Arsenal cruise past Middlesbrough to reach quarter finals.


The element of surprise was lost for Championship side Middlesbrough after their victory over Manchester City, said Boro manager Aitor Karanka.  It would be hard to argue with the man.

First, If I’m being honest I was a bit disappointed to see Sanchez in the starting lineup. I know Boro is a decent side, but we’ve got enough quality to beat them without him and even Wenger said he was a bit worried about the Chilean’s knock he picked up mid-week.  He clearly wants to play every match, but give the lad a rest, seriously.

More positively new boy Gabriel got his first start.  This was about as good a time as ever at home to lower league opposition, so at least that was exciting.

I know it was just Middlesbrough, but boy it really is a joy to watch Arsenal when theyre firing on all cylinders.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen this kind of confident attacking performance from our boys in Red and White.  We came in the game with a clear gameplan to keep possession, play creatively and basically just not be Manchester City.  We got it all right and outclassed the opposition from the very beginning.

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Right from the first whistle it was all Arsenal.  Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil (finally playing centrally) in particular looking really comfortable on the ball and the forwards were finding plenty of space moving forward through the Boro defense.  Time and time again the Middlesbrough’s keeper and defense were tested, but they seemed up for the test.  

Giroud let loose on a couple of occasions from outside the box but on both occasions they were pushed wide.  The conversion rate for shots outside the 18 yard box is something stupid like 3% (excluding direct free kicks), but I think Giroud’s game depends so much on confience and you can tell when he’s feeling his game from the shots he takes.  Not to mention he has the ability to score some real pretty goals at a distance.

The Frenchman would finally get his reward though in the 27th minute after a fine bit of attacking display.

Cazorla, who captained the side on the day, found Gibbs with a beautiful through ball who then hit Giroud on the near post with a low cross and Olivier tucked it home neat as can be.

After quite an extended run on the bench it must be said that Gibbs had a pretty stellar day down the left.  Once again, sure against lower league opposition, but if you can’t do it against them, then bigger issues ensue.

Arsenal would only have to wait two minutes before they got their second goal.  Another goal from a set piece, another near post run and another Giroud goal.  This is a Giroud trend I could get used to.  He caught the corner on the volley and finished it with an absolutely spectacular bit of skill.  When he’s in form he can change a game by himself so lets hope we can keep him hot.  

Arsenal FC
Arsenal FC /

Arsenal FC

The first half, and the match, would finish 2-0, but certainly not for a lack of chances.  Walcott, Cazorla, Ozil, and Welbeck all had great chances saved in what really was a fine performance by the Middlesbrough keeper.  Even Boro had a good look when a header was very nearly scored, just barely saved by the post.

A few things I noticed throughout the match.  First, Chambers had a pretty mediocre return to the side.  He’s been incredibly useful to us this far especially considering the circumstances he was put in earlier this year, and I still think he’s a fantastic talent, but he has indeed come back down to earth and its easy to see why Hector Bellerin continues to get the nods in front of him.

Next, Ozil looked at home in the middle.  It seems we might finally be getting to see the full potential of our German playmaker and I’d really like to see him deployed there on a more consistent basis, especially considering the form he’s in at the moment.

Szczesny, also had a pretty good outing.  True he didn’t have a lot to do, but he did make a couple of good saves and he continues to look comfortable.  I am still not sold on Ospina in the long term and it seems to me like he is even looking less and less solid every time I see him play.  I see Szczesny as our long term No. 1 and maybe, just maybe we’ll be seeing him sooner rather than later back in league action.

In front of Szczesny Gabriel had a rather impressive performance too.  There were a couple of times where he looked a bit out of place, but on the whole he closed down well, put in a good outing and looks like he could end up being a real good buy.

“He did really well and you see there’s some great potential there, some good focus, good urgency, good desire to defend,” -Arsene Wenger

On a weekend when another couple of premier league sides were knocked out of the competition, our chances of defending the cup are looking better and better.  I’m always of the opinion that the quarters is when a competition should really be taken seriously.  unfortunately we’ve got a real fight for the top four on our hands combined with the champions league (in which we really should reach the quarter finals too).  It promises to be a very interesting couple of months at the very least.  So here’s to not drawing Bradford and Preston North End pulling off the shocker.  (#COYG)

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Next: Can Ozil and Cazorla coexist?