Arsenal desperately need a victory
Time is running out, the top-four spot slipping out, and on top of that, there are burgeoning calls for “Wenger out” as Arsenal seek to sort their problems out. While Arsenal’s bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur continue to get better every day to maintain the pressure on Champions Elect Chelsea, the Gunners sit seventh on the table, appearing to be done and dusted already.
The side Arsenal take on are no in-form team either. Middlesbrough have themselves struggled to maintain momentum all through the season, their major worry being a lack of goals (22 in 31), which is why they sit in the relegation zone despite being decent enough to be above that position.
For anyone on the look to burn some time on a Monday night, Middlesbrough Vs Arsenal, a fixture that should otherwise have been plain sailing for the visitors, seems like a good idea.
22 goals in 31 games: That’s the one stat you need to sum up the Boro’s Premier League adventure. In fact, anyone who watched their recent meeting with Arsenal at The Emirates knows their story. That afternoon, Steve Agnew’s side weren’t bad at all. They created a lot of chances themselves and didn’t let the home side create many, though eventually failing to score. Truth be told, Middlesbrough deserved to win that game for the simple reason that they were better on all fronts – they defended well, attacked well and knew what they had to do; Arsenal didn’t.
All they have to do is repeat what they did months back. Arsenal are not even limping at the moment, and against a side that has the 6th best defensive record in the league, they may well be dragged out of their comfort zone and hit where it hurts the most.
Steve Agnew: “We all know what Victor has achieved in the game. He’s won everything and the bigger the game is, the more he responds because his career tells you that. He’ll have a massive part to play within the team against Arsenal.”
Predicted XI: Valdes, Fabio, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, De Roon, Traore, Downing, Gestede, Negredo.
Anything other than a win here, and Arsenal can consider their top four hopes all but finished, if they aren’t already. Arsene Wenger’s side have failed to win on their previous four outings, conceding 12 goals in the process (first time since 1929), but there don’t seem a lot of reasons apart from Arsenal’s own shortcomings as to why should their encounter against Middlesbrough not be an easy win.
More from Playing for 90
- Alexia Putellas reaches 400 games with Barcelona
- Everything you need to know ahead of the 250th ‘Super Clásico’
- Barcelona put five past Real Betis
- Manchester City suffer but come away with win over West Ham
- Baffling Liga MX ruling strips Puebla of a hard-earned victory
We’ve said this a lot of times and it’s important that it be stated again: Arsenal just need to turn up and it’s a win for them. That’s not a lot to ask for, is it? On one side, there’s Alexis Sanchez, who is fighting every game, and then there are players like Theo Walcott, who think that the opponent “wanted it more”. There’s your reason for Arsenal’s failings.
Arsenal just have to ensure that they start the game well, bring more of Alexis and Ozil into the game, and use Olivier Giroud well – that should be enough.
“We have to make sure we perform in the next game and give everything,” Arsene Wenger said at a media conference.
“When I speak about the mental test it is to perform no matter what the circumstances are around you.
“But what is for sure is that in the last three months there has been no consistency, especially away from home.
“At home we have not been disastrous in the quality of our performances. But away we have not performed, and it is difficult to analyse why because in the past we have been very strong.”
Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott, Giroud.