By Chris Harris at Dean Court
Arsenal breathed new life into their title challenge with a welcome - and deserved - victory at Bournemouth.
Mesut Ozil ended the Gunners’ long wait for a Premier League goal with a perfectly-executed volley halfway through the first half after Olivier Giroud’s header down inside the penalty area.
It was Ozil’s first strike since he netted on December 28 - also against Bournemouth.
The wait for the next goal was a mere 88 seconds, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain firing a shot in off the far post following good work from Aaron Ramsey.
Petr Cech kept Arsenal in the comfort zone with a brilliant save from Harry Arter and the visitors stayed solid at the back to close out a much-needed victory.
Suddenly the title picture looks a lot rosier. This win takes Arsenal into third place, ahead of Manchester City and behind Tottenham on goal difference.
Leicester City are still within reach, and Arsene Wenger’s side can trim their lead to two points when the teams meet at Emirates Stadium next weekend.
That promises to be a significant moment. For now, Arsenal can rest up after a job well done. Confidence has been restored.
SETTING THE SCENE
This was Arsenal’s first competitive visit to Dean Court and they arrived under some pressure.
Four Premier League games without a win - the last three of those without a goal - had left Wenger’s team eight points adrift of the seemingly unstoppable pacesetters, Leicester.
The Foxes are in north London on Valentine’s Day and Arsenal needed some momentum going into that increasingly crucial game. But their work would be cut out against a Bournemouth side that had beaten Manchester United and Chelsea this season.
Benik Afobe was their new trump card, a striker who grew up at Arsenal and now had his old club in his sights after three goals in four appearances.
Oxlade-Chamberlain - who learnt his trade along the south coast at Southampton - was Wenger’s only change. Joel Campbell dropped to the bench alongside Per Mertesacker and Francis Coquelin as Gabriel and Mathieu Flamini kept their places.
Chances were few and far between in an even opening to the match, although Laurent Koscielny had to be sharp to deny Adam Smith after a fine knock-down from Matt Ritchie.
At the other end Bournemouth were indebted to Steve Cook, who challenged in the nick of time after Ozil ran onto Oxlade-Chamberlain’s through-ball.
Arsenal were seeing plenty of the ball with Nacho Monreal getting into advanced positions on the left, while Oxlade-Chamberlain gave the home side a problem by popping up in central areas.
Alexis had a quiet start but came alive when Ramsey’s lofted pass was left by Giroud and bounced into the Chilean’s path. He took it on the volley, firing a few yards over the bar.
Ramsey’s probing pass didn’t pay off on that occasion but the Wales international was at the heart of the two moves that brought two goals inside two minutes.
First, Ramsey clipped a diagonal ball towards Alexis and Giroud inside the penalty area. Giroud got there first and cushioned his header into the path of Ozil. There was still plenty to do, but Ozil showed fine technique to volley into the roof of the net as two challenges came in.
The seal had been broken on Arsenal’s so-called goal drought, and a second followed just 88 seconds later.
Again Ramsey was the architect, collecting a loose ball 25 yards out and spotting the run of Oxlade-Chamberlain. The England international’s first touch took him into the box and his second was a shot that bounced in off the post.
Arsenal were sitting pretty but they needed a brilliant intervention from Cech to keep them in the comfort zone. Arter turned well on the edge of the box and his powerful shot was arcing into the top corner when Cech’s fingertips diverted the ball over the bar.
Monreal had a penalty shout turned down but the home side finished the half strongly, Ritchie curling a first-time shot over the bar and Cech denying Smith.
Arsenal haven't lost a Premier League game in which they had a two-goal lead at half-time since November 2010. But they had to work hard to keep Bournemouth at bay.
Gabriel cleared a dangerous cross from Charlie Daniels and was alert to close down Afobe when he finally found a yard of space inside the box. Smith volleyed into the side-netting after Arsenal failed to clear and Ritchie tried his luck from range.
The visitors survived that spell of pressure and conjured up half-chances on the break.
Ozil found Alexis, whose snap-shot was only just kept out by Boruc. From the resulting corner Ozil picked out Giroud, but his firm header was straight at the Bournemouth keeper.
Wenger stiffened up his midfield with the introduction of Coquelin for Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Alexis was replaced by Kieran Gibbs as the manager opted for safety first.
Bournemouth had one final flurry, Daniels’ seeing a shot deflected over and Cech saving from Cook and Arter in quick succession.
But Arsenal defended well - with Gabriel particularly impressive - and they closed out the win.
Referee: Kevin Friend
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