Arsenal will be hoping to progress past Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Sunday at the Emirates.
To do that, they are going to need to know one or two things about the visitors.
Here’s everything you need to know.
|Home Ground||Riverside Stadium (35,100)|
|League Position||1st (Championship)|
|Record Signing||Afonso Alves (£12m in 2008)|
|Ex Gunners||None known|
|Top Scorer||Grant Leadbitter (12)|
|Top Assister||Grant Leadbitter (8) Adam Reach (8)|
|Most Yellow Cards||Daniel Ayala (10)|
|Star Player||Grant Leadbitter|
|Player Arsenal Need Most||Yeah, last time…|
|Biggest Liability||Ryan Fredericks|
STYLE OF PLAY
Middlesbrough have formed the base of their success this season on a solid defence, which has seen them concede just 20 league goals in 30 games – the next best in the division is 28.
Only Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday have managed to put more than a solitary goal past the Riversiders in this season’s Championship.
On loan defenders Fredericks (Spurs), Omeruo and Kalas (both Chelsea) have played a part in that and it would be a surprise to see none of them make an appearance at the Emirates on Sunday.
Goals have been a little harder to come by, with 1.6 goals per game for a total of 48, while 23 of those have come from Leadbitter and Bamford (yet another Chelsea loanee) with 12 and 11 respectively – admittedly Leadbitter benefits from penalty duty, and Boro have won a whopping eight penalties so far this season – more than one in every four games.
38% of total goals in fact have come from set pieces, so Arsenal must be on their toes and try to restrict the number of opportunities they give away this weekend.
It is perhaps little surprise that this slightly defensive approach is the one Boro have taken to success – manager Aitor Karanka worked as Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid, departing as Ancelotti arrived with his own backroom staff, and the number of Chelsea loanees suggest the bond forged has been strong.
Long balls are not uncommon either, and a repeat of the wide-open 7-0 thumping Arsenal delivered back in January 2006 is a far cry from the likely cagey game we can expect to see.
SEASON SO FAR
Not widely tipped at the start of the season, many Boro fans would have been satisfied with a run to the play-offs, with the Championship jam-packed full of relatively recent Premier League inhabitants.
From 26/1 in some markets at the off, the Riversiders can now be found as short as 2/1 to win the division and 1/2 to get promoted – it’s some turn around.
Four wins and four losses in their opening eight games was hardly championship winning form, and three draws in November also set Boro back in their promotion hopes.
Unbeaten in ten, and with six consecutive wins under their belt, Middlesbrough were able to take advantage of the busy festive period and leap to the top of the division as others around them faltered.
An epic third round exit in the League Cup, 30-penalties into a shoot-out, has been rather eclipsed by their 2-0 unpicking of Manchester City in the last round of the FA Cup, and it would be surprising if a similarly strong line-up didn’t walk out at the Emirates on Sunday.
The foundation of this successful season is the Teessiders defence, and Arsenal must be patient to find a way through.
More critically, the Gunners will need to avoid making somewhat characteristic individual errors, as if Middlesbrough get the first goal, this tie could be all over.
Arsenal’s last 5 results against Middlesbrough: DLDDW
|League||26/04/2009||(H)||W 2-0||Arsenal: Fabregas (26, 67)
|League||13/12/2008||(A)||D 1-1||Arsenal: Adebayor (17)
Middlebrough: Aliadiere (29)
|League||15/03/2008||(H)||D 1-1||Arsenal: Toure (86)
Middlebrough: Aliadiere (25)
|League||09/12/2007||(A)||L 1-2||Arsenal: Rosicky (90)
Middlebrough: Downing (4) Sanli (74)
|League||03/02/2007||(A)||D 1-1||Arsenal: Henry (77)
Middlebrough: Yakubu (63)
Record for Arsenal v Middlesbrough
Overall record between the two clubs
Middlesbrough’s last 5 results: WWWWW
|League||Blackpool||(A)||W 2-1||Woodgate, Garcia Martinez|
|League||Charlton||(H)||W 3-1||Bamford, Vossen, Tomlin|
|League||Brentford||(A)||W 1-0||Leadbitter (P)|
|FA Cup||Man City||(A)||W 2-0||Bamford, Garcia Martinez|
|League||Cardiff||(H)||W 2-1||Bamford, Tomlin|