The Tunnel begins at The Riverside
So the last 3 games were not ideal. 2 points from 9 where 6 was the minimum required.
Now it is really beginning to look like a great escape is required a what better place to start than under lights at The Riverside. I am completely biased but The Riverside is one of the best stadiums under lights.
What was supposed to be a glamour tie and one we all looked for at the start of the season under the hope that we would be safely in mid table at this stage with outside hopes of European Football (Ok this was in the wildest dreams). However this is now a must win game against a dangerous wounded animal. We have all seen the YouTube footage of Arsenal "fans" calling for Wenger's head and they have been in freefall in recent weeks, but they've got a top quality team.
Boro have come off the "Week of Destiny" with two points. This was not what was hoped for, but there is some optimism. If Gestede header goes in against Swansea and Matt Lawton does not get in the way TWICE v Burnley then suddenly we have 6 points and are bang in the mix.
So we have seen Steve Agnew be adventurous and experiment with his team selection and formation. Arsenal will go 4-2-3-1 as usual. In that they have pace out wide and trickery in the middle. I believe we need to win midfield. Clayton and De Roon should be part of a 3 with Adam Forshaw. His form has dipped off a little bit maybe due to lack of confidence or maybe he was overplayed given Leadbitter injury issues. He ha never played this amount of football at this level. That said he is our best central midfielder on the ball is usually very good in possession.
The 4-2-3-1 v Swansea, Solid defensively but lacked attacking options bar a high octane start until we went 4-4-2. Which as seen v Hull did not work. Yes there were injuries which affected this but we never looked comfortable and the team was far too open. 5-3-2 or 3-5-2 v Burnley gave us a decent grip on the game and we looked solid in defence.
Arsenal have more options than Burnley. We can't give up the wide areas with the likes of Alexis and Walcott's pace or the middle with Ozil class. Giroud can punish you in the air. So is it 3 central defenders or 2 central defenders.
GK - Valdes – Picks himself and his recent comments prove he is committed.
RCB – Bernardo – Solid but not spectacular. Looked better as part of 3.
CB - Ayala – His pace will be a key asset.
LCB - Gibson – off day against Hull but again solid against Burnley.
RWB – Barragan – Solid last Saturday, jury still out and will need to be on A game.
LWB – Downing – Lack of options available but his experience will be vital.
DM – Clayton – Will need his running ability.
CM – De Roon – One of Boro most consistent performers this season.
CM – Forshaw – Should be refreshed and raring to go after been dropped recently.
CF – Negredo – All class, concern is he drops too deep to get involved. Need to ensure this doesn't happen.
CF – Adama – While he is frustrating, he is our most dangerous player. Upfront with Negredo will allow him to drop deep, pulling the Arsenal defenders around allowing more space in behind.
How do you set a team up to face Arsenal. Yes an under performing team but have the players to cause us damage. Positives. We have had since Sunday to prepare for a team who rarely change approach. Negative. A draw is not enough we need to win so will be open to Arsenals pace.
I would love to see Boro go out and get them from the start. Pressure Pressure Pressure! We cannot let them settle and get into a rhythm. As I've said previously I would take a dirty one nil win.
If somehow we can pull it off and I firmly believe we can, suddenly we are back in the race and still have Bournemouth and Southampton to play along with Sunderland.
The Great Escape is achievable and it starts under lights at The Riverside.
UP THE BORO