Wenger's birthday ruined by stalemate

Arsenal stopper Petr Cech saving from Boro winger Adama Traore. The visitors took 11 shots at the Emirates Stadium, compared to Arsenal's nine. Boro hit the target four times.
Arsenal stopper Petr Cech saving from Boro winger Adama Traore. The visitors took 11 shots at the Emirates Stadium, compared to Arsenal's nine. Boro hit the target four times.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsene Wenger is having a party: Bring your vodka and your DVD of Fortuna Koln versus Paderborn.

The Arsenal manager is no hell-raiser and he has long had his leg pulled about his idea of a big night, which - according to legend - has to feature German third division football.

One thing was plain after the goal-less Premier League draw with Middlesbrough on Saturday - an anti-climactic comedown from last Wednesday's 6-0 Champions League win against Ludogorets: His 67th birthday bash would have been the dampest of squibs.

The Frenchman's moods are entirely dependent on the results of his team and this was one of those that they throw in every now and then - sometimes when they are least expected.

Arsenal had entered the game as the form team in England, having won seven on the spin in all competitions, while Middlesbrough had never had so few Premier League points - six- after the first eight matches of a season.

But Arsenal could not find their fluency - they were slow and flat, and it was surprising to see how few clear-cut chances they created.

It was Middlesbrough who distinguished themselves and if anybody deserved to win then it was them.

Boro manager Aitor Karanka got his tactics spot on and, with the right-winger, Adama Traore, showcasing his pace and power, they had the opportunities to take more than the one point.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech saved Arsenal three times in the first half and he was worked again by Traore in the second period.

Wenger admitted that Arsenal "could have lost the game in the first half" and he lamented his team's lack of pace, creativity and sharpness in the combinations.

He also felt they had paid "a little price" for their exertions against Ludogorets, even if it had not looked like a particularly taxing evening.

"I have a frustrated face," he added. "But, at least, we were intelligent enough not to lose."

He bemoaned the absence of Santi Cazorla, who is still recovering from an Achilles injury.

"You always miss Cazorla at home. From deep midfield into the final third, his pass is always quick, accurate," said the manager.

Wenger also felt that "we didn't make enough from our set pieces and crosses".

Striker Olivier Giroud would have provided a taller and bigger presence but the Frenchman, who has just recovered from a toe injury, is likely to return only for Arsenal's home League Cup game with Reading tomorrow.

"But I wouldn't like to jump on this kind of excuse," Wenger added.

"We are an offensive team. We had five or six offensive players on the pitch but we didn't manage to score, so it's a bit frustrating...

"We have to find a way to be efficient even when the games are like that."

While he was disappointed, Karanka was delighted with the way his side played following a disappointing 0-1 loss to Watford last week.

"We deserved to win," said the Spaniard. "Our concentration was good throughout. The fact that Cech was Arsenal's best player says that we did a really good job."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger's birthday ruined by stalemate'. Print Edition | Subscribe