Saturday, 22 October 2016

Arsenal v Middlesbrough Preview And Confirmed Arsenal Lineup

Arsenal just can't stop winning at the moment and that's a pretty handy habit to have. They have won their last six league games to move level on points with City at the top of the table with a couple of favourable games to come before the pressure of some bigger games. They play Middlesbrough at home today and then next Saturday they travel to Sunderland and six points can and should be attained from those two games.

If they can go into the games against Spurs and United on the back of eight consecutive wins it will give them plenty of confidence as well as a little bit of a cushion in case things don't go their way. I'm not saying I think they will lose those games, but they tend to be very close affairs and sometimes the outcome can be decided by matters which cannot be controlled. If they win the games against Boro and Sunderland I would in fact be very confident of them taking at least four points from the games against Spurs and United which would be more than acceptable.

Of course other factors will come into play too such as an EFL Cup game, a Champions League game and a dreaded international break. The squad still hasn't been affected too badly by injuries, but we have Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck among others who are currently unavailable. While we can do without further injuries we are coping very well without those four players and the available squad still has plenty of depth.

The league season is very long and always has it's twists and turns, but I haven't seen anything yet to suggest there is any team who Arsenal cannot match in a head to head situation or over the entire season either. The problems could come if or when results go against them and they ability to overcome a couple of bad results in the past leaves them open to questions on how they might cope this season. We are constantly told of the team's mental strength and we will see if there is any truth in it at some stage I have no doubt.

As for Boro there is very little expected of them today after an awful run of results has seen them take only one point from their last five games. They will take some encouragement from Swansea running Arsenal close last week though and of course Arsenal had to play a midweek game too. Watching Arsenal destroy Ludogorets 6-0 on Wednesday night won't have done Boro's confidence too much good, but they won't be easy to break down. 

They have done better on their travels than they have at home and they will follow the tried and trusted method away to Arsenal of shutting up shop and looking for something on the break or from a set piece. It's the sort of game Arsenal struggle in sometimes, but I think the attacking flair currently on show from Arsenal will be too much for Boro.

The team is almost the same as it was last Saturday with the exception of a change in the midfield duo. Granit Xhaka missed out after his red card against Swansea of course and it looks like Santi Cazorla hasn't recovered in time from the knock he picked up in midweek. They are replaced by Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny who will both be eager to take the chance to show what they can do.

Coquelin in particular will hope to move ahead of Xhaka in the pecking order again after losing his place due to injury. Elneny will do well to oust a fully fit Cazorla from the team, but he is certainly a more than capable replacement today. It will be interesting to see how they work together with Coquelin doing most of the tackling and Elneny trying to set the tempo for the team.

It's still a team who are on paper far too good for Boro and should be looking to win by a couple of goals at least. If players like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott can continue to terrorize defenders Boro will be in for s very busy afternoon. I think they will do just that and get their seventh league win on the bounce.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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