By Randy Osae
Arsenal were pegged back by an Aliadiere strike to settle for a point at the Riverside Stadium and continue their dull title mount.
Five of the nine players who sat out the Porto game returned to the starting line-up at the Riverside – Gael Clichy (hamstring), Fabregas (knee), Van Persie (thigh), Bacary Sagna (flu) and Adebayor (rested). Lining up alongside them was a familiar face in Aliadiere. Unfortunately, a knee injury denied right back Justin Hoyte the chance to face the club he left in the summer.
After a relaxed start by Wenger’s men, Emmanuel Adebayor headed home Fabregas’ corner to give Arsenal an unlikely lead after 16 minutes of the home side’s dominance.
The Gunners came close to putting matters to dead with a second goal but Diaby’s effort after a tangle for the ball in the 18-yard area was caught well by Middlesbrough’s stopper.
The hosts did go level before the break through a very punishing source. After Clichy saw his clearance blocked, Tuncay curled a cross for Jeremie Aliadiere and the former Gunner out-muscled Gallas to nod past Manuel Almunia.
Following that strike, Middlesbrough resumed their edge and Arsenal constantly chased with a Johnson run almost causing a penalty by Clichy.
The second-half was an even affair as both sides tilted for a winner. Almunia made an impressive side save on Downing’s shot before Robin van Persie’s low shot was trickled just wide of the post and Nicklas Bendtner’s introduction injected some force.
But a solitary point was as much as Arsenal returned home with.