Alexis Sanchez scored his 19th league goal of the season as Arsenal saw off a resilient Middlesborough side 2-1 on Monday night.
In what was an influent game at the Riverside, the Gunners showed enough grit and determination to come away with the three points.
Alexis Sanchez’s smooth free-kick was too much for Boro ‘keeper Brad Guzan to put his side in front on the brink of half-time.
Boro did get one back after the restart through Alvaro Negredo. But the Gunners grabbed the points 20 minutes from time as Aaron Ramsey cooly played a chest past for Mesut Ozil to fire home.
Arsene Wenger’s side are now seven points behind the nearest Champions League spot, Manchester City in 4th place.
The game instilled some much needed confidence in the Arsenal side, who meet Pep Guardiola’s City in their FA Cup semi-final clash on Sunday.
Here’s FIVE things we learned from the crucial win on Teesside.
Arsene Wenger adapted – Three words never before told. Yes, the Gunners boss switched up the formation in a bid to bring more solidarity to the defence.
Rob Holding impressed, alongside Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny in what was a 3-4-2-1 formation. The change in tactic brought a lack of fluidity in the Arsenal offence, particularly with Giroud who was unproductive throughout.
However, the players showed the spirit the fans have been crying out for and were committed to take the spoils.
Support for Hector
The away fans showed their support for Hector Bellerin. The Spaniard came off the Crystal Palace pitch last Monday seemingly distressed after fan protests directed at the Arsenal players.
Bellerin was managed well by Arsene Wenger who took the the 22 year-old out of the limelight as he started on the bench. Bellerin came on in closing minutes to receive a standing ovation and the fans chanting his name.
The Ox impressive
The match saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain prove his worth and his versatility. The Englishman was utilised as a right-wing back by Arsene Wenger and did not disappoint.
The midfielder also showed his class in his post-match interview as he thanked the fans for the long trip and support, while describing it as an honour to play for Arsenal football club.
Top 4 still a possibility?
As aforementioned, the gap to our top four rivals has narrowed slightly. Arsenal have a game in hand over Manchester City and two in hand on Liverpool.
Difficult fixtures await, but a top four finish would heal some wounds of an extremely below par season. Whether Wenger stays or leaves, it’s crucial Arsenal remain in the top four to attract the very best in the summer’s window.
Two key games
Most Arsenal fans have a key eye on the FA Cup tie with Manchester City on Sunday as well as the North London Derby with Sp*rs the following week.
It’s time for the senior players to stand up and be counted. Reaching the FA Cup final while ending our neighbours title hopes would bring some smiles back on faces. However, the season’s struggles should not be forgotten.