Middlesbrough vs Arsenal – Backing a home win at 11/2 on PaddyPower
Suggesting a team with only 20 Premier League goals and four wins all season will beat a team with the quality of Arsenal may seem far fetched. But there is more chance of it happening than many would suggest.
The Gunners have been in terrible shape of late, and their misery was compounded by a 3-0 humiliation at Crystal Palace on Monday night. Other than the standard points that can be made about physical and direct football which comes hand in hand with Sam Allardyce, and the comparatively lightweight style of Arsene Wenger, it cannot be said that the game was won because of tactics.
Instead, it was another performance lacking in heart and character and the Arsenal players made it easy for Palace. There is a lot of speculation surrounding Arsene Wenger’s future and the fans have been particularly vocal on the subject. All that negativity and continued discontent could play right into Boro’s hands.
Steve Agnew could recall Alvaro Negredo to the start and play him up front with Rudy Gestede. The Teessiders’ issues this season have come from failing to create chances because they don’t have enough pace in effective areas, but they have maintained a solid base in midfield through Adam Clayton and Marten De Roon. Playing 4-4-2 would keep that base, but allow the ball to get into attack quicker. Between them, Gestede and Negredo could bully Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel, just as Christian Benteke did at Selhurst Park.
Key to this system working would be starting Adama Traore up against Nacho Monreal at left midfield. The former Barcelona man is among the best dribblers in the league this year but only has one assist and has not yet scored. Constant restraint under Aitor Karanka meant he couldn’t make an impact, but with two big strikers to aim for in the middle, he could get some good crosses in.
It may be a long shot, but it is win or bust for Boro. They won’t have to take the game to Arsenal as they did against Burnley and the Gunners are wounded, hobbling towards the end of the season. It may be a long shot, but there is value in backing a home win.