Middlesbrough v Arsenal: Premier League Match Preview
Middlesbrough host Arsenal in the Premier League at the Riverside Stadium tonight (8.00pm kick-off UK time).
Boro are in 19th Place in the Premier League table and are six points away from safety, though they do have two games in hand over Hull City who are in 17th position.
They also have a superior goal difference to their main rivals for relegation – Sunderland, Swansea City and Hull City.
Middlesbrough are though the only side in English league football without a win in 2017, last earning three points against Swansea on 17 December 2016 – a run of 14 games (D6, L8).
Middlesbrough’s 0-0 draw with Burnley last time out means they have been involved in seven goalless draws in the Premier League this season, at least three more than any other side.
Indeed, the Riverside Stadium has seen fewer goals than any other Premier League ground this season (29 – 12 scored, 17 conceded).
Arsenal go into tonight’s match in 7th place in the Premier League table.
Despite having matches in hand on the sides above them a top 4 finish is increasingly unlikely.
Third and fourth placed Liverpool and Manchester City are 12 and 10 points respectively ahead of the Gunners.
Whilst fifth and sixth placed Manchester United and Everton are 6 and 3 points respectively ahead of Arsenal.
Last Monday’s 3-0 defeat by Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park meant that Arsenal have won just two of their last eight Premier League games, losing five of them.
The Gunners have lost four consecutive away Premier League defeats for the first time under Arsene Wenger.
It’s Arsenal’s worst away Premier League run since April 1995 (also four defeats in a row) when they were managed by Stewart Houston.
The sides drew 0-0 in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium on 22nd October 2016.
Middlesbrough are unbeaten in their last four Premier League home matches against Arsenal (W2 D2). This though will be the first meeting at the Riverside Stadium since December 2008.
Arsenal’s 7-0 win over Middlesbrough in January 2006 is their joint-largest margin of victory in Premier League history alongside the same scoreline v Everton in May 2005.
Middlesbrough have conceded more goals against Arsenal than they have to any other opponent in the Premier League (62 in 29 matches).
Former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo is Boro’s top Premier League scorer this season with 7 goals. The home side would also be boosted by the return from injury of their most creative player Gaston Ramiez.
Boro’s defence has been built around Ben Gibson. The highly rated central defender is being linked with a move to a team in the top 10 of the Premier League table and his performances have him on the fringes of the full England squad.
Despite the uncertainty over whether Alexis Sanchez will extend his contract the Chilean remains the key attacking player for Arsenal. He has scored 18 Premier League goals this season – 22 in all competitions.
The return of Laurent Koscielny from the Achilles injury that has kept him out of the last two matches would bolster a fragile Gunners defence.
This what Agnew had to say on facing Arsenal.
“Of course they [Arsenal] are in a difficult moment, certainly away from home. But they have got top-quality players throughout the team, so we have no doubt it will be a really, really difficult game.
“It is a challenge because he’s got top, top players through the squad. It’s full of internationals and Arsene Wenger, in my opinion, is one of the most talented coaches there’s been around for many years.”
This is what Agnew had to say on Middlesbrough’s run-in to avoid relegation.
“It’s a massive run in for us,” Agnew, told BBC Tees.
“We’re six points off with two games in hand and it’s all to play for. The players are determined to stay with it, and a break is something we deserve.”
“(The home crowd support during the 0-0 draw with Burnley last time out at the Riverside) you could feel that the 12th man is everything we need right to the end.”
“I know for a fact we’ll have that support to the very end. If we stay together and get the goal we’re more than capable of picking the three points up that will virtually change everything.”.
Arsenal have never finished outside the top four with Wenger in charge, but face a battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
This is what Wenger had to say at his pre-match press conference on Arsenal’s chances of finishing in the top 4.
We might get there, we might not. It’s not the fear to fail, it’s the desire to make it and that’s the only chance we have to make it.”
This is what Wenger had to say about his own future.
“Nothing [has changed],” he replied. “I focus on what is important for me, that is the performance of the team and what the fans are interested in is the performance of the team.”
“We spend a lot of time in our society to focus on things that are superficial and not take care of the essentials. The essential in football is that we have to make sure of one thing. Good players on the football pitch. That’s what we have to take care of.”
Captain George Friend is set to return after recovering from a calf injury.
Gaston Ramirez (ankle) could return but Fabio remains injured.
Calum Chambers is injured, though would not have been eligible to play against his parent club.
Petr Cech (calf) and Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) both have a chance of returning to the squad.
David Ospina (back) and Lucas Perez (thigh) remain unavailable.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistants: S Burt, A Nunn
Fourth official: K Friend
Arsenal to finally get a Premier League win on the road with a 2-0 win.