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Giroud on Fire as Against Ease Past Boro

Olivier Giroud

Arsenal 2 (Giroud 27′, 29′) – Middlesbrough 0

Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

With Blackburn’s resounding win over Stoke as well as Bradford City’s victory over Sunderland, the message was clear to all that lower division teams have become a force to be reckoned with at the FA Cup. Arsenal’s opponents arrived at the Emirates on the back of a comfortable victory over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, so Arsene Wenger knew that there was no room for complacency.

It was evident that Wenger was going to rest a couple of his key starters and it was no surprises when Wojciech Szczesny got the nod ahead of David Ospina. In defense, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs and finally, Gabriel Paulista started with Mathieu Flamini replacing the Coq in the anchorman role. The attacking setup had a rather familiar look but I was quite surprised to see Alexis Sanchez start, despite his struggles on Tuesday.

Arsenal’s first meaningful attack from from a dead ball with Santi Cazorl using his left foot to swing in a free kick that was parried by Middlesbrough’s goalie. The midfielder’s ambidexterity is really puzzling I must confess. Arsenal continued to press with Cazorla locating Gibbs with a sumptuous pass in behind the defense but Gibbs’ cutback was easy pickings for the goalie. Cazorla found Gibbs again with another delightful ball but the fullback wasn’t in the same wavelength but that’s what you get when a fullback finds himself in a No. 9 position… Tell that to Jordi Alba.

Chambers launched an attack from the right and found Danny Welbeck that attmepted a neat back-heeled pass to Sanchez but Kenneth Omeruo was on hand to make a vital block. Welbeck threaded a perfectly cushioned pass to Olivier Giroud that wasted no time in sending a curler goalwards. The keeper’s parried effort fell kindly to Sanchez in a rather acute angle and his rebound hit the side netting.

Arsenal finally got the goal they deserved when Cazorla sent another awesome pass to Gibbs. The attacking fullback located Giroud with an inch-perfect drilled cross that was smashed home by the Frenchman. It was a goal that had ‘Arsenal’ written all over it.

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While the fans basked in the euphoria of scoring a goal, Arsenal went two up when Giroud showed off his amazing technique to fire a first-timed volley into the net from a Sanchez corner. Trust me, it was heavenly stuff from Giroud. That was his seventh FA Cup goal in his last 11 FA Cup games.

Sanchez and Ozil conncected superbly witht the German maestro sending a through ball to the Chilean but the goalie showed good reactions to anticipate the ball before Sanchez could do any real damage. A defender mopped things up after the goalie spilled the ball. Middlesbrough’s first attempt, a rather tame one, came when Adomah let one rip from quite some distance and that turned out to be target practice for Szczesny.

Arsenal turned up the style with some intricate passing and after showing some reluctance to shoot initially, Flamini fired a shot that was blocked. The follow up fell to Welbeck but he fired his effort wide. Welbeck had another sniff at goal when Chambers teed up a chance for him but he lobbed his effort wide off the mark. Ozil showed quick movement to fashion a chance for himself that was saved and Gibbs had a blasted effort that was saved by Boro’s custodian in goal. The undisputed save of the game came when Alexis nodded in Cazorla’s dead ball at pointblank range and everyone at the Emirates were shocked to see how that ball didn’t go in.

Wenger brought on Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott for Alexis and Welbeck but another great chance fell to Cazorla after some brilliant passing play but he blasted his effort over the bar. Wenger decided that Giroud wasn’t going to get a chance to score his first Arsenal hat-trick when he replaced him with Chuba Akpom but the striker didn’t make much of an impact though. Arsenal’s last meaningful attack arrived when Rosicky sent a lovely pass in between two Boro defenders for Walcott and the Englishman fired a shot that was parried by the goalie. Late on, Kike nodded in a cross that clipped Szczesny’s post.

With seven victories recorded in the seven FA Cup games played so far, we will have to wait to see how the Preston vs. Manchester United game pans out. Let’s just hope for another favorable draw in the quarterfinals.

Sayonara

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Middlesbrough Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

On-loan Middlesbrough striker Patrick Bamford

The FA Cup fifth round kicked off yesterday with some teams picking their sixth round tickets and while there were no draws to earn replays, Blackburn’s 4-1 demolition of Stoke was a message to Premier League teams that there are certainly no pushovers in this competition. Some may feel that Geoff Cameron’s red card tilted the odds in Blackburn’s favor but the scores were level when he received his marching orders. Elsewhere, my compatriot, Brown Ideye turned up the style in West Brom 4-0 thrashing of West Ham, another compatriot of mine, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, made his return to English football as he scored the winner in Reading’s win against Derby County, and finally, Liverpool’s resurgence continued as they defeated Crystal Palace.

Blackburn, Reading, West Brom and Liverpool have booked their quarterfinal tickets but they’d be anxiously waiting for the results of today’s FA Cup fixtures. Aston Villa and their new manager, Tim Sherwood, would take on fellow strugglers, Leicester City, Bradford City, fresh from their triumphant run at Stamford Bridge hosts Sunderland and defending champions, Arsenal, would take on Middlesbrough.

Boro are in a very rich vein of form and they’re currently second in the Skybet Championship following their 2-1 win over Blackpool in mid-week. Aitor Karanka’s men have the same points with the table toppers, AFC Bournemouth, but have a lesser goal difference. They’re currently on a 10-match unbeaten run which includes six successive victories, so the Gunners will have their work cut out for them. The last time both sides met was as far back as 2009, with Cesc Fabregas getting both goals in a 2-0 victory. This is the eighth time Arsenal and Middlesbrough have been drawn together in the FA Cup, with Arsenal winning five of the previous seven and Boro two.

Team News

Arsenal fans would get a chance to see the new signing, Gabriel Paulista, today. He has been doing his bit to settle in and learn the language but this would be a good platform to begin his Arsenal career. Arsene Wenger confirmed in his press conference that Wojciech Szczesny would feature ahead of David Ospina, which makes it clearly evident that he’s officially Arsenal’s No. 2, till you know, an injury or a blunder from Ospina would bring him back to the first team. The defense would be shuffled up a bit with Kieran Gibbs and Calum Chambers coming in for Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin. I would expect Laurent Koscielny to be rest which essentially means that Per Mertesacker will partner Gabriel in the heart of Arsenal’s defense.

In midfield, Jack Wilshere just returned to full fitness but I wouldn’t expect him to start straight away. Maybe a couple of minutes in the second half would do him some good ahead of the all-important clash against AS Monaco. Francis Coquelin would get a breather with Mathieu Flamini protecting the back four in his stead while I see Tomas Rosicky partnering Mesut Ozil in the middle of the park. In attack, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are still in need of more games and I see them flanking Olivier Giroud that would spearhead the attack.

Injury Updates

Arsenal: Sanchez (knee), Ramsey (hamstring), Gnabry (lack of match fitness), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin), Mikel Arteta (ankle), Abou Diaby (calf) and Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder)

Middlesbrough: Ayala (hip), Williams (Achilles), Damia (knee), Forshaw (cup-tied), Kalas (cup-tied)

Team Form

Arsenal

  • Last Five Games: W W W L W
  • Last Result: Arsenal 2 Leicester 1
  • Leading Goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez (18)

Middlesbrough

  • Last Five Games: W W W W W
  • Last Result: Blackpool 1 M’Boro 2
  • Leading Goalscorer: Grant Leadbitter (12)

Predicted Lineups

Arsenal 4-1-4-1 football formationMiddlesbrough 4-2-3-1 football formation

Prediction: Arsenal 3 Middlesbrough 1

See you in the quarterfinals.

Sayonara.

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