Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil seal away win for Arsenal
Arsenal broke their Premier League losing streak on the road with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium tonight.
Before tonight the Gunners had suffered four consecutive away Premier League defeats for the first time under Arsene Wenger.
That was Arsenal’s worst away Premier League run since April 1995 (also four defeats in a row) when they were managed by Stewart Houston.
Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil sealed the three points, with Alvaro Negredo scoring for the home side.
The win moves Arsenal to 6th place in the Premier League table. The Gunners are 7 points behind 4th place Manchester City, with one game in hand.
Middlesbrough remain in 19th position in the Premier League table. They are 6 points behind 17th place Hull City.
Boro have a superior goal difference to their main rivals for relegation – Sunderland, Swansea City and Hull City – but games are running out for them to close the points gap on the teams above them.
Middlesbrough are though the only side in English league football without a win in 2017, last earning three points against Swansea on 17 December 2016 – a run of 14 games (D6, L8).
Arsene Wenger was able to bring back Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny into his starting eleven after injury. He also switched to a back three with Rob Holding coming in to play alongside Koscielny and Gabriel.
Arsenal enjoyed plenty of early possession, with Olivier Giroud adjudged to have committed a foul on a defender before forcing Brad Guzan to save his diving header.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was booked in 4th minute for a late tackle on Fabio.
From the resultant free-kick Gaston Ramirez ran forward unchecked, but shot wide from 25 yards out.
TV replays showed that Arsenal were unlucky not be awarded a penalty in the 18th minute when Giroud was wrestled to the ground in the penalty area by Daniel Ayala from a corner.
Boro had the ball in the net in the 22nd minute. Gaston Ramirez helped the ball back into the penalty are after a free kick and Marten de Roon headed it into the net, but clearly from a offside position.
Arsenal took the lead in the 42nd minute after Granit Xhaka was fouled on the edge of the penalty area. From the resultant free kick Sanchez curled the ball into the net past Guzan.
It was Sanchez’s 19th Premier League goal this season. It was also Arsenal’s 3000th away goal in English league football, the 2nd side to reach that figure (Man U, 3226)
Boro had the chance to equalise with a free kick of their own on the stroke of half time. Gabriel was booked for foot up just outside the penalty area. Ramirez though hit the wall with a low shot from the free kick and Arsenal cleared the ball from danger.
Middlesbrough were back on level terms within five minutes of the re-start. Sanchez gave the ball away and Stewart Downing broke down right, he cut back onto his left foot and crossed for Negredo who finished with a volley.
Negredo has scored five of Middlesbrough’s 13 home PL goals this season, no other player has scored more than two
It was just the 23rd goal that Boro have scored in the Premier League all season.
The home side nearly had their 24th in the 60th minute, but Petr Cech blocked Ayala’s point-blank header and Arsenal just about scrambled the ball away from their goal.
At the other Mesut Ozil was played through the middle but Guzan blocked the ball.
The German though didn’t have to wait long to put the Gunners back ahead with 19 remaining.
Sanchez played the ball over the home defence, Aaron Ramsey chested the ball down into the path of Ozil, who stroked it home low and hard from 12 yards out.
Ozil has been involved in four goals in his last four Premier League games (2 goals, 2 assists).
Negredo forced Cech into a save from 18 yards out with 11 minutes to go.
At the other end Olivier Giroud sent a left-footed effort well off target.
The Gunners had other late chances through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud to finish the match off, but there were no further goals.
Three of Arsenal’s last four away league wins have now been against the sides currently in the relegation zone.
A timely win nonetheless for Arsenal going into Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City at Wembley. And it keeps the Gunners in with an outside chance of securing a top 4 finish.
Arsenal: Cech 6, Gabriel 6, Koscielny 7, Holding 7, Monreal 6, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Xhaka 7, Ramsey 7, Sanchez 8 (Bellerin), Ozil 7 (Coquelin), Giroud 6