The Independent London Newspaper
25th June 2018

Arsenal short on chances as Middlesbrough end Gunners' winning run in 0-0 stalemate

    Published: 22 October, 2016
    by RICHARD OSLEY at Emirates Stadium

    FA Premier League

    ARSENAL'S run of victories came to a halt in a mess of sideways passes as a well-drilled Middlesbrough left the Emirates Stadium with a share of the spoils this evening (Saturday).

    The visitors came with a gameplan, defend in numbers and break at speed when they could and in the end, while the Gunners had most of the possession, Boro arguably had the better chances.

    Alvaro Negredo should have scored after Cech had been left exposed saving Adama Traore's shot on the break, while Gaston Ramirez meanwhile rattled the crossbar with a curling free-kick.

    These first half efforts were the closest we got to seeing a goal, as at the other end Arsenal's nimble passing was pretty but not penetrating.

    Boro boss Aitor Karanka agreed, exclaiming afterwards that he believed his team might have won the match.

    "We've been working all week to stop Arsenal," he said. "We knew we had to be concentrated. One mistake and you will be punished. Everybody worked hard"

    For Arsenal, the pairing of Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny seemed to slow down the speed of attacks, while there may have been a lag from the 6-0 win against Ludogorets in midweek.

    Either way, a little like last season, Arsene Wenger looked to the bench for ideas and, due to injuries to Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck saw only Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ashley eMaitland-Niles among his options. Given Lucas Perez looks a little off the pace since his surprise transfer from Deportivo, it meant only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was there to shake things up, but his introduction was held back until late on. It was an odd way to reach the top of the Premier League table. For tonight at least.

    Against Boro, Arsenal were not moving the ball fast enough for their strategy of trying to pass their way through to prove effective against a team happy to pull nine behind the ball, and were always short of a killer ball. Their reluctance to try a few long shots frustrated the home fans too. Instead, lofted balls were either overhit or were easily claimed by Victor Valdes.

    It was Valdes who saved Boro when Sanchez finally did take a punt, turning and cracking a shot goalwards only for the former Barcelona goalkeeper to leap to the rescue. Theo Walcott drifted out of the match, while Mesut Ozil looked frustrated. It all left Arsene Wenger looking furious on the sidelines as he makes the case for his team to be considered title contenders again. There appeared to be no plan B.

    Wenger said afterwards: "I think I have a frustrated face on me and I am. We had a lot of the ball, but a lot of the ball in the modern game is not enough to win the game."

    He added: "We paid the price for playing the Champions League on Wednesday night but, you know, we could have lost the game as well."

    The manager conceded that Arsenal missed Cazorla and Giroud but that the Gunners needed to be more creative and clinical.

    "We did not make the most of our set pieces and corners, so the first thing that comes to mind is that a guy with more physical presence might help, but we've just come out of six wins so I would not like to jump on this kind of excuse," said Wenger. "We have to deal with what's in front of us. We have to find a way to be efficient and win games like this."

    ARSENAL: Cech - Bellerin, Monreal, Koscielny (c), Mustafi - Coquelin, Elneny (Oxlade-Chamberlain 74), Ozil, Iwobi (Lucas Perez 67), Walcott - Sanchez.
    SUBS NOT USED: Ospina, Reine-Adelaide, Gabriel, Maitland-Niles, Gibbs



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