First half goals from Mesut Özil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, in quick succession, were enough to hold off Benik Afobe and AFC Bournemouth today, although it was a fairly even match otherwise. The Cherries were arguably the better side in the second half, and Petr Cech had to be alert to keep Arsenal comfortable and to get his Premier League-leading 12 clean sheet of the year.
To say that Arsenal aren't playing top football right now would be both a bit of an understatement as well as unnecessarily churlish, but either way, it is true. Arsène Wenger's puzzling insistence on keeping Mathieu Flamini in the midfield alongside Ramsey made some sense today, given Francis Coquelin's recent return from injury and Mohamed Elneny's wife giving birth shortly before the match, but Flamini hasn't been playing well. And it didn't take long for the Frenchman to turn up, going in two-footed on Harry Arter and earning a yellow card, which could easily have been a red, in the 9th minute.
Luckily (or not), Flamini stayed on the pitch, and Arsenal started to create chances. Alexis fired over the bar, and then in the 23rd minute, a Ramsey ball over the top from deep found Olivier Giroud, who headed back across the six-yard box. Özil turned up and crushed a difficult half-volley with his right foot past Artur Boruc, and Arsenal were ahead. A minute later, they got a second as Oxlade-Chamberlain ran onto a ball on the right and powered a low shot across Boruc and in off the far post. It was Ox's first Premier League goal in 16 months, and his first goal at all since August; he was clearly relieved.
The second half saw no changes, but Bournemouth had most of the possession and some decent looks. As the subs started to come in, Wenger made some moves that were puzzling to many; his first substitution saw Coquelin enter not for Flamini, but for the Ox; Ramsey moved out wide. The second sub saw Kieran Gibbs enter for Alexis, and Arsenal had to struggle to maintain any kind of control (they had little). Cech made a fine double save to keep the Cherries blanked, and Arsenal did enough to seal up the 2-0.
The lack of midfield control and the interesting subs were a bit frightening at times today; next up for Arsenal is league leaders Leicester at the Emirates, a team who can punish the kind of lax play the Gunners showed today, so hopefully things can come together a bit before then.