Arsenal secured a crucial three points in the battle for a top four finish while Middlesbrough remained six points off safety at the bottom of the table.

Both sides made several changes for this crucial game. Middlesbrough made five changes. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan replaced Victor Valdes. The other four players to come in were Fabio, Gaston Ramirez, Marten de Roon and Alvaro Negredo.

Arsenal made six changes with Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech returning from injury. Rob Holding came in for his first Premier League start since August. Giroud was up front and Aaron Ramsey was in the centre. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started at right wing-back.

Boro began the game with a steely determination and Fabio in particular was trying to make things happen for his side. Unfortunately for Fabio, he went down injured and was unable to continue after just 17 minutes with George Friend coming on to replace him.

Arsenal didn’t cause Boro any trouble and looked very much like a side low on confidence after just one league win in their last five games. The Gunners had a few shots as the game reached the half-hour mark. Oxlade-Chamberlain provided a cross for Ramsey but his shot was deflected wide.

Following those shots, Arsenal began to grow in confidence. Boro conceded two free kicks in quick succession. Guzan punched the first one away but could do nothing to stop the second. Alexis Sanchez’s superb execution of the free-kick was unstoppable and left Guzan rooted to the spot. With 42 minutes played, Arsenal had finally broken the deadlock and went in at half-time with a slender lead.

Boro were determined to get back into the game as soon as possible. This happened four minutes after the restart. Stewart Downing’s deep cross was met by Negredo who improvised excellently to stab the ball home for the equaliser and give the home fans something to cheer about.

Arsenal were stunned after Boro’s equaliser and struggled to get back on track. Then the Gunners were very fortunate not to go behind. Cech was able to clear Daniel Ayala’s header off the line as Boro continued to pile on the pressure.

Sanchez found Mesut Ozil with an intelligent pass but Guzan was able to get there first and clear away the danger. Boro made a substitution as Adama Traore came on in place of Gaston Ramirez.

Ozil put Arsenal back in front when he beat Guzan in the 71st minute. Alexis put a ball into the box which Ramsey cleverly chested down into Ozil’s path, enabling him to thump home.

Arsenal restored their lead, delivering a huge blow to Boro in the process. Rudy Gestede was brought on for de Roon with 12 minutes remaining as Boro’s final change but was unable to make a significant impact.

Boro had several chances to find an equaliser but their lack of clinical finishing worked against them once again. Arsenal made a double substitution as goalscorers Sanchez and Ozil came off in place of Coquelin and Bellerin for the final few minutes.

The home side had fantastic support from their fans but were still unable to get a result.

Middlesbrough remain six points from safety and the chances of them escaping relegation are getting slimmer with each passing week. Arsenal move up to sixth but still face a battle to finish in the top four this season.




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