Why Arsenal missed these two players against Middlesbrough

Cazorla missed out through an ankle knock, Xhaka through suspension

Arsenal's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny (L) takes on Middlesbrough's English midfielder Adam Clayton (R) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Middlesbrough at the Emirates Stadium in London on October 22, 2016. / AFP / Ian Kington / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin completed the most passes during Arsenal’s 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough but, even so, the Gunners missed Santi Cazorla and Granit Xhaka massively.

Elneny completed 93 out of his 98 attempted passes and Coq 81 out of 89. Interestingly, 40 out of 44 of Coq’s were in the final third and 36 from 39 of Elneny’s.

This is a high number and more than any other players completed.

So, if our two holding midfielders were at the heart of everything, why did we miss Cazorla and Xhaka so much?

If you look at the two midfielder we had on today and where their successful and unsuccessful passes were, you can mostly see them passing sideways. The passes that they completed were usually safe, not designed to test anybody and certainly not helping the team create chances.


When Cazorla and Xhaka play, although they too pass sideways at times, they have that creative footballing brain and ability to pick out a player making a run in the 10-yard box. They pass forward. They have that vision that Coq and, as much as I like him, Elneny just don’t have.

That’s why we missed them so much against Boro.