Alexis scored twice and Theo Walcott once as we returned to winning ways with a hard-fought victory against Bournemouth.
In a frenetic game played at breakneck speed, both sides had their periods of dominance as chances came and went throughout a thrilling 90 minutes.
We were first to draw blood, Alexis pouncing on a badly underhit backpass to slot home the opening goal to settle any early nerves.
But with Mathieu Debuchy hobbling off 12 minutes into his return to the first team, the pattern of the game soon shifted as the Cherries fought back.
The visitors equalised from the spot through Callum Wilson, then wasted a glorious chance to take the lead when Adam Smith headed over from close range.
Alexis hit the bar at the end of a breathless first half, before Walcott put us back in from eight minutes after the restart.
Both sides had their opportunities to add to the scoreline during a fraught closing period, and it was Arsene Wenger’s men who finally grabbed it when Olivier Giroud put it on a plate for Alexis.
This may not have been the most free-flowing of performances, but the graft and grit on display certainly makes it one of the most satisfying.
SETTING THE SCENE
After three successive draws, the pre-match talk had centred on the need for a win to grease the wheels of momentum once again as the title race hots up.
Our record against the Cherries offered cause for optimism – we had won all three of our previous encounters, scoring seven without concession – but Eddie Howe’s side are now a settled Premier League force.
With Jack Wilshere flourishing on his season-long sabbatical on the south coast, Bournemouth have impressed many this term – although they would have to do without the on-loan Arsenal midfielder here.
Wenger made seven changes to the side that was held by Paris Saint-Germain in midweek – the most notable seeing Debuchy returning to the starting line up.
It had been just over a year to the day since the Frenchman’s last Arsenal appearance – off the bench in a 3-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb – and offered him the chance to establish himself once more.
Elsewhere, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny were drafted into the midfield, while Alexis returned to lead the line, with Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on either side of him.
We started the game determined to stamp our authority on it from the off, with Debuchy impressing with his energy and application on the right.
With just over 60 seconds on the clock, Mesut Ozil forced Adam Federici into a smart save after meeting Oxlade-Chamberlain’s low cross from the left, and we continued to probe at the visitors.
It was a bright, positive opening and it was rewarded in the 12th minute – although we had Bournemouth right back Steve Cook to thank for it.
Having been booked for an earlier tackle on Oxlade-Chamberlain, the defender looked ill at ease and badly underhit a backpass, allowing Alexis to pounce on it before rounding Federici and slotting home.
The Chilean international felt like he should have been awarded a penalty moments later when he appeared to have been tripped in the area after racing on to a Xhaka pass, but referee Mike Jones waved play on.
Arsenal’s sense of injustice deepened when, with 23 minutes on the clock, they failed to deal with a ball into the area and Wilson went down under a tackle by Nacho Monreal.
Jones pointed to the spot, with Wilson coolly converting and suddenly the momentum of the game had totally shifted.
The Cherries should have taken the lead soon afterwards when Nathan Ake peeled away to the back post to meet a deep free kick, and headed it back across goal. Smith raced in unmarked to meet it, but headed over from six yards out to the relief of the Emirates faithful.
We were struggling to rediscover our earlier rhythm, but with hackles up and tackles flying in, the temperature was rising in north London and the crowd responded to it accordingly.
Slowly but surely we started to start to take control before the interval, with Alexis coming close to claiming his second after a smart exchange with Xhaka in the Bournemouth box.
It was a fast and furious contest, but despite the Gunners’ late push – with Alexis hitting the bar right at the death - there was nothing to separate the sides at the interval.
The start of the second half mirrored that of the first, with the Gunners soon up and running, working overtime to take control of the game.
Wenger will have wanted his side to move the ball quicker and more precisely, and they responded – and within eight minutes of the restart they had the lead again.
Ozil was the instigator, picking up the ball to the right of the box and tying Simon Francis in knots, before delivering a ball to the far post. The ball took a deflection before finding Nacho Monreal, who immediately centred to the waiting Walcott to head home from close range.
The goal capped a memorable week for the England international, who celebrated the birth of his second child, and his pace and energy continued to cause problems for the visitors.
But Bournemouth were proving tough to shake off, and there were hearts in mouths when the ball hit Monreal’s hands in his own area – but Jones waved play on once again.
We just could not kill off the game, and as we entered the closing stages Wenger sent on Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey to add some fresh legs to a frenetic game.
But we were soon indebted to Cech as he made a fine reaction save on to keep out former Gunner Afobe’s close-range effort in the 76th minute after he reacted first to a loose ball in the area.
It was tight and tense, and we came close to adding a third when Ramsey picked out Giroud in the six-yard box but the striker’s hooked effort was just off target.
The final act saw Giroud turn supplier, racing on to Alexis’ ball on the breakaway before pulling it back for Alexis to convert from close range.
It capped off another typically industrious display from the Chilean, and sealed a victory that was as much about character as anything else.
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