The way I see it - Middlesbrough v Arsenal

Last updated : 03 February 2004 By Jason Hogan

I don't really want to waste too much time talking about the little flashpoint at the end. All I will say is that if Anelka had grabbed me round the throat like that, he would have got a smack in the mouth. Wenger said it all- the referee was on the spot. Wiley (the referee in question) knew who the major culprit was and he dealt with him accordingly.

Thankfully any devised media campaign to get Edu up on a charge in the next few days has been thwarted because Wiley did book him for his part in all the handbags but in a way all of this is largely irrelevant in the big scheme of things.

True, I would be lying if I said that I am not exasperated at seeing us involved in yet another petty spat but if I had the choice I would rather see us winning football matches having the odd bust up along the way rather than being a bunch of shrinking violets that back down when the going gets a little tough.

So if we have to walk a disciplinary tightrope to get what we are really after then so be it. It doesn't matter really how we are perceived in the press and the media. If we are going to get our title back and see Patrick Vieira lift that Premiership trophy in May we have got to stick to the one thing that really matters - staying in the results business. That's what has got us into the position we are in now and that's why we have gone 23 games unbeaten.

The press and media can go and take a long walk on a very short pier as far as I'm concerned. All we have to do is keep focussed on where we are looking to get to from now on - and nothing else.

Now, as Jimmy Hill would say, it's time to get the ball out. I don't think that any of my fellow Gooners will argue when I say that we were not at our free flowing best. The game was tricky one played in what were even trickier conditions to put it mildly.

I'm sure that many people will have sympathy for City and to be fair the "fouls" that were committed on Anelka and Fowler in the lead up to both of our goals could have been awarded on another day.

That's not say that I sympathise with City at all. If they had come and honestly gone toe to toe with us then fair enough but they chose to adopt what was, let's face it, a negative approach and therefore I don't think that you can really complain THAT much if situations then conspire against you.

For example, Campbell's tackle on Fowler in the lead up to the second goal was clearly legitimate on TV evidence and what Thierry Henry ultimately did from there was nothing short of brilliant. It even took me a little by surprise watching it indoors.

That's the beauty of the man. He does things that cannot be legislated for. No wonder the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid would kill to have him but he is very much an Arsenal player - and for what it's worth, I believe he will stay that way.

The loudest roar of the afternoon was reserved for Signor Reyes. It would be fair to say that the boy didn't do too badly on his debut, did he? Only a great save from David James denied him a dream debut goal and he set up a golden chance for Pires who inexplicably checked back rather than blasting a shot past the exposed James. I get the feeling that we Gooners are going to enjoy watching this kid in the coming years.

Indeed, we might get a chance to have an even better look at the new boy at the Riverside on Tuesday night when we face Boro in the delayed Carling Cup semi-final second leg.

In the light of last week's enforced postponement, two schools of thought have arisen. Some felt that Boro's chances of finishing what they started in the first leg were going to be hindered because it was felt by some that, in terms of the general momentum of the tie, the moment had been lost.

However on the other side, the big freeze has meant that extra time has been given to key players of theirs such as Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu to get over their knocks.

I don't think that the injury list at Boro is anything like as lengthy as it was and in terms of available personnel, they shouldn't have too many excuses on that front.

All in all, I think that this has all the makings of intriguing match. Technically, Boro are in a position where they don't actually have to win that game as such, they just have to make sure that they don't lose it. Will they come out and look to kill the tie off early or will they look to play as containing game?

Arsene Wenger is sure to keep bit of powder dry - but HOW much? Will Reyes play and will he reinforce the midfield with Vieira who is available after suspension? And above all, how much will Wenger and the team REALLY want to turn a 1-0 deficit around?

All will be revealed on Tuesday night of course but I have a feeling that this encounter could go right down to the wire.