By Josh James at Riverside Stadium

SUMMARY

Mesut Ozil struck a second-half winner as we recorded our first away win in the league since January.

In a fiercely-contested match against relegation battlers Middlesbrough, the German slammed home a fine half-volley after Aaron Ramsey had cushioned the ball into his path.

Middlesbrough (a) - Bitesize
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Earlier Alexis had given us the lead before the interval with a wonderful free-kick.

Alvaro Negredo equalized early in the second half when he found space between two of Arsenal's three centre halves and stabbed home a dangerous cross.

We were made to work hard to regain the lead, and the hosts always looked dangerous as they threw more and more men forward.

But we held on to record to a run of four successive defeats on the road, and move back up to sixth in the table.

NEW SYSTEM

The manager sprang a surprise by opting for a back three for the first time since his early days in charge in 1996.

There were six changes to the side that lost at Crystal Palace last Monday, but it was the change in shape which was most noteworthy.

Laurent Koscielny returned to skipper the side after missing two matches with an Achilles injury, alongside Gabriel and Rob Holding, with Shkodran Mustafi unavailable due to a thigh strain.

Petr Cech was also back from injury, starting for the first time since limping off during the first half of the defeat at West Brom.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started on the right as Hector Bellerin dropped to the bench.

Olivier Giroud was recalled, playing in front of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez – Danny Welbeck missed out with a toe injury.

CAGEY OPENING

Both teams came into the match low on confidence, and that was reflected in the early exchanges, as neither side was able to take control.

Alvaro Negredo tried a speculative effort from all of 40 yards, which was never troubling Cech, while Gabriel failed to make proper contact with an in-swinging corner at the other end.

Aaron Ramsey's stats at Middlesbrough
Aaron Ramsey's stats at Middlesbrough


Both of our wing backs were advancing into Middlesbrough territory at every opportunity, but we were unable to enjoy a sustained spell of possession.

Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez both had volleys saved in quick succession, but neither player was able to get enough power behind the shot.

ALEXIS' MOMENT OF MAGIC

Alexis opens the scoring at Boro
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Those two sighters at goal encouraged the Gunners, and moments later Alexis looked to release Giroud inside the box, but there was just too much pace on the pass, and Brad Guzan smothered the danger.

Guzan was left rooted to the spot shortly before half-time though. Granit Xhaka was brought down by Adam Clayton just outside the area, in a central position.

The Chilean stepped up and whipped the free-kick up and over the heavily populated wall, and into the net.

It was another magical moment from the forward, for his 19th Premier League goal of the season.
 

NEGREDO LEVELS

The second half started in the worst way possible.

With the first real attack after the break, Stewart Downing swung in a deep cross and Negredo ghosted between Gabriel and Koscielny to poke home from close-range.

Downing himself could have given the hosts the lead when Monreal's attempted clearance ballooned up in the area, but Downing's snap shot was wayward.

It was back to square one, and we now had to weather some pressure from relegation-threatened Boro, as the fans found their voice.

Cech made a terrific reaction save to deny Daniel Ayala from close range, and the rebound was eventually scrambled away.

There were chances at both ends now. Giroud was well tackled Ben Gibson just as he was about to pull the trigger, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was the saviour moments later. Gaston Ramirez looked to be away in the Gunners half, breaking free when Monreal's shot was charged down while Boro were defending a corner. Oxlade-Chamberlain showed his pace though to race back and dispossess the advancing Ramirez.

OZIL WINS IT

It was becoming an increasingly hotly-contested affair, but Ozil quietened the Riverside crowd with a great near post volley.

Ozil scores the winner at Boro
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Alexis floated in a cross which Ramsey chested straight into the path of Ozil, and he squeezed a right-footed first-time shot inside the post.

It felt like a big goal in the context of this game.

It certainly settled some nerves. Giroud could have wrapped up the win, but flashed a shot wide of goal, failing to wrap his foot around the ball after Alexis teed him up.

Oxlade-Chamberlain also had a late chance snuffled out at the near post after another wonderful run forward but we had done enough.

Now attention switches to the FA Cup. Next stop, Wembley Stadium.

Arsenal

33
Cech
6
Koscielny (C)
16
Holding
5
Gabriel Yellow Card
18
Monreal
15
Oxlade-Chamberlain Yellow Card
29
Xhaka
7
Alexis 89 Goal!
11
Ozil 89 Goal!
8
Ramsey
12
Giroud

Substitutes

34
Coquelin 89
24
Bellerin 89
26
Martinez
17
Iwobi
35
Elneny
14
Walcott
3
Gibbs

Middlesbrough

12
Guzan
6
Gibson
17
Barragan
2
da Silva 17
4
Ayala
14
de Roon 78
7
Leadbitter (C) Yellow Card
8
Clayton
19
Downing
10
Negredo Goal!
21
Ramirez 68

Substitutes

20
Bamford
37
Traore 68
1
Konstantopoulos
3
Friend 17
29
Gestede 78
5
Espinosa Zuniga
34
Forshaw
Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source
17 Apr 2017