On February 15th, Arsenal welcome the leaders of the Championship, Middlesbrough, to the Emirates Stadium for the 5th round of the FA Cup. Middlesbrough travel to the home of the FA Cup holders fresh off the upset of the Premier League Champions in round four. The Gunners are coming off a victory over another Championship side in the last round when they won 3-2 away from home against Brighton. Middlesbrough may be in the Championship, but Premier League side, Arsenal, should be prepared for a serious fight.
Arsenal have good and bad news on the injury front. The bad news is they lost Aaron Ramsey for about a month with a hamstring injury in the Leicester match. Along with that they’re still missing Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy, and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. The good news is that Jack Wilshere looks like he will make the squad for the first time in months. Along with that it looks like, despite injury concerns, reports indicate that Alexis Sanchez will be fit.
Middlesbrough will be without on loan Chelsea defender, Tamas Kalas. They will also be missing young midfielder Adam Forshaw.
- These two sides have not met since 2009 when Arsenal won 2-0 at the Emirates.
- The last time Middlesbrough beat Arsenal away from home was in 2004 when they won at Highbury in the League Cup.
- The two sides have met 124 times in their history.
- Arsenal have won 61 of those, with Boro winning 31, and 32 of them have been draws.
- Middlesbrough are unbeaten in their last 10 matches in all competitions.
- Arsenal haven’t lost in the FA Cup since they lost to Blackburn at home in the fifth round in 2013.
Arsenal: Theo Walcott
Often when a player misses a year of football, they come back and have to take a couple months to find any kind of form. That hasn’t been the case with Theo Walcott so far. He may not be putting in perfect performances or finishing all his chances yet, but he has bagged three goals in only four starts. The Englishman’s pace and movement is enough terrify the best defences in the world. His ability to time runs in behind allows him to not only effect the game when he receives the ball from those runs, but he also makes the defence drop, opening up more space for the rest of the players. He is yet another dangerous weapon in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and he will hope to be at full effectiveness vs Boro.
Middlesbrough: Patrick Bamford
Up against Premier League champions, Manchester City, Boro needed a big performance from at least one of their players. They got a big performance from on loan Chelsea striker, Patrick Bamford, as he grabbed the crucial first goal and terrorised the Manchester City back line in the second half. Now up against the FA Cup holders, Bamford will need to put in a similar performance. The young Englishman has had a very successful loan spell so far scoring 11 goals in only 20 starts. He’s shown he can score against the best, now he must prove that he can do it twice. Another big performance from Bamford could see Boro get a trip to the sixth round of the FA Cup.
Make no mistake about it this will be a very tough game for Arsenal. Middlesbrough are clearly a very good team having beaten Manchester City and taken Liverpool to penalties. Arsenal have rarely lost at home over the last two years, but they will need to be on their game to beat the Championship’s top side. I have Arsenal winning in a tight one, but don’t be surprised if Boro cause another upset.