News Live Scores

Cazorla's creativity missed as party pooper Boro stifles unbeaten Arsenal

Arsene Wenger doesn’t celebrate his birthdays and there certainly would have been no post-match celebrations in the Arsenal manager's household after the stalemate against Middlesbrough.

The Frenchman turned 67 on Saturday and came into the match at Emirates Stadium off the back of an 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions. While the game against Aitor Karanka's well-drilled outfit may be another match added to that impressive run of results, you can’t help but think the Gunners should have got more out of this one.

Wenger’s side had a more defensive look with Mohamed Elneny starting alongside Francis Coquelin in central midfield following an injury to Santi Cazorla. The Gunners lacked the energy and creativeness from deep which Cazorla usually provides and Boro was unlucky not to have opened the scoring on at least two occasions in the first half. Gaston Ramirez hit the crossbar with a well-struck free kick while minutes later he was denied by the safe hands of Petr Cech at point-blank range. 

German maestro Mesut Ozil has been directly involved in 51 goals in 90 league games for Arsenal (18 goals, 33 assists) but struggled to conjure up any opportunity of note against Karanka’s men.

Fellow talismanic forward Alexis Sanchez also appeared frustrated in his lone role up front and was forced to come deep to collect the ball throughout the game. His distribution was equally poor (70.6% pass accuracy) and Arsenal’s midfielders seemed stifled by the diamond formation deployed by the opposition. 

Middlesbrough’s last away victory at Arsenal was in 2001 and it came close to springing a late surprise when tricky winger Adama Traore fed Alvaro Negredo wih an inch-perfect pass. If it wasn’t for a last-ditch tackle from Laurent Koscielny then the scoreline could have been oh so different.

Late Arsenal pressure gave the home supporters something to cheer even if Ozil’s last minute effort was ruled out for offside. The party poopers had come to North London with a game plan and deployed it brilliantly. 

Perhaps this was a match Arsenal would have lost last season and the Gunners can be thankful for Cech — the goalkeeper John Terry described as being capable of saving his team "12 to 15 points a season" — for his solid performance between the sticks yet again.

It will be a birthday to forget for Arsene Wenger as he now looks to Tuesday’s EFL Cup clash against Reading for a reinvigorated performance.