Arsenal 0 Middlesborough 0

Arsenal were left frustrated with a goalless draw against Middlesborough at the Emirates, in a game, in which they threatened on many occasions, and but for the fine saves from Petr Cech we could so easily have witnessed a shock win for the visitors. Having won so comfortably in their midweek Champions League Group A encounter with Bulgarian champions Ludogorets, the Gunners failed to fire with Boro keeper Victor Valdes thwarting everything thrown at him, with one second half save from Alexis in particular ensuring the game remained at 0-0. Sitting deep and countering with the pace of Adama Traore was a Boro ploy which almost paid off, but in the end and despite Arsenal laying late siege to the Boro goal, both sides had to settle for a point.

Arsenal started brightly and soon saw a first attempt on the Boro goal from a Mesut Özil free kick which flew just over the target after eight minutes. A minute later and Shkodran Mustafi’s excellent long range ball found Özil. The German attempted a cute back heel to try to set up Alexis, but the Boro defence cleared.

Enjoying a rare start, Mohamed Elneny struck wide after some good work from Iwobi.

With 14 minutes on the clock, Elneny found Walcott in a good attacking position. But rather ther than shoot on target, the England man tried to play in Özil who although was bundled over when trying to get his shot away, wasn’t awarded the penalty the coming together warranted.

The visitors could and perhaps should have opened the scoring after 19 minutes, when an uncharacteristic defensive mistake by Laurent Koscielny let in Traore. The former Aston Villa man saw his chance and skipped past Mustafi’s recovering challenge, but his shot was saved by Cech. With danger still present from the follow up, Cech then produced another save to deny Alvaro Negredo.

The move was still very much alive and earned Boro a free kick. Gaston Ramirez took aim, and as Cech angled to cover the shot, the ball struck the bar. Boro were energised, the Gunners were rocking.

They recovered their composure however and Alexis was denied with a free kick awarded when Francis Coquelin was impeded. Valdez punched clear to give away a corner.

Back came Boro, the pacy Adama’s cross, was deflected for Ramirez to power a header. Arsenal’s defence was stretched as Cech produced another excellent reflex save to keep the scores level.

The move saw Shkodran Mustafi land awkwardly on his ankle, but he recovered to continue having received some on-field treatment.

A minute before the break and Iwobi raced away from a deep defensive Shkodri pass. He found Alexis, who was surrounded by Boro defenders, so didn’t see Walcott out wide until late. The Chile striker eventually spotted Walcott for him to zip over a cross which just missed out Özil from ten yards out. The teams went in at the break level, with Boro very much in the game and to the frustration of the home side.

Three minutes after the re-start when Özil’s free kick wasn’t cleared, Koscieleny headed on, Valdez flapped but Alexis saw his effort cleared.

The Chile striker then saw another free-kick fly narrowly wide, and then, Valdez stretched to deny an Alexis power drive. Elneney fed Alexis, and the Arsenal number 17 struck powerfully. The effort was goal bound, until Valdez got across and gloved for a corner. Valdez was hurt in hurt making the save.

Vulnerable at left back against Swansea, Nacho Monreal seemed to continue in that vain here. He was relieved to see Bellerin tidy up up after he was easily rolled by Adama for a dangerous cross.

Just on the hour mark, more groans from the Emirates faithful. Özil was robbed of possession, and Adama raced away. He roared passed Koscielny and let fly a low shot which Cech pushed out for a corner.

Defending in depth and hitting on the counter, Boro were able to stifle the Arsenal threats and, buoyed on by their vocal travelling support, their confidence visibly grew.

At the other end, Valdez again denied Alexis as Arsene Wenger brought on more pace by taking off Iwobi for Lucas Perez and then Elneny for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The Gunners continued to press. Eight minutes before time, Walcott couldn’t get the ball from under his feet to power his shot, which didn’t trouble Valdez. Then from Ozil’s cross, Walcott saw his header held by Valdez.

Boro could have won it late on were it not for Koscileny’s brilliant double recovery tackles. The France defender denied Negredo the only real chance he had all game. When Arsenal did finally beat Valdez, Oxlade-Chamberlain played in Özil for a neat finish, but the the assistant referee ruled the German was offside.

On his 67th birthday, Wenger would have been happy with a win, but had to make do with a point. When you can’t win, then don’t lose he asserted following the final whistle. The point takes Arsenal to the Premier League summit for the first time this season, so maybe it was the best consolation given the enterprising tactical game plan Boro came with.