Arsenal suffered a disappointing 0-0 draw to Middlesbrough in Premier League action at The Emirates today.
Arsène Wenger was forced into making two changes from his Premier League squad that faced Swansea City as Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny came in for Granit Xhaka (red card suspension) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles knock).
Arsenal’s first chance of the match came from a free kick in the 7th minute. Daniel Ayala sliced down Alexis Sánchez on the edge of the box, but Mesut Özil could only fire the free kick over Victor Valdés’ crossbar.
Arsenal had a penalty shout in the 14th minute, but Mike Dean waived the home side’s appeals away. Loose passing from the back while being pressed led to Elneny playing Walcott in down the side of the Boro penalty area. Theo cut the ball back to Özil who was seemingly clattered into from behind by Marten de Roon as he tried to shoot. On the replay, it appeared that
Arsenal was nearly carved open in the 19th minute. A simple long ball out from the back, flicked onto Adama Traore. Laurent Koscielny could have done better but whiffed his clearance under pressure and Traore was in on goal. Shkodran Mustafi recovered fairly well and Čech came out to make it more difficult for the former Barcelona youngster who could only fire it at the goalkeeper.
Boro again could have scored immediately thereafter as Gaston Ramirez fired his free kick off the corner of the post and crossbar. It was a let off for the Gunners.
Free kicks continued to be a threat mere minutes later as Alexis fired a long-distance free kick in the 23rd minute that Valdés had to do well to keep out.
Boro again had a great chance to get out on top in the 33rd minute as Ramirez had a header from point blank range he could only fire straight into Čech. Traore was able to carve out space against Héctor Bellerín and fired in a cross. Álvaro Negredo’s header was deflected off of Mustafi straight to Ramirez who was at a slight angle. Again, the Gunners were fortunate to avoid conceding first.
Arsenal had a chance themselves to take the lead before halftime. Koscielny played a long ball to Alex Iwobi. Iwobi found Alexis in the box who eventually played it out wide to Theo, who fired a cross across the face of goal that Özil just could not reach.
The half ended scoreless, with Boro having the best chances. Arsenal struggled to build from midfield with the “Coqneny” partnership that was so ineffective last season.
Arsenal began the second half by nearly scoring immediately. Valdés whiffed at a clearance and the ball fell to Alexis on the byline. His attempted cross just evaded the head of an onrushing Koscielny.
Arsenal continued piling on pressure, looking better and more fluid early in the second half, as Alexis had a swerving long-range effort that Valdés brilliantly pawed out in the 54th minute.
Boro were again dangerous on the counter, though. Traore collected the ball and left Coquelin in the dust. Koscielny was there to trouble the youngster who shot instead of crossing to Negredo. He had earned the attempt, but his effort was never going to beat Čech.
Arsenal had a great chance through its Chilean center forward again right at the stroke of the 67th minute as Theo played Alexis in on goal only for the striker to not quite create the greatest of contact. In the end, it was fairly comfortable for Valdés to collect.
Lucas Pérez came on immediately thereafter, replacing Iwobi who had a very quiet performance on the day. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Elneny in the 74th minute, a sign that the home side was going for all 3 points.
The Gunners piled on pressure but simply couldn’t find a way through. Lucas and Theo combined well down the right side, but Theo couldn’t find his footing to fire an effort that would trouble the Boro keeper. Moments later, a Koscielny interception and line-breaking pass to Özil led to a Theo header which couldn’t quite find someone to finish it off.
Arsenal nearly gave it away late as Traore, again, burst through midfield. Bellerin recovered well but his tackle played Negredo, who was in an offside position, in on goal. Negredo tried to cut the ball back onto his right boot, but Koscielny recovered in time to clear the danger.
Arsenal had the ball in the back of the net in the 93rd minute as Oxlade-Chamberlain dribbled his way into the box and fired a shot that Özil dinked over Valdés. Unfortunately, the German was well offside. Moments later, Theo was in on goal but was spared embarrassment over his miss by the offside flag.
In the end, Arsenal did not create enough to win the match and were possibly fortunate to not concede on one of Boro’s multiple chances on the counter. They cleared missed the suspended Xhaka and injured Cazorla on the day.
The result momentarily puts Arsenal on top of the table with 20 points, with Manchester City yet to play.