Arsenal have brought a dismal run of three consecutive away defeats to an end with a 2-1 victory versus Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
19th-placed Boro were amongst the small crop of Premier League sides who had done just as bad as Arsène Wenger’s men, results wise, in recent weeks, as the Frenchman experimented with a 3-4-3 formation for the first time this season.
The Gunners were given the lead through Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick in the first half and, despite Álvaro Negredo’s equaliser in the second period, the North Londoners were then able to seal all three points through Mesut Özil in the final quarter of the game.
With both clubs coming under renewed pressure ahead of this fixture, the mood was telling in a cagey opening to affairs.
A potential penalty shout on Olivier Giroud in the 17th minute shook off some of the cobwebs, whereas a two-minute salvo from the 27th minute saw Aaron Ramsey and Alexis fire the first strikes at Middlesbrough’s goal, neither of them proving to be troublesome.
Arsenal were then given the chance to crack the deadlock via a free-kick, which was won by Granit Xhaka over Adam Clayton on the edge of the box.
Alexis claimed responsibility for the free-kick and delivered with an inch-perfect effort to give Arsenal the lead in the 42nd minute.
Middlesbrough proved to be a different beast in the second period, however, as Álvaro Negredo equalised with a stab at the ball inside the box when getting the better of Laurent Koscielny from Stewart Downing’s cross in the 50th minute.
George Friend sought to complicate matters for Arsenal further with a marauding run down the left four minutes later, but Downing’s execution following the full back’s cross spared the Gunners.
Daniel Ayala then came close to giving the hosts the lead with a diving header from close range, but was subsequently denied by the well-positioned Petr Čech on the hour mark.
Arsenal’s response came through an Alexis pass that left Mesut Özil one-on-one with Brad Guzan, with little room for the Arsenal man to get an adequate shot away meaning the goalkeeper would be the man to come out on top on this occasion.
The game continued to open up, however, with Ramsey cushioning an Alexis’ pass down to assist Özil for a volleyed finish inside the box, placing Arsenal back in the lead in the 71st minute.
Aerial threat proved to be Middlesbrough’s currency, as they came close to goal once more from a set-piece, but Čech was again on hand to collect a laboured swing of the leg from Ben Gibson.
Giroud neared the killer blow with an audacious lob on the Boro keeper with seconds to spare, skipping just wide, meaning a 2-1 lead would be enough to return Arsenal back to winning ways away from home.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Gabriel Paulista (5), Laurent Koscielny (5), Rob Holding (5); Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain (6), Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (5), Nacho Monreal (5); Mesut Özil (7), Alexis Sanchez (7), Olivier Giroud (5)