BORO were given a painful football lesson by awesome Arsenal but they left the Emirates Stadium with their heads held high.
**********What I said before the game (mystic bloody meg)
BORO can beat Arsenal. Of course they can. Or at least bring them back to the Riverside for a lucrative bums on seats glamour replay. And then beat them up here. Why the hell not?
Aitor Karanka has his disciplined side well drilled in his tactical template and has them focussed and motivated. The side are capable of playing at a high intensity for the full 97 minutes, they can concentrate under pressure, press quickly and defend from the front, they can pass it around at high tempo and can hit quickly on the counter. They have shown that they can raise the bar in big tests this term – Liverpool, Derby, City – and that they can flourish against sides who want to play football rather than scrap it out.
Add to that an inner steel, a willingness to mix it if necessary and an obvious air of collective confidence no matter what the opposition . Then throw in Arsenal’s sense of fragility at the back under pressure and – whatever they say in public- the likelihood of a germ of complacence in the minds of one or two of their Galacticos who have one eye on bigger prizes plus a slightly anxious crowd sitting on top of a volcano of frustration and you have all the ingredients of another coupon-busting cup ‘shock’.
We’re all in this together: Boro players join the crowd celebrating at City
So yes, Boro can go to the Emirates and get a result. Believe it. They have nothing to lose.They are in great form – drawn two and won eight (including the scalp of the Premier League champions) in the last 10… the pressure is on the big boys to perform. If Arsenal fall short of their standards and Boro hit their own then they have a decent chance.
Of course, a lot more people believe that outrageously optimistic statement now than did when I said the same about Man City and was shot down as a delusional rara spin-machine. In fact, light-headed with top of the table vertigo and post-Etihad euphoria, plenty have now gone far beyond me on the foam finger fume index and actually *expect* to win. And win well. You watch, if Boro don’t win there will be an indignant backlash because the club have built up expectations and then failed to deliver. Typical Boro!
There will be people who believe the game is an unnecessary diversion from the main priority of promotion but it is a fixture that we have to play so we may as well go there and give it our best shot. There is nothing to be gained from putting out a reserve side and getting battered. Far more benefit (in terms of profile as much as on the pitch) will come from the team testing themselves against the best in front of a global audience and a good display (even a defeat with honour) will boost confidence for the rest of the season.
Let’s be under no illusions: This is going to be tough. Very tough. By all logic Boro will get battered. Arsenal are a brilliant team. They are the cup holders. They resume their Champions League campaign next week – a competition they have qualified for every year since decimalisation. They are packed with big ticket international stars and World Cup winners. On song they play sublime football that is a pleasure to watch. And after Boro stung City they will be wary. Arsene knows. They are not daft.
On paper – and on bookies coupons – they should walk it. Losing would be no disgrace.
But Boro have gone to Liverpool and got a deserved draw and gone to City and won with a flourish. Neither of those results were flukes nicked from a dead ball or against the run of play. This is a good team in good form. And Arsenal are “suspect” at the back. So let’s dare to dream: Boro CAN go there and get a result. Let’s enjoy the tingle of possibility.
Usual drill ; let;’s have your scorecasts and predictions of how the game will pan out and then we can reconvene after the whistle and see who called it right. I’m going for a pulsating honour even draw – probably 1-1. You can put your own match reports up after the game. I’ll put my own impressions up as soon as possible after the game. I’ll be back late but don’t worry I’ll be write something. I’ll be buzzing about Monday’s sixth draw.