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Was Wilshere sorely missed in frustrating Boro draw?

arsenal vs middlesbrough match report 2016

Match Review: Arsenal 0 Middlesbrough 0 - Premier League 22.10.16

Frustration was the overriding emotion at the Emirates on Saturday. Middlesbrough at home is one of those games that you look at at the start of the season and expect to gain the three points from, so to fall short in such lacklustre fashion was irritating to say the least. However, in the context of Arsenal's recent form and also considering that the teams around us have also been dropping points, it is merely a setback and a result that we can easily make up for.

The thing that really hurt us on Saturday, was the absence of Santi Cazorla. He missed the game through an ankle injury that he picked up in the Champions League and Elneny was far from a like for like replacement. Paired with Coquelin, the lack of creativity from the midfield was painfully obvious from the first minute. The two midfielders completed a huge number of passes, but unfortunately they were mostly sideways to one another.

The problem also seemed to be that neither seemed to know which was the holding midfielder and who was meant to push further forward. Neither of them were particularly adept at trying to move the ball forward and I think the confusion also detracted from their ability to perform their defensive duties. Middlesbrough, if we're honest, had all the clear cut chances and we were indebted to Petr Cech for keeping us level. He produced a number of stunning saves, mostly from counter attacks after we'd flooded men forward.

Our tactics were pretty much nullified both by our own inadequacies and yet another team that came with a well organised, compact defence that looked to stifle our play and hit us on the break. I honestly understand why teams come to the Emirates and do this, but I am getting thoroughly bored of having to watch the majority of teams set up in this tiresome and frustrating manner. I know it's the best way for them to get a result and I know the onus is on us to break them down. Still I can't help but resent having to watch this tedious type of game play out time and again.

We really didn't help ourselves on Saturday though. There were no options other than Coq and Elneny, but I can't help but feel that we have a Jack Wilshere shaped hole in the squad. When he went out on loan it was a shock but people eventually rationalised it and accepted it. However I think that whilst it was probably the best thing for Jack, Saturday was a game we were crying out for his skill set.

I believe that Wenger sees Wilshere as the natural successor when Santi departs, so in a game where both the Spaniard and Ramsey were missing, it's a shame we didn't have Jack to call upon. We knew Ramsey and Santi would likely miss time through injury and we're already without them both only nine games into the season. I hope we don't continue to regret the decision to let him go. 

Sometimes I also think Wenger is unwilling to change his tactics to accommodate the players available to him. We tried to play the same way on Saturday as we did when we had Xhaka and Cazorla in midfield. Alexis got deeper and deeper as he searched for the ball and Özil was left with nothing to work with when he finally got a touch. There was no-one in the box when we got overlaps and overcommitting players led to some awkward defensive moments. When Mustafi and Koscielny were being forced to carry the ball forward, you knew we were in trouble.

Hindsight is always 20/20 of course, but I do wonder whether it would have been worth giving the Ox a go in central midfield or maybe playing Lucas and moving Alexis to the wing to allow him to influence the game from deeper positions. I also wonder when players like Zelalem are going to get their chance. Maybe Saturday would have been too much to throw him in for, but at some point you'd hope to see him getting a look at some first team minutes.

Thankfully it does look like Ramsey and Giroud will be available to us soon, which means shouldn't have to worry too much for the game against Sunderland. But with Sp*rs at home and Man Utd away coming up after, we can't afford to be putting in more flat performances like this one. I wrote that I was hoping for a clean sweep of wins in October, but if we finish it having only dropped two points, I'll still be delighted.

petr cech saves against middlesbrough


Arsenal (4-2-3-1)

Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi (Y), Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny (Chamberlain 74'), Iwobi (Perez 67'), Özil, Walcott, Alexis
Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Perez, Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles

Middlesbrough (4-5-1)

Valdes, Barragan, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Traore, De Roon, Clayton, Forshaw, Ramirez (Downing 85'), Negredo (Stuani 92')
Guzan, Bernardo, Stuani, Downing, Nugent, de Sart, Fabio

Player Ratings

Cech - 9/10 - Did absolutely nothing wrong and a hell of a lot right
Bellerin - 6/10 - Ineffective in the final third
Koscielny - 7/10 - Made a couple of excellent tackles
Mustafi - 7/10 - Another impressive performance
Monreal - 5/10 - I love him, but he's been torn apart by pace two weeks in a row
Coquelin - 6/10 - His limitations aren't his fault but did hold us back
Elneny - 6/10 - Same as Coquelin really, two players trying to do the same job
Iwobi - 6/10 - Looked bereft of ideas and a bit tired
Özil - 6/10 - Starved of the ball and any options when on it
Walcott - 6/10 - A pretty quiet game, would have liked a few more runs at the defence
Alexis - 6/10 - Cut a frustrated figure desperately trying to get the ball forward
Lucas - 6/10 - Didn't look quite at home with how congested the game was
Chamberlain - 6/10 - Still waiting for him to convince us he's good enough

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Tags: Match Review, Match Report, Arsenal vs Middlesbrough

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