Two out of sorts teams go head to head tonight in what is surely last chance saloon for Arsenal’s top four hopes.
Against Crystal Palace, Arsenal showed significant weakness to the counter attack – full backs were flying forward, and the midfield were losing the ball too easily.
This allowed Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend to torment the Arsenal back line (or what was left of it). We must also note Christian Benteke’s dominance in the air against Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel – flick ons were directed into the space left behind by the onrushing centre back. Altogether, Arsenal’s defence was unable to cope with the long ball or pace down the flanks, two tactics Middlesborough can use.
This comes in the form of Adama Traore, who is fast and agile, and Alvaro Negredo, a decent if unprolific target man. However, with Middlesborough failing to score in six of their last eight games (and not winning in the last fourteen!), I would be surprised if Emiliano Martinez was kept busy in goal.
In terms of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger would be wise to make some adjustments after the debacle at Selhurst Park. Theo Walcott and Mohamed Elneny may be on the bench, in favour of the Ox and Aaron Ramsey. Middlesborough’s midfield is combative rather than technical, and so it may be an option to leave Granit Xhaka as the sole holding playmaker.
Ahead of him, Danny Welbeck seems to be in favour for his ability to stretch defences. Having started the last five, I’d expect his performance to free up space for Mesut Ozil to run beyond the last striker and Sanchez to cut inside. However, if Wenger opts for Olivier Giroud, we could see a more rigid style with overlaps – which could be costly due to the aforementioned fanger of Adama Traore.
In essence, we need to see a more cohesive balance in midfield – too many times, players were left isolated and double teamed. However, against a dismal Boro side, I’d be appalled if we see anything less than a two goal win.