Arsenal 0 – 0 Middlesbrough
As Jurgen Klopp said after last week’s dire Anfield outing against Manchester United, “It’s a clean sheet – yippee!”
Honestly, that’s the only positive I can immediately think of. That’s not to say that the performance was awful but consider this: today’s picture was going to be better than the one published if we had won.
A draw, ultimately, turned out to be a fair result considering the fact that ‘Boro had some good opportunities. Cech made some good saves; if that’s Petr Cech being ‘bang average’, I’ll take it. And the woodwork being our best defender as well. It’s easy though to get mired in the goals we might have conceded and forget the chances we created. As I said, the woodwork was our best defender.
Arsenal endured 75%. The legacy of modern football is possession becoming over-rated, combined with an obsession over who had the ball most and used it better. Middlesbrough, 11 shots; Arsenal 5 on target to their 4. Don’t ask me to remember them all although with a total that low, I should. Arsène drew a parallel with Manchester City’s recent game against Everton. They didn’t win he observed which is true. But at least they scored.
Will the era which spawned stats be the one which kills them off? For the sanity of supporters, I hope so. We never used to need numbers to tell us who had more of the ball; you could see that with your own eyes. Shots on target? Well, I’d rather be talking positively in an attacking sense about the ‘Boro four than our five. I think they worked Cech harder than we did Valdes.
Both the goalkeepers came away with their current reputations enhanced in the eyes of supporters, a point Wenger was quick to make afterwards about the Arsenal duo:
This week, I must say our two goalkeepers had two great performances. You know, Ospina on Wednesday night and Petr Cech today and that shows you how important it is to have two top-class goalkeepers.
When you make Valdes look a commanding ‘keeper, something is terribly wrong with your forward play.
We missed Santi, there’s no doubt about that but his absence wasn’t the reason we failed to score. We missed guile; great passers one and all but lacking inspiration and their creative spark.
There was no Plan B either; he might be back on Tuesday. That was a contributing factor as well but mentally, we weren’t at the races. Sanchez and Walcott moved but not as well as they can. We struggled to overcome the banks of defenders and midfielders; we always do if they get a foothold in the game, no matter the opposition.
The game started well enough. For ten minutes or so, it looked like we were a team with a mission to kill the game early. But nothing of note happened. Should Özil have been awarded a penalty? Of course but then again I’m biased. No doubt we’d have missed had been given; it was that kind of afternoon.
Gaston rattled the bar, Valdes pawed away; the pattern for the afternoon was set. Good effort from both sides but little to write home about. Chances were traded until the final whistle and I think some credit is due to ‘Boro for maintaining their shape. Traore, one of the few bright spots at Villa Park in their abject efforts last season, was a thorn in Arsenal’s side all afternoon.
And when we needed that little bit of luck to win, it wasn’t there to be found as the lino spotted Özil was offside. What’s the betting he misses one next weekend?
Arsène’s view at the end of it all? “When you cannot win, you must not lose.” Yippee.