Defending champions Arsenal taught Manchester City a valuable lesson as a clinical Arsene Wenger side eased past Middlesbrough to progress in the FA Cup. Middlesbrough had earned itself the reputation of a a giant-killera after beating Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium but failed to make any impact against Arsenal as an inspired Olivier Giroud led the team to a 2-0 win.
The intentions of the two teams were made clear the moment the game kicked off. Arsenal sniffed early blood and piled on the pressure on Middlesbrough who had been organised with the sole intention to hold the likes of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla at bay. Karankaa s strikers were sorely isolated from their team-mates who defended in big numbers and looked to hold off the challenge from Arsenal for 90 minutes. However the team wasna t able to execute the plan on the pitch and did not show any confidence coming into the game. As accepted by the manager after the game, Middlesbrough showed Arsene Wenger and his men too much respect and failed to take their chances during the 90 minutes. Karankaa s men were far more organized against Manchester City in the previous round, a game that ended 2-0 in their favour.
However credit must be given where it is due. Arsenal showed their superiority in just about every aspect of the game and deserved to progress to the next round in the FA Cup. The creative presence of Cazorla and Ozil in the midfield allowed Arsene Wenger to dominate the game and spilt open a defensive minded Middlesbrough. Combined with the collective presence of the pace of Welbeck and Sanchez on the wings and the clinical finishing of Giroud, Arsenal made light of a team that could have made matters difficult for them during the 90 minutes.
The Frenchman started the season under threat from the presence of Danny Welbeck who was brought on from rivals Manchester United. Sidelined due to an injury early on in the season, he made a comeback against Manchester United where he scored a fabulous late goal that however failed to make any difference in the final result of the game. Olivier Giroud has been able to overcome the challenge from Welbeck and has established himself as the first striker in the team. He has scored a total of 10 goals this season and will be an asset for Arsene Wenger as the season enters its crucial phase. The French international has the strikera s instinct for being at the right place at the right time and has the ability to finish the ball clinically. The fact that he has the likes of Ozil, Cazorla and Sanchez playing behind him makes the matter only much easier for him. Arsenala s first goal is a clear indication of that. A team effort, Cazorla split open Middlesbrough with a beautiful pass to Gibbs who squared it for Giroud to score Arsenal’s opening goal. The second goal however was a solo effort after Giroud spectacularly volleyed in Alexis Sancheza s corner to make it 2-0 for Arsenal.
Mesut Ozil on the other hand looks rejuvenated after coming back from his injury. The German international has received his fair share of criticism during his stay in London but looks like he is ready to silence his critics with his performance this season. He was instrumental for Arsenal against Middlesbrough and combined well with the team to put pressure on the oppositiona s defence. Given a lot of space and time to operate in the midfield, Ozil shone in a role that is best suited for him.
It will be interesting to see how Arsenal cope up as they face the big ones in the upcoming competitions. With the race for the Champions League heating up, Arsenal are well and alive in Europe and will look to the likes of Giroud, Ozil and Sanchez to ride them home.