After an emphatic 6-0 win at home against Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal will welcome a struggling Middlesbrough to the Emirates on Saturday hoping they can make it eight wins on the bounce.
One of the in-form sides not just in England but in Europe, Arsenal look like they have settled in well and everything is clicking for them ahead of what is a crucial month in November where they face the likes of arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain. With the next four fixtures looking kinder, it won’t be surprising if they can go on and match their best winning run in the last decade (11) before they confront that difficult period.
Newly promoted Middlesbrough have made an indifferent start to their Premier League and Aitor Karanka has seemed to hit a little snag when it comes to winning at home. Only Burnley and Sunderland have scored less goals than Middlesbrough as they encountered another tame defeat at the hands of Watford and sit in a lowly seventeenth position in the league, losing four of their last five games. Their form on the road though is better than their showing at home, which will encourage them as they make the difficult trip down south to North London. Arsenal are the favourites to win this on all of the best Premier League odds websites.
Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter has returned to full training and could be available for selection in the coming weeks as he builds up his fitness.
James Husband (shoulder) is doubtful while loanee Calum Chambers is ineligible to face his parent club.
No fresh injury concerns for Arsenal as Ramsey, Welbeck and Mertesacker continue to be unavailable for the visit of Middlesbrough.
- Arsenal have won only one of their last six Premier League fixtures against Middlesbrough (D4 L1).
- This match is on the same day as Arsene Wenger’s 67th birthday. He has won his two previous Premier League fixtures on his birthday, 1-0 v Man City in 2005 and 4-0 v Reading in 2006.
- The Gunners have scored one, two, three, four, five, six and seven goals in Premier League matches against Middlesbrough – one of four clubs to do so against another in the PL (also Chelsea v Sunderland, Everton v Sunderland and Manchester City v Norwich City).
Mesut Ozil – Arsenal
After a slow start by his standards, Mesut Ozil racked up the goals for Arsenal in midweek, his first hat-trick at senior level much to the delight of the 60,000 strong crowd at the Emirates. Arsenal have got goals all over the team with Sanchez and Walcott particularly in a great goal-scoring niche. But the 28-year old will come in really vital on Saturday if Karanka’s side decide to approach the game defensively with a lot of players behind the ball.
Gaston Ramirez – Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough’s attacking woes have held them behind this season so far – they have scored just 7 goals in 8 games partially due to their manager’s insistence on not conceding goals. With nobody really expecting them to turn up and cause an upset on Saturday, it may be the perfect time for them to play expansive football and try to outscore the home side where someone like Ramirez can be the crucial influence.
Cannot see past a comfortable Arsenal win.
Arsenal 3-0 Middlesbrough