Boa Morte

Gascoigne holds off Overmars.

Chris Wreh and Boro's Pallister.

Parlour tangles with Gazza.

Parlour shields the ball from Townsend.

Anelka wheels away after netting our late equaliser.

Dixon joins in the celebrations.

ARSENAL vs Middlesbrough
1 - 1
Attendance : 38,075

Don't believe the hype. That should have been Arsene Wenger's message to the Arsenal squad in the light of recent performances.

But if the players were reassured there was no crisis at Highbury, they certainly played against Middlesbrough like a side short on belief.

It was clear recent results have sapped confidence, passing not quite as accurate or patient, tackles not so determined and movement virtually non-existent.

With the backbone of the first team missing - messrs Bergkamp, Vieira, Petit, Adams and Hughes - it's no wonder that the team is not flowing in a manner we have come to expect under Arsene Wenger.

But one win in seven games has taken its toll on the players and they need a couple of stirring performances - and new faces - to restore their deteriorating season.

Nicolas Anelka got the goal, his seventh of the campaign, to raise the spirits when it looked as if we would drift towards our third successive defeat.

Time was running out when he somehow turned in the box and blasted the ball into the roof of the net 30 seconds from the end of normal time.

Arsene Wenger jumped to his feet but he knows turning the team around is the biggest challenge of his Highbury tenure so far.

And Wenger refused to be downhearted despite the fans' frustration which saw many leave long before the end.

He said: "We did not want to lose but we did not deserve to win. It was a relief because Middlesbrough defended very deep and sometimes you lose that kind of game.

"We showed great character and refused to lose. Our passing was not always accurate but we put a lot of energy into the game.

"We have to accept the crowd reaction but when you are in a bad period like us, you have to show professionalism. When you are used to caviar, it's difficult to go back to sausage."

Wenger again avoided the question of bringing in new players, a striker in particular, explaining how difficult it was to sign players at the right price and quality.

But he conceded that he was not averse to making mistakes. He added: "I am not pretentious enough to say I don't make mistakes. I try to analyse what I do right and wrong. I make mistakes every day.

"I am an optimist and we have to give our best in every game."

Boro shocked Highbury with a simple opener six minutes into the game. Fredrik Ljungberg failed to pick up Dean Gordon on the right and he was given the freedom of the pitch to pick out Brian Deane, who easily tapped the ball home.

For all our huffing and puffing as the game continued, there was little end product.

Marc Overmars almost equalised twenty minutes into the game with a blast at the near post from ten yards, but Mark Schwarzer parried the ball away for a corner.

When that was cleared, Hamilton Ricard found Deane with a wonderful through ball which left him only Seaman to beat. The shot was tame and Highbury breathed a sigh of relief.

But we did not have another shot on target until five minutes before the interval, when Lee Dixon tried to chip Schwarzer from the edge of the area, only for the Australian keeper to recover his ground.

For all our possession, Boro's blanket defence seemed content to stand back and let us come at them.

But there were encouraging signs at the start of the second half. Ljungberg seemed to have reacted to whatever was said in the dressing room and started to create havoc down the right.

Within a minute of the re-start, he picked the ball up, cut in and hit a swerving drive which Schwarzer did well to black.

The crowd raised their game too, giving the volume of support which can do so much to raise the team. But that second wind soon faded and the frustration set in once more.

New signing Fabian Caballero for his league debut to try to open Boro up and his first touch was certainly an improvement on some of those which had come before.

The visitors were content to sit in their half, sometimes almost completely on the edge of their own box and but we lacked the quality to break them down.

When Paul Gascoigne went off though, Boro had no one to hold the ball up and the counter attacking game they could have used to good effect, disappeared.

After Anelka's strike, Parlour and Boa Morte combined in the box, but there was no time for more drama.

On a day when there was little to cheer the home fans, except for our first goal for 534 minutes, we have to take heart that at least this was not another defeat in what has been a November full of firing blanks.

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