After their embarrassing defeat against Crystal Palace, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side travel to the North-East to face relegation-threatened Middlesbrough. With Boro battling against the drop, their best chance of staying up is by winning their home games.
The Gunners are a side in disarray as speculation around their manager’s future continues to cause problems. The scenes turned sour at Selhurst Park on Monday as fans refused to give Hector Bellerin the ball for a throw-in and chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” rang around the ground.
In such bleak circumstances, Arsenal need a win against Middlesbrough in order to salvage some respect and keep themselves in contention for a top four spot, although Champions League qualification is looking highly unlikely.
Middlesbrough are in 19th place and haven’t won a Premier League game since beating Swansea 3-0 in December. Steve Agnew’s side have scored the fewest goals in the division and have drawn a blank in three of their previous five league outings. Points-wise, Boro have only claimed two points from the last 15 available, with 0-0 draws against Swansea and Burnley.
Throughout this whole campaign, Arsenal have experienced indifferent form. Most recently, the Gunners were outplayed by one of Middlesbrough’s relegation rivals, Crystal Palace. Allardyce’s men, who were the home side, dispatched Wenger’s men 3-0 thanks to goals from Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic.
However, Arsenal convincingly beat West Ham and snatched a point against Manchester City. Recently it’s become a guessing game of which Arsenal side will turn up, sometimes they look unstoppable while on other occasions they fail to put in a performance.
There’s some good news for Middlesbrough fans ahead of this tie as Gaston Ramirez has recovered from an ankle injury. However, he is likely to start on the bench. Calum Chambers is ineligible to face his parent club, while Fabio and George Friend have been ruled out of this tie due to injury.
Gunners fans face some worrying news as both David Ospina, who has a back injury, and Petr Cech, who’s suffering from calf damage, are both ruled out of this game. That means that the inexperienced Emiliano Martinez will start in goal on Monday. Yet, it’s not all negative for the Gunners as Laurent Koscielny could return to action against Middlesbrough.
Match Prediction: Middlesbrough 1-1 Arsenal
With Arsenal in such a bad state and Middlesbrough surprisingly strong defensively, it would be wrong to expect the net to bulge on numerous occasions. Arsenal will be tested and it’s hard to see them breaking Middlesbrough down, based on the evidence from their last game against Crystal Palace.