Arsenal move up to third with win at Bournemouth

Mesut Oezil celebrates giving Arsenal the lead at Bournemouth. 

Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal eased back up to third in the Premier League Sunday thanks to a 2-0 win over Bournemouth. Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got the goals in a 90-second burst in the first half, and the Gunners then coasted to victory. Arsenal are now tied on points with arch-rivals Tottenham, but lag badly in goal difference; both clubs are five points behind surprise league leaders Leicester. Arsenal will next play Leicester on Valentine’s Day in what could be a title-deciding game.

Arsenal came into the game with their title challenge in grave trouble. Having won just once this year in the league — and winless in their past four league games — Arsenal badly needed a result here to keep pace with Leicester and streaking Spurs. Starting the day eight points off the top after the Foxes beat Manchester City on Saturday, this was a game Arsenal had to take to retain any hope of a title.

They did. Coming out of the blocks hard, Arsenal overwhelmed the Cherries with a direct attack that overloaded the far flank, putting pressure on keeper Artur Boruc, with Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez weaving in and out of the crease. It was simply too much for Eddie Howe’s men to handle, and in a 90-second burst, the Gunners had a 2-0 lead.

Ozil opened the scoring in the 21st, finishing a knockdown from Giroud with a great half-volley that ripped through Boruc to the near post. Aaron Ramsey started the play with a good ball over the top for the Frenchman to head back; Ozil was found all alone and couldn’t help but score. 

Ninety seconds later, Oxlade-Chamberlain made it two, with Ramsey again playing the provider. Sliding the ball left to right to free Oxlade-Chamberlain wide, the Englishman fired the ball across the face of Boruc’s goal to see the ball ricochet off the far post and in.

The Cherries had little to offer in response. Harry Arter had a lash in anger that Petr Cech tipped over comfortably, and Marc Pugh got goalside of Gabriel to race in on Cech — but used his hand to control the ball to kill the play.

Bournemouth only occasionally troubled Cech in the second half, with their crosses consistently overhit and their final touch consistently lacking. With Arsenal playing a more conservative game, allowing the Cherries to come at them, one might have thought the home side would have done better, but their quality was lacking once again. Arter did force a save in stoppage time off Cech that once again showed how valuable the keeper has been to Arsenal, but it was too little too late.

Bournemouth remain out of the drop zone, but not that far away from the relegation scrap. Five points clear of the bottom three, the Cherries still must find 12 points to ensure their safety this season. Fortunately for them, Norwich, Sunderland, Swansea and Newcastle all appear to be worse.

Arsenal, on the other hand, have a tough stretch ahead of them, with games against the Foxes, Manchester United and Barcelona on the immediate horizon, as well as an FA Cup rematch against Hull. That calendar plays into Leicester’s hands and for the Gunners, things could get worse before they get better.