Four in a row. It was a game I loved when I was a pup. Now it means the number of away league defeats we have suffered in our current run I am less enamoured with it. We need a gloom lifting performance in Middlesbrough on Monday evening, especially after yet more results went against us on Saturday. Everton’s win over Burnley dropped us a place to seventh.
Worse still was the marshdwellers win over Bournemouth in a match which Jack Wilshere was also substituted after injuring his dodgy ankle once more. That means they need mathematically they need just eight points from six matches to postpone St Totteringham’s Day for just twelve months. Brace yourselves for something none of you younger than 22 (plus a few years) will have experienced before.
Enough of that. Far more important is how we fare at the Riverside in a fixture cruelly moved to a Monday night, our second in a row. The travelling faithful will still be there, and will roar the team on as long as they are seeing effort, and a performance, and determination to win an oh so vital three points. Arsenal players would be well advised to go over to them before the game and applaud them for their efforts in getting to the north-east on a Monday night in the current circumstances.
Quite who will start is up in the air as I type. Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny are eighty percent likely to be fit to start, “but sometimes the twenty per cent can play a villain’s part in the final preparation” according to Arsene Wenger. Let’s hope that if only one makes it that man is the skipper, Koscielny.
David Ospina and Lucas are still ruled out with back and thigh injuries apparently. That neither has been seen since the 1-3 defeat by West Brom is starting to worry this amateur scribe. There must also be some doubt about a start for Theo Walcott after the boss was critical of him for saying Palace wanted the game last Monday more than us. Am I alone in thinking we could start Danny Welbeck on the right and bring Olivier Giroud back into the centre?
I’m guessing not many would support Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting in place of Mesut Ozil just to freshen things up in the midfield. Middlesbrough will certainly look to keep things tight and physical, safe in the knowledge that Anthony Taylor is in charge. In what could be a dogged and dour contest this might actually be a challenge to Walcott and Ozil to come on in the last half an hour if necessary and open up a tiring rearguard.
The Teessider’s are currently six points off safety, they haven’t won a league match in 2017, and they are the lowest scorers with only 22 goals from 31 matches. They have sacked their manager and coach Steve Agnew has the unenviable task of saving them. He won’t be helped by not having Gunners loanee Calum Chambers available to him for this fixture against his parent club.
The ‘holic pound
Boro could prove to be the worst trip for us at this worrying time. Desperate for survival they may produce the form that has deserted them this year and surprise another side devoid of form and confidence. As those who listened to this week’s A Bergkamp Wonderland Podcast will know I have tipped 1-0 to the visitors and the bookies are quite keen on that too. I took 7/1 and hope that I, as well as my team, enjoy a change of fortune. Please be aware if you click on the podcast link that the show itself is most definitely not safe for work, or young ears.
So, to those who are making the trek on Monday please accept my admiration, respect, and hope that the team gives you reason to cheer them off at the end this week. I did the every game home and away thing in the 70s and 80s. and it was a lot cheaper then. I’m not sure I could either afford it or cope with the physical demands of doing it these days. You lot are awesome!