Can Southgate Continue His Arsenal Hoodoo?
Well its one of those strange things that football sometimes conjures up some little nugget that makes you check the facts fully before you really believe it could be true For example, Liverpool never lost when Ian Rush scored until the League Cup final of 1987 against Arsenal. 145 games Liverpool went without losing when Ian Rush scored, a truly remarkable run by any standard.
Yet another little nugget may bring a crumb of comfort to those hard pressed Middlesbrough fans fighting to keep positive at the foot of the Premiership and facing a daunting task on Sunday of travelling to the Emirate Stadium to face Arsenal. Arsene Wenger has yet to beat Gareth Southgate since he became the manager of Middlesbrough. In the 5 games they’ve played since he took over in June 2006 his record reads 4 draws and 1 win over Arsenal, which is some going to be fair.
Now when you’re facing relegation, it’s things like that which can give you a little bit more belief that you can still achieve the impossible, still reach for the stars when everyone around you tells you that your place is in the gutter. Now, by any stretch of the imagination, if Middlesbrough do survive it’ll be by the skin of their teeth but a point at the Emirates at least helps immensely. The two teams directly above them in the table have tough home games to deal with on the Saturday, with Hull City entertaining Liverpool and Blackburn facing up to Wigan Athletic. Two away wins would certainly put a spring in the step of the Smoggies come Sunday morning.
Yet surely Arsenal will have too much for them won’t they? Don’t be too sure about it, if they’re going to slip up, this could be the game for Middlesbrough to take advantage of. A tough, bruising encounter against Chelsea last Saturday followed by that barnstorming mess of a game last night at Anfield would be bad enough, but to follow it up with a Champions League semi final? That’s tough by anyone’s standards, especially an Arsenal team missing important players all over the pitch.Is Wenger really going to risk more injuries with the only trophy still available to him so tantalisingly close?
With Middlesbrough sandwiched in the middle it could be the perfect fixture for the under fire Southgate, I mean what have they got to lose? Everyone’s tipped them to go down, but they could really spring a surprise on Arsene Wengers team. I know, I know, he could play the kids again, but they can sometimes get frozen in the headlights as this seasons Carling Cup showed. Fabulously swashbuckling against Sheffield United and Wigan in the early rounds, they came unstuck at Burnley in the Quarter Finals.
The full weeks rest won’t have done Boro any harm either, especially on the back of the last two games which has seen them pick up 4 precious points, and probably would have been six if it wasn’t for a certain Mark Schwarzer last Saturday. In fact they only have to look at Fulham last season to see what can be achieved with a bit of luck and some spirit. Whilst there’s no doubt it’ll be a tough order, it’s not impossible and come 3.15 on Sunday afternoon, things may seem a whole lot rosier at the Riverside Stadium.