A frustrated Arsene Wenger said Arsenal lacked their usual creativity and sharp movement in the 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough on Saturday, and added that fatigue may have been a factor after playing in midweek.
Arsenal had 75 percent possession but couldn’t find a breakthrough at the Emirates as their six-game winning streak in the Premier League came to a grinding halt.
It was the visitors who had the better chances, with Cech making two crucial saves in the first half to preserve a clean sheet.
“We did not have our usual pace in our combinations, and not enough sharpness in our movement,” Wenger, who turned 67 on Saturday, said. “In the end, we couldn’t win it. At least we were intelligent enough not to lose it.”
The Gunners entered the game on a seven-match winning streak in all competitions and coming off a 6-0 victory over Ludogorets in the Champions League in midweek. But their build-up play looked slow and laborious without injured midfielder Santi Cazorla, who usually provides the vital link between defence and attack for Arsenal.
“You always miss Cazorla. At home, from deep midfield into the final third, his pass is always quick and accurate,” Wenger said, adding that Arsenal “paid a little price for the Champions League on Wednesday night” in terms of fatigue.
“When you play at home you still would like to manage to win, but we couldn’t. We could have lost the game as well in the first half,” he said. “We lacked a bit of creativity today. And then you can have a draw or even lose the game.”
Arsenal had Cech to thank as he first made a double save after Laurent Koscielny lost the ball to Adama Traore in the first half, then made a point-blank stop from Gaston Ramirez’s close-range header. Ramirez had also hit the crossbar with a free kick earlier in the first half.
“Petr Cech has been the best player for Arsenal. That’s saying we did a really good job today,” Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka said.
Wenger also acknowledged that Arsenal missed injured striker Olivier Giroud against a compact Middlesbrough defence, but said that wasn’t an excuse for failing to score.
“We didn’t make enough from our set pieces today and our crosses, so of course the first thing that comes to mind is that a guy with a bit more size in the box and more physical presence could have helped, yes,” Wenger said. “But we’ve just come out of six straight wins, so I would still not like to jump on this kind of excuse.
“We have to deal with what we face. We are used to scoring, we are an offensive team. We had five, six offensive players on the pitch in the end, but we didn’t manage to score. So it’s a bit frustrating.
“We have to find a way to be efficient even when the game is like that.”
Wenger said he was not sure when Cazorla might return after taking a kick to his Achilles tendon against Ludogorets on Wednesday, but reiterated that Giroud could be in the squad for Tuesday’s League Cup game against Reading.