Petr Cech to the rescue as Arsenal draw a blank against Boro
Petr Cech to the rescue as Arsenal draw a blank against Boro

Arsenal’s six match Premier League winning streak was ended by Middlesbrough in a 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

It wasn’t the result that Arsene Wenger had been hoping for to celebrate his sixty-seventh birthday.

In truth Middlesbrough could have been even bigger party poopers except for a string of saves from Petr Cech.

Arsenal knew that a win today would take them top of the Premier League table with Manchester City not playing until tomorrow (at home to Southampton).

If Arsenal needed any extra motivation to claim the three points it came with the news that Tottenham Hotspur had dropped two points in a 0-0 draw away to Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium in the lunchtime kick-off today.

Middlesbrough arrived with just one win this season – away at bottom of the table Sunderland.

Boro though could take comfort from having lost just one of their past seven Premier League meetings with Arsenal (five draws, one defeat). They also had the boost of Mike Dean being appointed to officiate the match!

Arsenal made two changes to the team that beat Swansea City last Saturday, with Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin coming into the team.

Santi Cazorla missed out with the kick he picked up against Ludogorets in the Champions League match on Wednesday. Whilst Granit Xhaka served the first match of his suspension for the red card against Swansea.

Arsenal enjoyed 75% of possession in the match, but sorely missed Cazorla’s creativity against a resolute Boro.

Aitor Karanka’s mentor Jose Mourinho would have approved of the Teessiders tactics. Defend deep, close down the space in midfield, defend the width of the penalty area and look to counter-attack when the chance arises.

It worked a treat. Boro keeper Victor Valdes was only really forced to make two  long-range saves from Alexis Sanchez. One in each half, as the Gunners only mustered five attempts on target in the match.

At the other end, Petr Cech had to react smartly to block Gaston Ramirez’s header in the first half, twice denied Adama Traore (one in each half) and was also forced into making a save by Alvaro Negredo.

Traore gave Nacho Monreal another uncomfortable afternoon. It was not quite as torrid as the chasing he got from Madou Barrow last week, but characterised another shaky defensive performance from Arsenal. Which would have been punished if Petr Cech hadn’t been in top form.

Arsenal thought that they had nicked it late on, but Mesut Ozil’s close range effort was rightly ruled out for offside.

It was the first time Arsenal had failed to score in a home Premier League match since February (0-0 v Southampton).

The performance by the Gunners was similar to that match. Unable to break down a side prepared to concede territory and the ball.

The point though takes Arsenal to the top of the table, ahead of Manchester City’s match with Southampton.

It seemed that the Gunners might be denied top spot by Liverpool.

The Koppites looked set to leap-frog Arsenal when they led West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at half-time in the late kick-off today. But a late goal by Baggies defender Gareth McAuley keeps Arsenal top on goal difference – until tomorrow at least.

Arsenal: Cech 8, Bellerin 6, Monreal 5, Koscielny 6, Mustafi 7, Coquelin 6, Elneny 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Iwobi 5 (Perez), Walcott 5, Ozil 5, Sanchez 6