Southgate underlines his potential as broken Arsenal are fallen
Arsenal lost their unbeaten league record earlier today and it was to deserving opponents. Middlesbrough have not been at their best this season but they have good players and I personally rate Gareth Southgate - he is a strong analyst and a fighter and I like that combination when looking at the potential of this young manager.
When he was a young player at Crystal Palace I wanted George Graham to buy Southgate for the Gunners- I liked the fact that he could play in defence or midfield and that he was intelligent. I followed his career with interest and admired the way he positively reacted to being the 'fall-guy' who missed the penalty in the Euro 1996 semi-final. He was a good captain and professional for Boro until the end of his playing career and is exactly the sort of individual I would like to see given a chance as a Premier League manager. The Boro chairman has a good reputation for loyalty and he should definitely maintain this quality with Southgate - I think he has the character and analytical ability to be a really good manager.
The signings of Tuncay and Aliadiere show that Southgate is interested in signing mobile and technically good players that can get Boro playing a more sophisticated style of football. Equally, the signings of Luke Young and Gary O'Neil show that Southgate can also spot a good and committed professional (both were young captains at their former clubs) who can inspire a good work ethos throughout the club.
All four were at their best today - as were the rest of the team. Its a great thing for a club and its supporters when all eleven players play at their best level and this is what I saw today from Boro. They were technically good in possession and were fully determined to pressure their opponents when Arsenal had the ball. I was hoping they would tire at some stage but they didn't - and with Southgate driving and instructing them from the sidelines it looked a day when Boro simply would not be denied.
As for Arsenal... I wrote on Thurday that I would like to have seen Denilson introduced for this game, fearing that a Gilberto/Diarra partnership lacked the creative and dynamic qualities that Cesc, Flamini and Hleb crucially bring and upon which much of the Arsenal game is built. I don't know if it would have made a difference to the result as Boro were so up for it today but my fears about the Gilberto/Diarra combination were unfortunately vindicated because they lacked the ability and composure to get a grip on the game and introduce a good passing rhythm in the midfield zone.
Combined with Eddie still adjusting to Premier League pace, Eboue finding dead-ends and Ade looking fatigued it was a broken Arsenal for me today. Four consecutive away games in 13 days with a depleted squad looked to have taken its toll and its time to regroup at home and hopefully get some of our injured players back in to freshen things up.