Middlesbrough (2) – (1) Arsenal
The Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
Arsenal lost 2-1 this afternoon at Middlesbrough, and on the performance Arsenal deserved nothing.
With injuries to key midfielders Cesc, Flamini and Hleb we couldn’t get our passing game going at all. The story was the same at St James’ Park, where Newcastle dominated for the majority of that match.
The key to Arsenal’s success on the pitch this season is the quick, one-touch passing in midfield which no-one in the league has been able to defend against this season. Another reason Arsenal have been so successful this campaign is that they push high up the pitch, and put the opposition under constant pressure.
Without Hleb, Cesc or Flamini, Arsenal can’t play their normal game. This was shown in the second half at Villa Park, and for most of the game against Newcastle and then Middlesbrough.
But the ironic thing was that despite these injuries, Arsene had enough options to compensate for their absence.
Gilberto is a passenger in this team.
He is too slow, cannot pass the ball and only succeeds in giving the ball away, was fouling everywhere and is just not in tune with the current style of play. He struggled against Newcastle and today he was second rate.
He was completely lost.
It was like Arsenal were playing with 10 men for the entire game.
Arsene should have played Diarra and Denilson who are much quicker on the ball and have much better passing ability.
Arsenal’s passing and ball retention is usually excellent but too many times moves broke down in midfield. This only served to give Middlesbrough more confidence as the game progressed and gave Arsenal an uphill struggle from the start.
Gilberto has played against Sevilla, Newcastle and Middlesbrough in recent games and it’s safe to say those 3 games have been the worst we have played all season.
A midfield of Rosicky, Diarra, Denilson and Eboue (or Walcott) would have given Middlesbrough a totally different game.
And unfortunately, Eduardo is another player who has cost Arsenal dear.
Against Newcastle he was anonymous and at the Riverside he was worse. He hasn’t settled as yet to the Premier League and Arsene really should have started Bendtner who would have caused Newcastle and Middlesbrough problems.
People say you can’t start two big players upfront but Bendtner was the more sensible option. And if Arsene was so opposed to starting the two tall men he could have played with a 5 man midfield – but to do so with both Eduardo and Gilberto was a liability.
Arsene really has to think about his team selection for the next league game against Chelsea.
The Arsenal defence of Sagna, Toure, Gallas and Clichy who have been excellent this season were exposed far too many times. And the players themselves knew our midfield was not strong enough. Clichy didn’t push on down the wing as much as he usually does, and Kolo decided to bypass the midfield area completely with long ball after long ball.
And once again Adebayor was isolated in attack.
Wenger has been ruthless in dropping Jens, and he has to do the same with Gilberto.