Cesc Fabregas’ double was enough for Arsenal to comfortably defeat Middlesbrough, with the Gunners playing with great intricacy.
In an increasingly utilitarian game it is good to see an old fashioned winger; someone prepared to come back into the dressing room with chalk on their boots in Theo Walcott. And in an increasingly utilitarian game, Arsenal had 11 playmakers on the pitch, all capable off being able to pass the ball with such assurance.
With Nasri finding it at ease partnering Denilson in central midfield it was clear Wenger wanted to finish the job as clinically as possible. This was technically as good a line-up Arsenal have sent out this season and together amassed 583 attempted passes. Incisive and quick, the Gunners played a game of triangles as typified by the first goal. A counter attack saw Bendtner backheel to Fabregas and he found Arshavin scampering down the left, and the skipper made up the whole length of Middlesbrough’s half to finish fantastically. Bendtner may have skewed Brad Jones vision somewhat as the Dane ran across him as the shot went in but in truth it was unstoppable.
The Gunners added intensity, aggression and urgency to their quick passing and Nasri and Denilson formed a solid base, making up for their lack of size with sound positional play. The formation allowed greater pressuring from the front so as to not let Boro play the ball out and if possible, win the ball back as high as possible. Out wide, Arshavin and Walcott had the dynamism although Middlesbrough’s organisation denied them the space to find someone in the centre. Indeed Bendtner showed some good touches but was not really given much joy in front of goal to test Jones. He flirted between whether to lead the line in a Ibrahimovic or a Totti role, turning out to be more of the latter although if he moves out of his central role it means one of the midfielders must take his position. The cut-back was the stock option but surely a bit more opportunism will get more goals.
Boro on the other hand were industrious without lacking that penetration but showed with more quality, a team could take advantage of Arsenal’s quick attacks. If too many men commit themselves forward and the attack does fail, Arsenal may leave themselves short at the back. It looked early on that Boro could get a few players behind Gibbs and Eboue but the Gunner’s superiority denied enough opportunities to do so. And Cesc Fabregas made it two with another great run, this time picked out by the playmaker Eboue and he rounded the on rushing Jones.
With the sun beaming down at the Emirates it felt all but like a simple stroll in the park. The perfect preparation for the crunch game at Manchester United.
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri– The Frenchman looked assured and was more expansive in his passing than those others who have played in the same role and tracked back superbly, with two in particular on Tuncay being highlights.
Arsenal: Almunia (7), Eboue (8), Toure (7), Silvestre (7) (Djourou 46), Gibbs (7), Walcott (7) (Diaby 68), Denilson (7), Fabregas (8) (Adebayor 68), Nasri (8)*, Arshavin (7), Bendtner (7).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Sagna, Vela, Song Billong.
Goals: Fabregas 26, 67.
Middlesbrough: Jones, McMahon (Digard 73), Wheater, Huth, Taylor, O’Neil, Bates, Sanli, Downing, Aliadiere (Emnes 86), King (Adam Johnson 61).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Hoyte, Alves, Grounds.
Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||1|