Since the 7-0 pasting at Highbury in January ’06, Arsenal’s record against Middlesbrough is, well, dismal.
Arsenal 7 – 0 Middlesbrough
Arsenal 1 – 1 Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough 1 – 1 Arsenal
Middlesbrough 2 – 1 Arsenal
Arsenal 1 – 1 Middlesbrough
As you can see, in the last 4 matches Arsenal have taken 3 a meagre points against ‘Boro. Worse still you have to go all the way back to 2004 for the last time that Arsenal beat Middlesbrough at the Riverside stadium. That’s an impressive record for any team, much less a “lesser” squad. So, given the contrast in styles and their complete dominance of Arsenal (they have twice as many points as us from those 4 matches) I’d say that Middlesbrough is our nemesis. Ok, maybe one of our nemesisses (nemesii???).
But that’s ok, because by the grace of Wenger we have ourselves a bona fide Christmas miracle: Gael Clichy (hamstring), Cesc Fabregas (knee), Robin van Persie (thigh), Emmanuel Adebayor (rested) and Bacary Sagna (flu) are all slated to return from the “injuries” that kept them out of the CL clash. Nasri and Kolo are still out with ankle and calf knocks and, of course, Rosicky and Eduardo are still out but all the others are back, it’s a miracle!
As mad as I was on Wednesday that Wenger fielded a very weakened side for the Champions League tie that he clearly felt was unimportant, I would be doubly pissed if a full squad with key players given a rest can’t manage at least a point. Frankly it would be hard to imagine a good excuse for a loss tomorrow. Certainly, the “they are a young team and they will learn from this” or the even more dreadful “they lost focus a little bit, but we were in control of the game the whole time and deserved at least a point” cannot hold water tomorrow. Everyone in the free world knows exactly how Gareth Southgate is going to play Arsenal: funnel the Arsenal attack into the center of the park, invite the fullbacks up, harass the midfield, disrupt their passing, and hit them on the counter attack.
I’d like to see a different game plan from Wenger but I don’t see them changing things up this year, so we’ll need the Dutch Chocolate and Adebayor to put away the numerous chances we know they will get — the earlier the better — or Saturday will be a very frustrating day. It’s funny, because if Arsenal go up early I could see this stretching ‘Boro and allowing for Arsenal to play the type of game that gets them glorious wins, but just the opposite if ‘Boro score first. Of course, I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already seen a hundred times.
Right, it’s a lunch time kickoff over there which translates into a 4:45am kickoff over here. To add insult to injury, the game is only on Setanta which means that I have to go to Doyle’s to watch it, but since they don’t open until 6am, it will be already over by the time I get to see it. Oh well, at least I can watch, I guess. Anyway, a bunch of us are going down there for the 6am replay so join us if you’re around.
All this 6am chicanery is predicated on a little luck: we’re supposed to have some kind of once in 18 year storm tonight. They said it’s going to be almost as bad as the storm that hit in 1990. I was here: the trees were covered in a layer of ice, huge old trees collapsed, and there were icicles and sheets of ice all over the place. Needless to say, travel was impossible except for walking. If that happens tonight I doubt we’ll all be doing anything tomorrow.
By the way, there also won’t be a blog tomorrow because I would have to get up before 4am to write it or write it after and late blogs are not well received. So you won’t see me anywhere but the forums until Sunday. Enjoy the day off!
The other story I want to touch on is that due to his diligence and hard work maintaining and regaining fitness, Dudu has received a more definitive window for his return; 6 weeks, if not sooner. Wenger is saying all the right things about being patient getting him back to his pre-injury level which is probably hard on the Crozilian. You know how it is when you’re recovering from a major injury and you’re just itching to get back and play but you’re not fully ready and you get all frustrated and act like Wayne Rooney? That.
Anyway, I hope he gets better real soon, the boys need him!
Right, see you lot on Sunday. Here’s to a brilliant win tomorrow. Up the Arse!