Arsenal finished Premier League game week nine with a scoreless draw against Middlesbrough at the Emirates.
Before kick off it was generally assumed that whilst Middlesbrough would put up a fight, the Gunners had on paper far too much quality to override their best efforts. Given the form Arsenal have been in, unbeaten in their last six Premier League games, it seemed that anything besides a win against today’s opponents would come as a surprise. Unfortunately for us however, even with a late goal in extra time ruled offside, the win streak of six matches finally came to an end.
When I saw that the match was being refereed by Mike Dean, it did bring on thoughts that we may struggle in this game. Arsenal are rather notorious at failing to win under the watchful eye of Mr Dean and in fact for many fans it has become a persistent frustration to see his name down on the official’s list.
For once I think that on this occasion, we can’t really blame the official as a reason behind our failed attempts. It was a performance where Arsenal really lacked creativity and drive. Pair Arsenal’s attempts with a fantastic defensive display from Middlesbrough and you get the result of a scoreless draw between these two sides at opposite ends of the table.
So what was the reasoning behind the result, after a match that had plenty of end to end action? Arsenal quite simply looked uninspired, didn’t create the amount of chances we usually do and the team lacked the drive to press and move forward with the ball.
In the opening 15-30 minutes of the first half, Arsenal pressed high up the pitch with in fact most of the team playing a high line against the opposition. However as the game went on, especially in the latter stages, you could see fitness levels drop and frustrations kick in.
We struggled to keep focus and didn’t create the opportunities they needed to in order to have a chance in front of goal. Instead the poor performance opened up more opportunities for the opposition than we would’ve liked and on more than one occasion Petr Cech was left vulnerable by the Arsenal defence. A Petr Cech masterclass really saved us today, because without him in goal, there were various scenarios that would’ve seen the visitors come away with a win.
The most frustrating factor of the match is that the side once again looked like they lacked knowledge of a Plan B. We’ve said it time and time again when Arsenal have dropped points, that if a team works out how to stop our waves of attacks, then the opposition can often hold out for 90 minutes. This is because we lack an understanding of what Plan B is, when Arsene Wenger’s forefront tactics aren’t working.
Arsenal struggled to break Middlesborough down today, with the men from the Riverside often having all 11 players behind the ball. This game really could have done with a change in style of play, notably an Olivier Giroud up top to add some physical presence to Arsenal’s game. Of course Giroud was not available today, but we surely could’ve changed the tactics in some capacity or another, which may have seen the Gunners come away with all three points.
Do we have a plan B? Or is there simply a failure to implement it?