#FlashbackFriday - Arsenal v Middlesbrough: Part 4 – 2001 to 2017

By Robert Exley

More Gunners’ matches against the Smoggies recalled

(Part One covering up to 1966 can be found here. Part Two is covering 1966 to 1992 can be found here and Part Three from yesterday covering 1992 to 2001 can be found here.)

Steve McClaren’s first game in charge on the opening day of the 2001/02 season was a visit from Arsenal to the Riverside Stadium. Thierry Henry put Arsenal ahead just before half time. There would be no further scoring until the final three minutes, where followed a deluge from the Gunners with goals with a Robert Pires penalty and two from Dennis Bergkamp meaning a 4-0 win for Arsenal.

The return fixture back at Highbury took place in the interim between Christmas and New Year. Arsenal were second in the table, three points behind Bobby Robson’s Newcastle United at the top of the table. Boro stood in sixteenth place, three points off of the relegation zone. Noel Whelan gave Boro the lead mid-way through the first half. However, Robert Pires equalised ten minutes into the second half with a brilliant twenty yard shot. With ten minutes to go, a winner from Ashley Cole meant a 2-1 victory for Arsenal. The result took Arsenal to the top of the Premiership after Newcastle crashed to a 0-1 defeat to Chelsea at St. James’s Park.

The next meeting between the two sides took place at Old Trafford in the FA Cup Semi Final. An own goal for Gianluca Festa meant the Gunners progressed to a second successive FA Cup Final with a 1-0 victory. Arsenal went on to win the Double in 2001/02, while Boro finished twelfth. In 2002/03, Boro came to Highbury four days prior to Christmas. Arsenal topped the Premiership table with a one point cushion over Man United. Boro meanwhile were ninth. Goals for Sol Campbell and Robert Pires meant a 2-0 win for the Gunners. The return fixture came at the Riverside in late April. Arsenal trailed Man United in second by three points but with a game in hand. Boro meanwhile were still ninth. Arsenal had managed just one win from the last four games after topping the Premiership by eight points at the start of March.

Two second half goals for Sylvain Wiltord and Thierry Henry gave Arsenal a 2-0 win. In the two weeks that followed, Arsenal drew 2-2 at Bolton after conceding a two goal lead, followed by a 2-3 defeat to Leeds United, which saw the title conceded to Old Trafford. For Boro meanwhile, three defeats from their last four games saw Steve McClaren’s side drop to eleventh. The next meeting between the two sides came early in the 2003/04 season. After beating Everton on the opening day, Arsenal headed to the Riverside to face Boro, who lost their opening game 2-3 away to Fulham. Goals for Thierry Henry, Gilberto Silva and two for Sylvain Wiltord meant a comprehensive 4-0 win for Arsenal.

There then followed four games within a month between Arsenal and Boro in the Premiership, League Cup and FA Cup. First up came the return league fixture at Highbury in early January. Arsenal stood three points behind Man United in second, but still unbeaten after twenty games and closing in on the record of twenty nine from the start of the season jointly held by Leeds United in 1973/74 and Liverpool in 1987/88. Seven minutes before half time, Thierry Henry put Arsenal ahead from the penalty spot and goaded Boro’s Danny Mills in celebration (the pair obviously having an ongoing spat). Just ahead of half time, a Franck Queudrue own goal from a Thierry Henry free kick doubled the lead.

Into the second half, goals for Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg put Arsenal four up. Massimo Maccarone pulled one back for Boro from the penalty spot. In the closing minutes of the game, Henry rubbed it in further by dummying Danny Mills in the closing minutes as Arsenal ran out 4-1 winners. With a chance of still winning the quadruple, ten days later a second string Arsenal side which included Graham Stack in goal, a young David Bentley and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie faced Middlesbrough in the first leg of the League Cup Semi Final at Highbury. A Juninho goal eight minutes into the second half meant a 0-1 defeat for Arsenal.

Four days on, again at Highbury the two sides met in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Dennis Bergkamp put Arsenal ahead on nineteen minutes after terrific persistence from Ray Parlour. Joseph Desire-Job equalised four minutes later before Freddie Ljungberg restored the lead just before the half hour. Into the second half, another from Ljungberg and a last minute lob from David Bentley meant a 4-1 win for the Gunners to progress to the fifth round. Ten days on came the second round of the League Cup Semi Final with Boro at the Riverside. A Bolo Zenden goal doubled Boro’s aggregate lead with twenty one minutes left to play. Arsenal were back in the running with a goal from Edu with thirteen minutes left to play.

Jose Antonio Reyes had recently signed from Sevilla in the January transfer window and was playing his second game for the Gunners. With five minutes left to play, Reyes got off the mark in an Arsenal shirt, but not in the way Arsenal fans had wished for. An own goal from Jose Antonio gave Boro a 3-1 win on aggregate to end Arsenal’s quadruple hopes. Boro went on to win the League Cup with a 2-1 win over Bolton at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. For Arsenal, the Champions League and FA Cup were also to fall by the wayside, but the Gunners made history by going the whole season unbeaten and winning the League title.

Arsenal’s form carried over into the following season with a 4-1 victory away at Everton, which took the Gunners’ unbeaten run up to forty one games and within touching distance of equalling Nottingham Forest’s record of forty two consecutive games without loss when Boro headed to Highbury to face Arsenal for the 2004/05 season. Over the summer, Arsenal veteran Ray Parlour had transferred to Teeside to line up for Boro against Arsenal. Thierry Henry gave Arsenal the lead mid-way through the first half. Two minutes before half time Joseph Desire-Job equalised for Boro. Into the second half, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink – recently signed from Chelsea – put Boro ahead. Within three minutes, Franck Queudrue put Middlesbrough 3-1 up, meaning that Arsenal’s unbeaten streak was to fall at the final hurdle.

Within a minute, a Dennis Bergkamp run ended with a long range shot which pulled one back for Arsenal. Ten minutes later Robert Pires equalised, with Jose Antonio Reyes putting the Gunners ahead one minute later. In the final minute of the game, another goal for Thierry Henry meant Arsenal ran out 5-3 winners and secured their forty second consecutive unbeaten game. The Gunners surpassed Forest’s record in their next fixture against Aston Villa and notched up forty nine before finally succumbing to a defeat to Man United at Old Trafford – and arguably the zenith of the Wenger years had been passed from this point on.

By the time of the return fixture at the Riverside in April 2005, Arsenal were trailing Premiership leaders Chelsea by thirteen points with just seven games left to play. Boro meanwhile were seventh in the Premiership table. A goal for Robert Pires seven minutes from time meant a 1-0 win for Arsenal. The Gunners finished the season as runners up and their eight successive season with a league finish within the top two, though twelve points behind Chelsea in Jose Mourinho’s first season in management in the Premiership. Boro finished seventh which meant UEFA Cup qualification.

In 2005/06, Arsenal headed to the Riverside to play Boro four games in. Goals for Yakubu Ayegbeni and Massimo Maccarone meant a 1-2 defeat for the Gunners with their only reply being a last minute goal from Jose Antonio Reyes. That defeat signified that 2005/06 was going to be a less smooth ride than usual for Arsene Wenger’s side. For Boro however there was an impressive 4-1 win over Man United at the end of October 2005. Boro’s last ever visit to Highbury came in mid-January 2006, with Arsenal languishing in fifth and trailing leaders Chelsea by twenty four points after winning just two of their previous six games. Boro meanwhile, without a win in six games had dropped to sixteenth in the table.

Goals for Phillipe Senderos, Robert Pires, Gilberto Silva, Alex Hleb and a Thierry Henry hat-trick meant that Arsenal ran out 7-0 winners. One month on, a further two defeats from three saw Boro drop to seventeenth before a visit from runaway league leaders Chelsea, who were fifteen points clear at the top. Goals for Rochemback, Downing and Yakubu however meant a shock 3-0 win for Boro. In 2005/06 Steve McClaren’s men also had a good run in the UEFA Cup. In the round of sixteen, Boro eliminated Roma on away goals by beating the Italians 1-0 at the Riverside, while losing 1-2 in Rome.

Against Basel in the Quarter Finals, Boro came back from three goals down on aggregate to progress with a 4-1 win at the Riverside. Steve McClaren’s side again came from behind to defeat Steaua Bucharest 4-2 to progress to the UEFA Cup Final, where they met Sevilla in Eindhoven. Boro however crashed to a 0-4 defeat.

After the 2006 World Cup, Steve McClaren left the Riverside to take over the England manager job from Sven Goran Eriksson. Taking over at Boro ironically would be the current England boss Gareth Southgate. Arsenal meanwhile changed home and left Highbury. Boro’s first visit to Arsenal’s current home came in early September, which was Arsenal’s third league game and second home league fixture. Boro had won one game from three. James Morrison gave Boro the lead mid-way through the first half. Arsenal levelled with a penalty from Thierry Henry after sixty seven minutes. With no further scoring, the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

The return fixture came at the start of February 2007. Arsenal stood fourth and fifteen points behind leaders Man United. Boro in contrast stood eleventh. Gareth Southgate’s side took the lead with a penalty just past the hour. An equaliser from Thierry Henry thirteen minutes from time earned Arsenal a 1-1 draw. The Gunners finished the season in fourth place, while Boro finished twelfth. In 2007/08, Arsenal visited the Riverside Stadium in early December. After fifteen games, Arsenal topped the table with eleven wins and four draws with people even asking if another invincibles were possible. Middlesbrough in contrast were languishing in the relegation zone in eighteenth.

Goals for Stewart Downing and Tuncay put Boro two goals up. Arsenal grabbed a late goal from Tomas Rosicky, but couldn’t prevent a 1-2 defeat in what was their first loss of the season. By the time of the return fixture in Mid-March 2008, Boro stood in twelfth place. Arsenal meanwhile hadn’t lost any further games and still topped the Premiership table, however had suffered three draws on the bounce in their previous three games – the infamous Eduardo leg break encounter up at St Andrew’s, a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa and a goalless away draw at Wigan. The game had been an evening kick off and just prior, Man United had beaten Derby County to overtake Arsenal at the summit.

Former Arsenal second stringer Jeremie Aliadiere put Boro ahead mid-way through the first half. Boro held the lead until four minutes to go, when Kolo Toure finally pulled Arsenal level. The game ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw, which meant that after holding a five point lead at the top just five weeks earlier Arsenal had dropped to second on goal difference having played one game more than Man United. The next four games involved a run of results which included two defeats, one draw and one win over Bolton after coming back from two goals down. After losing 1-2 to Man United at Old Trafford and falling nine points off of the Premiership leaders with just four games to go, with the pressure off Arsenal put together a run of four straight wins.

The Gunners ended up just four points off of title winners Man United and losing just three games all season, however the late season collapse in 2007/08 set the tone for much of what has followed over the last nine years since for Arsenal. Boro interestingly finished the season thirteenth and with a thumping 8-1 victory over ninth place Man City in their last season before Sheik Mansoor would take over the club the following autumn. In 2008/09, Arsenal headed to the Riverside Stadium in Mid-December. The Gunners had been in fourth place, eight points behind leaders Liverpool. Boro meanwhile had been in twelfth place. Emmanuel Adebayor gave Arsenal the lead on seventeen minutes. Twelve minutes later however, Jeremie Aliadiere struck again to equalise. With no further scoring, the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

The return fixture came in late April 2009, with five games left to play. Arsenal were fourth, fifteen points off of leaders Man United while seven points ahead of fifth place Aston Villa. Boro meanwhile had sunk within the relegation zone in eighteenth place and three points clear of safety but with a game in hand. Two goals for Cesc Fabregas gave Arsenal a 2-0 victory. The result edged Arsenal nearer to another Champions League qualification, which was secured again for the eleventh straight season. For Boro however, the quest for Premiership survival went down to the final game of the season.

The Super Sunday battle included West Brom, Hull City and somewhat of a North East super league in itself with Newcastle United and Sunderland also at threat of the drop. Boro’s relegation however was confirmed with a 1-2 away defeat to West Ham and were consigned to the drop with West Brom and their North East neighbours Newcastle United. Hull City and Sunderland also suffered defeats but avoided the drop. There would be no quick return for Boro, who parted company with Gareth Southgate the following October. Ironically, his replacement would be current Scotland boss Gordon Strachan.

Boro spent a total of seven season in the second tier, the highlight of which would be an fourth round FA Cup upset against reigning Premiership champions Man City at the Etihad Stadium in January 2015 with a 2-0 win for Boro. Their reward would be an away trip to FA Cup holders Arsenal in the fifth round. Two goals for Olivier Giroud inside two minutes secured a 2-0 win for Arsenal and their progression to the Quarter Finals and toward a second straight FA Cup triumph in May 2015. Boro returned to the Premiership as runners up in 2015/16. Their first Premiership meeting with the Gunners in nearly seven years came last October.

As far ago as that seems, after eight games Arsenal were then only kept off of the top of the Premiership by Pep Guardiola’s then storming Man City side by a goal difference of +1. Arsenal had managed six straight victories on the bounce in the weeks leading up to this fixture. Boro in contrast were seventeenth with just one win from eight games. After all that promise, Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw.

And so on to Easter Monday. Despite hoping that the West Ham victory had turned the corner, the 0-3 away drubbing by Palace at Selhurst Park pretty much goes to show that practically any team with a bit of fight in them can potentially beat the Arsenal at the moment. Seeing that Boro haven’t won a League game since last December and are currently six points adrift of safety, standing second from bottom in the Premiership table, here’s hoping that next Monday evening Boro stand in the West Ham category of opponents rather than Crystal Palace category, if only to give Arsenal’s dying season some sort shot in the arm before it’s all too late in the day! (if it isn’t already!)

Robert Exley can be found on Twitter and is the editor of Upstart Football, whose #ThrowbackThursday edition this week covers all Manchester United v Chelsea games between 1984 and 2000.

14th April 2017 11:42:43


Comments and Reaction

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Exeter Gunner  15:16pm 14th Apr 2017

Great and well researched as always, but can't say I'll be hoping for a win against Boro. You either want Wenger out or you don't, and winning games isn't going to help get him out. Rather than 'dying', it would be an absolutely fantastic season if it ended with Wenger gone. - Post No. 106368

Roy  18:18pm 14th Apr 2017

Exeter - Agreed, c'mon Boro. @NoNewContract #wengerout - Post No. 106372

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

15th January 2018

Being muscled off the ball by Bournemouth is like being mugged by your grandma

Online Ed: Another poor Arsenal display on the road just another signpost as we near the end of the Wenger era