Arsene Wenger’s men narrowly defeated Boro, but they were lucky to come away with the three points after another disappointing performance
ARSENAL secured a vital three points in their quest to reach the top four with a 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough.
The Gunners were fortunate to come away from the Riverside Stadium with the win after Boro missed a handful of chances in the second half.
Here’s five things we learnt from the clash at the Riverside Stadium.
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Arsene Wenger the tinkerman
For the first time in 20 years, Arsenal resorted to playing three at the back as Wenger looks for a new formation that suits his side.
The Gunners boss dropped Hector Bellerin, and chose to start Gabriel, Rob Holding and Laurent Koscielny in defence, with Nacho Monreal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deployed as wing-backs.
It’s the same formation Antonio Conte has had vast success with this season, although the North London club looked nowhere near as fluid as the Blues.
Whatever the system is, the Arsenal defence carries on looking undeniably shaky.
Despite getting the vital three points, once again in an away performance, Arsenal were second to the ball, sloppy in possession and lacked the same passion and hunger as their opponents.
Just like when they faced Crystal Palace last week, Middlesbrough are fighting for their Premier League survival, but that is no excuse why the London side failed to turn up for the majority of the match.
With an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City looming, a brilliant away performance would have encouraged them ahead of their Wembley showdown.
Despite playing in a new formation, the quality of the Arsenal stars should have shone through from the first whistle.
Boro lack finishing touch
Alvaro Negredo’s goal was just the 23rd league goal Middlesbrough have scored all season – the Spanish man netting nine of them.
For much of the second half they had Arsenal on the ropes, with Daniel Ayala missing a glorious chance when it was 1-1 and Ben Gibson guilty of a poor attempt in the closing stages.
With just six games left for Boro, their misfiring men need to find the back of the net if they want to avoid relegation in their first year back.
Faint top four hopes alive
If Arsenal didn’t win, securing Champions League football for next season would have been a near impossibility.
However they remain in touching distance with the top five, and have games in hand over Liverpool and Manchester City.
The Gunners still have to play rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, and them two clubs still have to play each other, while City have to play the Red Devils.
There are still plenty of games to play for dropped points to happen, giving Arsene Wenger’s men a glimmer of hope.
Battle of the English centre-back’s
Rob Holding was handed a rare start in the league due to Shkodran Mustafi picking up an injury, however he failed to eclipse the performance of the impressive Ben Gibson.
The former Bolton man struggled in the heart of the defence as Boro applied constant pressure on the back three, and if they were clinical, could have easily won the game.
Despite being on the losing team, Gibson again showed why he is a wanted man, making crucial interceptions when the Gunners counter-attacked, and looked assured with the ball.