Arsenal took advantage of low-scoring Middlesbrough (0.7 goals per game this season) to eke out a 2-1 win at a rainy Riverside stadium. It was all to play for on both sides, with the Gooners looking to slow their freefall down the table and Boro desperately trying to stay above the relegation line.
The first half started excruciatingly slowly, with Arsenal managing nary a shot in the first 15 or 20 minutes. There were a few Boro chances, a yellow card, a potential injury, and a few other things. I was playing with my friend’s dog for most of the first half anyway, I’ll be honest. But speaking of dogs, Alexis curled in a beautiful free kick late in the half over a lengthy Boro wall to give the Gunners the lead. Guzan the ‘Murican didn’t even dive for it. A few minutes later, the whistle came, and the boys walked positively into the tunnel as the rain intensified.
Despite having the momentum going into halftime, Arsenal let one in five minutes into the second period. Former City man Negredo put in the equaliser after a defensive lapse. However, despite their usual antics this season, Arsenal surprisingly DIDN’T let the goal get to them and managed to regain some momentum midway through the second half. A nice ball in from Alexis almost saw Ramsey put the Gunners ahead but Guzan rushed out to smother it. Finally we regained the lead after Ramsey settled a pass beautifully into the path of Özil, who slotted it into the near post. Arsenal then closed out the half with some good possession and secured the three points.
Alexis received Sky Sports’ “man-of-the-match,” and deservedly, because despite a slow first half, he did play well and had a part in both goals. He even gave his shirt to a young fan in a nice display of class.
Coming off this win, the Gunners now have a chance to build some momentum. Looking at their upcoming schedule, it seems likely that they’ll gain some ground on....oh who am I kidding. City, Leicester, Spurs, United up next. Today’s performance probably isn’t enough to beat City this Sunday in the FA Cup, and it’s certainly not enough to beat a Spurs team on a fantastic run of form right now in a few weeks’ time. Will Arsenal finish the spring better than they started it? Time will tell.