Date: 3rd February 2007 at 3:00am
Written by:

On Sky

Arsenal travel up north to play the in-form Middlesbrough on Saturday as The Gunners bid to keep their slight title hopes alive.

‘Boro are unbeaten in their last 7 games with 3 draws and 4 wins in that time. The last game they lost was to Blackburn on 30th December 2006, a 2-1 defeat. An impressive run for a team that were in a relegation scrap only 2 months ago, don`t you think? Well, it is an impressive run but let`s look at this run a bit more.

There are 2 results that jump out at me, 0-0 away to Pompey and 5-1 at home to Bolton; both these games have come in the last 2 weeks. Other than that they have beat Hull 4-3 at home and drawn 2-2 away to Bristol City.

So, as you can see, a mixture of results in there, they are in good form but they are conceding goals, and when that`s happening Arsenal are the last team you want to be playing.

Arsenal`s form isn`t so bad either. They`re unbeaten in 8 games with 6 wins and 2 draws, including a 2-1 victory over Manchester United. The draws came away at spurs in the Carling Cup (in which several youngsters played) and at home to Bolton.

In their last 5 games Arsenal have conceded 5 and scored 10. Go back one more game and Arsenal have conceded 8 and scored 16!

Vital Quotes:

Arsene Wenger praised Middlesbrough, saying they are a team ‘on the up’: “I feel Boro are on the way upsa. They have good young players and they had a good result at Portsmouth this week.

‘On the whole they have had a good run, one that is comparable when we went to Blackburn. And we expect that kind of committed game again.”

Wenger also confirmed that Denilson will be in the squad: ‘Denilson is in the squad with us.

“He has quickly come out and shown personality. I feel he is one of the candidates for the midfield now.”

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate says that his team will attack Arsenak: ‘We want to have a go at them. There’s no point sitting back. We must be as positive as we can.
‘We are in the middle of a good run and there’s plenty of belief in the squad right now.

‘Not only are we scoring goals but our defence is giving us a great base to attack from.’

Middlesbrough Team News:

Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has picked up a back injury and is now a major doubt. Striker Mark Viduka is set for a return from injury but new signing Dong Gook Lee will not feature as he looks to regain fitness.

Player to watch: Yakubu

The powerful striker turns it on for the big teams, he has a bit of everything and a lot of strengh. He can match Toure for pace and power so the back 4 will need to have their wits about them.

Arsenal Team News:

Just as it seemed Arsenal were beginning to get over their injury crisis, it returns. Diaby, Gallas, Hleb, Ljungberg, Eboue, Van Persie and Baptista will all miss the game.

The good news is that Djourou and Adebayor are included in the squad. Denilson is also included after some impressive displays in the cup.

Player to watch: Thierry Henry

The French striker was rested for the midweek game against Spurs so he should be nice and fresh.

His pace and new-found hunger are enough to cause any defender in the world problems, add his lethal finishing, skill, strength and confidence and damn..they could be in a little bit of trouble!

Match Facts & Stats

Ref Watch:

Mike Riley will be the referee on Saturday. The last Arsenal game he officiated was the 4-0 vicotory over Charlton. He didn’t book a single Arsenal player but he did book 4 Charlton players.

So far this season he has dished out 5 red cards and 54 yellows, an average of 4.21 cards per game.

Match Prediction:

I can see Arsenal’s run coming to an end here. Boro are always strong at home, espically against the big teams.

A 2-1 loss for Arsenal is on the cards for me.

Next Fixtures:

Next up for Arsenal is Wigan. One of last season’s suprise packages, the Northerners have been in shocking form in the last couple of months and now find themselves in a relegation scrap.