Arsene Wenger has finally defeated Gareth Southgate! Yet another impressive performance from the Gunners as they cruised to a 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough and extended their unbeaten Premier League run to 20 matches.
To add to that Arsenal broke a 107 year old record by keeping a clean sheet for the 8th consecutive home match in the League.
The Arsenal manager went for nearly the same line-up that played at Anfield making just one obvious change. Fit-again Almunia replacing Fabianski in goal.
The first opening came after just 8 minutes as Fabregas picked out Walcott’s run with a delightful through ball. But the young Englishman’s first touch wasn’t the best and eventually his shot was closed down by Huth.
Arsenal continued to press and soon had a beautiful move but only the finishing was lacking. Fabregas, Arshavin and Bendtner involved. Eventually Gibbs was found inside the box by Fabregas but the youngster was crowded out by Boro defenders.
Arsenal’s domination continued and it was no surprise when they broke the deadlock after just 26 minutes. The move started at the half way line. Fabregas found Bendtner who returned the ball with a skillful flick. The Arsenal captain then sent the ball for Arshavin to chase on the left flank and continued his own run. He recieved a cut back from Arshavin just inside the box and took the shot first time. Bottom corner! 1-0 to the Arsenal!
Walcott then had the next real chance but his decision making let him down as he sent in a half cross-half shot when he should have given the ball to Bendtner who was unmarked in a goal scoring position.
Middlesbrough ended the half with their first real chance as Downing had a long range effort comfortably saved by the diving Almunia.
Arsenal were clearly the better side in the first half but 1-0 goal leads are too slender so they just needed a goal in the second half to kill the game.
Middlesbrough knew they had to get a goal quickly and Aliadiere nearly gave them that or at least should have given them that. Superb ball from Downing found the former Arsenal forward through on goal but his finish was expertly denied by the outstretched left leg of Almunia. Surely it would have 1-1 had Almunia not been fit today!
Next chance fell to Arsenal. Fabregas and Eboue combined to pick out Walcott whose first time shot was well saved by Jones.
Boro were looking for a goal and again had a decent effort denied by Almunia but their defence was soon ripped apart by Eboue.
On 67 minutes Eboue sent a typical Fabregas through ball to send Fabregas one on one with the keeper. Jones needlessly came forward. Fabregas took a touch to the right to get away from Jones and finished it into the empty net. It was not an easy finish as the angle was tight and there were two defenders there to stop it but Fabregas kept his cool to finish like a striker.
After that there were a few chances to make it 3 for Nasri and Bendtner but neither of them could take it.
2-0 it ended and a win Arsenal thoroughly deserved. A nice little warm up for the Champions League semi final on Wednesday.
There were a few notable things today.
Silvestre was taken off at half time for a slight back problem. It was a precationary measure and it gives me a bad feeling he will be started against Manchester United ahead of Djourou. I hope not though!
Walcott’s needs to improve his decision making. Sometimes he sends in crosses at 100 miles an hour when he can easily pick out a team mate with a more ‘normal’ cross.
Nasri was played at an interesting position today. Seemed more like a holding midfield role so he could’t express himself while attacking today as much as he is capable of. But that shouldn’t be the case against United as he will most probable be deployed on the left flank because Arshavin wont be available.
Gibbs, Fabregas and Arshavin were all exceptional today. Gibbs is showing is one the best left backs in the making. Sound defensively and dangerous going forward. What else do you want from a wing back!