Arsenal (1) – (1) Middlesbrough
Kolo Toure (85′)
The Emirates Stadium, London
Even before the Arsenal game kicked off, the Premier League showed us exactly how close things are in this competition. Manchester United visited Pride Park to play Derby County, a game you would expect a guaranteed three points for the visiting side. As it turned out however, only a 75th minute goal from Ronaldo seperated the sides.
Unfortunately for us that could be one of the most important strikes in Ronaldo’s season.
It doesn’t matter if you win 1-0 or 4-0 at this stage of the season, it’s getting those three points.
And when the game kicked off at the Emirates tonight, things looked to be going against us. After only 5 minutes, Adebayor had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside. The ball was clearly played towards the Arsenal striker from George Boateng so how the referee gave offside was beyond me. And the worse thing was that the official Mark Halsey was only 5 yards away from the incident! I can understand the linesman giving the decision as he’s looking through a crowd of players but the man in the middle could clearly see who the ball came off so there really is no excuse.
Then when you think things couldn’t get worse, they did after 24 minutes.
From a throw in deep in their own half, Middlesbrough played the ball over the top for Tuncay who was onside. The other runner, ex-Arsenal man Jeremie Aliadiere was just offside, but play progressed and when Tuncay played the ball square then Aliadiere smashed in the opener from 5 yards. The whole offside rule is confusing at the best of times, but I always thought you were deemed offside if you end up ‘interfering with play’, which Aliadiere obviously was when he scored. But then again there’s all this ‘second phase’ bullsh*t so he probably wasn’t offside.
Arsenal were having all the possession but couldn’t really cause Mark Schwarzer any major problems in the first half. A couple of shots went straight at him and he only really had to called into action when he punched away a few corners.
We went into the break 1-0 down. Talk about a massive 45 minutes in the season.
Arsenal dominated the possession as expected in the second half, but with the goal lead Middlesbrough sat behind the ball and we found it hard to make any real clear chances.
Fabregas had a great chance when Hleb played him in with a sublime through-ball but his left-footed shot was tame and Schwarzer made an easy save. Cesc also had a good header hit the outside of the post.
Could Arsenal ever make the breakthrough?
Mark Halsey, who had been having a shocking match gifted Arsenal a corner kick in the 85th minute, which was finished off well by Kolo Toure. After that Middlesbrough were holding on, and in the midst of attack after attack Mido was sent off for a high boot against the temple of Gael Clichy who had to be stretchered off. Hopefully he will be okay after that nasty challenge.
Near the end there were a few decent moments in the Boro penalty area from Walcott and Bendtner, but we just couldn’t get through. And just to really p*ss off the Arsenal fans Halsey decided to blow his whistle early and deny Arsenal a corner in injury time.
So Arsenal draw another game in the league.
What’s going on?
Are Arsenal just out of steam? I’m not sure. You see the performances against Villa, Birmingham and City and they seem like the displays of last season. Against Villa, Birmingham and today against Middlesbrough, we conceded the first goal and then had to chase the game. We did that a lot in the last campaign but it seems that part of our game is creeping back in and costing us valuable points.
Emmanuel Adebayor has been poor recently too. But then again that could be said about a few players. Hleb is off the boil and without Rosicky in the side we struggle on the other flank. Eboue can be excellent or really poor, and I don’t know why Walcott didn’t start tonight. Maybe he’s not 100% fit but he is one of the players who seems to be coming into form at the right time while others are struggling.
The performances are harder to take when you look at what happened at the San Siro. Everyone was on fire that night, so why can’t we do the same in the league?
Fabregas is finding it hard and we rely far too much on him to make something happen. Adebayor isn’t taking enough responsibility and hasn’t for a few games now. His touch and passing seems to be getting progressively worse! He talks a good game to the media but should probably just concentrate on his performances on the pitch.
Apart from the back four and Flamini, I don’t see any fight in the team. Flamini always gives 110% and you can always rely on him to put in a performance, but we need that desire further up the pitch.
I guess it comes down to the depth of the squad. You can’t legislate for what happened to Eduardo, who I’m sure would have made a big difference in the last 4 league games which ended in draws. This guy is ruthless in front of goal and is exactly what we need as the season comes to a close. Unfortunately we’ll have to do it without him.
Van Persie is back, but understandably looks rusty and could take a few weeks to get into the swing of things.
And our league programme doesn’t get any easier as we visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Talk about a make or break game!