defence.. but u have to remember, the best way to defense is to attack.. and that is the key factor to Arsenal success.. the minute u failed to hold ur midfield, is the moment u loosing control ur winning game

  30. TayGoon, that was me who said “we are two injuries from mediocrity.” Only I didn’t say that. I said, “I think the concern is that we might just be two injuries from mediocrity.” But I am sure we will bounce back. Big difference.
    The point is that the last games did point up weaknesses in the squad. And no, I don’t think that Wenger did it on purpose in order to ground the team for what is ahead. In fact, that seems pretty far-fetched. But I do think that we can bounce back not just because the injured players will recover but because the players we do have and the coach are immensely talented (and intelligent) and will figure out how to play even if Alex and Cesc are out. However, I agree with you that Gilberto and Diarra don’t make a good midfield pairing.

    (BTW, I suspect that Fabs might be OK, but has been shut down by Wenger to give his muscles time to rest.)

  31. “u dont disagree” meaning u agree lorrr”

    Nah, it means I agree with this comment: “u were outplayed by Aston Villa in 2nd half, and against Boro u are very much LUCKY not to concede 4-5goals” – I definitely disagree with the point about Arsenal not being able to defend. I’d say the key factor you’re talking about also relates to United, your attack is your reason for success as well.

  32. No talk of the Steaua Bucharest game on this blog which is good. I’m not bothered about this game. Its a good practice game for RVP and Diaby to get their match sharpness. I don’t know why people keep going on about avoiding big teams in the next round.We’ll have to meet them at some point, we might as well meet them now and beat them, if we can’t do that then we are not worthy of being in CL. Having said that a an emphatic win tonight would be nice to boost the morale ahead of the Chelsea game.

  33. I understand that Man Utd fans are looking forward to the weekend cuz they feel they can be top of the prem by Monday but I think we will still remain. Torres will run havoc of the united defense and it will be 2-1 to liverpool: Torres, Gerrard and Tevez. Meanwhile we will win 2-1 : Rosicky, Adebayor, Shevchenko. I believe this month will be very hard but this is a very hard weekend, afta dis it is Spurs. we can win.

  34. vlcgooner, I got the “2 injuries to mediocrity” from another forum(“Reading some comments here and other arsenal blogs,…”). I can’t pull it out of my head at the moment(sneaking a post at work). It appears someone plagiarized your post. I must confess I didn’t read your post before posting mine. Having read too many negative posts on a bunch of other forums, I just started pounding on those little fellas on my keyboard. Had I done it my post would have been significantly shorter than it was as we seem to share the basic outlook on the situation with the exception of the “mediocre” concern. If my post came out as Wenger wanted to lose on purpose, that is not what I intended to say. I believe he had some guns, loaded & ready and he chose not to fire them. The “grounding” part stems from the belief on my part, that he wanted the players (some of whom have been discontent about not playing/playing out of position (Diara & Gilberto) and the remainder of the supporting cast, learn the adversity lesson the hard way. I believe he did not expect to lose,(especially the M’boro game), but expected to be tougher nonetheless without the extra ammo at his disposal. It was hard to recover from a lengthy broken unbeaten run last time around so this loss may have been the case of “if you have to fall off a bridge, you are better off falling off just at the beginning where it might be a 1 – 2 meters, than halfway across @ 50+ m”. A loss is a loss, but a loss to M’boro does not equate one to Chelsea, or Portsmouth (who are close enough to us) and Spurs?????! I have the same opinion as you about Cesc.

  35. Arsenal 2-1 Steau : Diaby 8, Bendtner 42. Good game. It should have been more than 2. Lehmann did ok. I was more focused on Van Persie though and he played like he hadn’t been injured. He set up Bendtners goal. It looks like a good squad now agaisnt Chelsea. RVP, Flamster, Diaby and then all the regulars (except Fab4 n Hleb)

  36. Post match Wenger said ” ……. We’ll be even stronger in February ” !! Is there more to read in there ?. Would he say something like that , just like that ?

  37. extra experience + Maturity, post ACN. If he signs a player in Jan, it will be mostly for next season. Mputu?…..

  38. I’m certain that we shall improve after the loss at middlesbrough and i don’t agree to the coment that without fabregas, arsenal is nothing,as arsenal we believe in team work and we should help those who are learning and do not have the premier laegue experience in terms of the quality football that we expect.The fa preimier league title is not for cowards but for courageous and as arsenal we continue fighting, for thats our objective.bennry

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