Arsene and Aitor meet for first time in Premier League fixture
Birthday Boy Arsene and Aitor meet for first time in Premier League fixture

Arsenal take on Middlesbrough in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon (3.00pm kick off UK time).

The Gunners go into the weekend fixtures in second place in the Premier League table, behind leaders Manchester City on goal difference.

Arsenal will want to mark Arsene Wenger’s sixty-seventh Birthday with a seventh successive Premier League win. It’s the Gunners best run since an eight-match streak between February and April 2015.

Middleesbrough are 17th in the Premier League table after picking up just two points from the last 18 on offer. Boro will be looking to end a six-game wait for a second Premier League victory of the season.

Boro’s only Premier League win this season has come against bottom club Sunderland (D3 L4) and they have kept just one clean sheet in their last 19 away Premier League fixtures, away at West Brom.

Head-to-Head

The sides have not met in the Premier League since Boro were relegated to the second tier in 2009.

The most recent meeting between the sides came in the 2014-15 FA Cup when Olivier Giroud scored twice to send Arsenal into the quarter-finals.

Arsenal have won just one of their last six Premier League fixtures against Middlesbrough, though four of these were draws (L1).

Middlesbrough’s last league victory away to Arsenal came in April 2001, winning 3-0 thanks to own goals from Edu, Sylvinho and a strike from Hamilton Ricard.

Since that loss, Arsenal have won six of their last eight home games against Boro in the Premier League (D2).

Key Men

Arsenal will hope that Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil can continue their rich vein of goalscoring form. Whilst Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi will be looking to marshal a more solid defensive performance than in last Saturday’s win over Swansea City.

Middlesbrough have the experienced former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes between the sticks and the highly rated Ben Gibson at the heart of their defence. Gaston Ramirez provides the creative spark in midfield and former Manchester City striker is the main goal threat.

The Managers

Arsene Wenger on the title race.

“From Man City to United, everybody has a chance… Chelsea, everybody has a chance. Before the season everybody said that it could be a very tight, interesting championship. After the first two or three games… people felt that City would run away with it, or United who won as well their first three games.

But I believe we are all in the same pack there and it’s down to us to be consistent and try to just focus game after game.”

We are consistent at the moment and I feel there is more to come out from our team. The confidence is there because we have been consistent and overall, the desire to do well, the hunger to do well is there. We have to maintain that.

We have the squad and we have to show that we have the quality. To maintain that in the team for 10 months will depend on the players, on me and also on injuries.

We finished second last second, so even if we were disappointed, it was not disastrous. We have to give credit to Leicester as they only lost three games, and that’s why they finished first.

Of course we want to do better and we have learnt a lot from last season. If you look at the results after January from last season, we have improved a lot and our results have been quite consistent.”

Aitor Karanka

“Arsenal have their own style, but we have to think about ourselves and play in our way. I can understand 100% that supporters have expectations,” Karanka said.

As a supporter you want your team winning every single day.

But once again, I can’t do my training sessions, my line ups, my work, thinking that the crowd is thinking this kind of thing, the chairman is thinking that kind of thing or the journalists are thinking another.

I have to trust myself, my players and try to do my best starting at Arsenal.”

Team News

Arsenal

Granit Xhaka is suspended following his red card against Swansea City last Saturday.

Santi Cazorla is a doubt after taking a kick against Ludogorets on Wednesday.

Olivier Giroud (toe) could return in the League Cup tie against Reading on Tuesday. Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) may return for the Premier League match with Sunderland on Saturday 29th October. Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck (both knee) are still missing.

Provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Debuchy, Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Koscielny, Mustafi, Gibbs, Monreal, Elneny, Coquelin, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott, Iwobi, Lucas, Akpom.

Middlesbrough

Boro have no fresh injury problems following their 1-0 home defeat to Watford on Sunday.

Calum Chambers is unable to play against his parent club.

Skipper Grant Leadbitter who hasn’t played this season following hernia surgery is close to a return,  but today is likely to come too soon for him.

Provisional squad: Valdes, Guzan, Friend, Barragan, Nsue, Da Silva, Ayala, Gibson, Espinosa, De Roon, Clayton, Ramirez, Forshaw, Downing, Stuani, Fischer, De Sart, Traore, Negredo, Nugent, Rhodes.

Referee

Mike Dean
Assistants: S Long, I Hussin
Fourth official: T Robinson

Prediction

Arsenal to make it seven in a row in the Premier League with a 3-1 victory

 

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