Game Summary: Monday, April 17th- Arsenal at Middlesbrough
This game was one that the gunners had to have, and they came through with a solid 2-1 road victory at Middlesbrough in Riverside Stadium. Following a shocking 3-0 road defeat to bottom-feeder Crystal Palace, which led to their fall all way to 7th in the table, Arsenal knew this was basically a do or die game regarding their Champions League qualifying hopes. A tough back and forth battle with a team with little to loose ensued, and eventually concluded with the gunners on top. A majestic 42nd minute free-kick from star player Alexis Sanchez which left the goalie frozen in place opened the scoring, and secured the halftime lead for the gunners. Middlesbrough struck back quickly coming out of the half, with a 50th minute goal from striker Alvaro Negredo. The battle continued until the 71st minute when the always reliable German midfielder Mesut Ozil gave Arsenal the final and deciding goal of the match. At the time of this result, it vaulted Arsenal back into the 6th spot in the Premier League table, but a recent Everton victory allowed them to re-take the spot. A bunch of strategical moves were made my manager Arsene Wenger in response to their embarrassing result against Crystal Palace, including both significant structural and personnel changes. For the first time in over twenty years under Wenger, Arsenal took the field with a three back formation, which featured Koscielny, Gabriel, and Holding. As result of this formation change, youthful outside back Hector Bellerin found his way to the bench, in favor of English speedster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Other changes included the addition of veterans Olivier Giroud and Petr Cech back into the starting eleven, while the injured Danny Welbeck and Shkodran Mustafi sat out.
The Week Ahead:
A stabilizing win against Middlesbrough set Arsenal up well for their road ahead, and their April 23rd Emirates FA Cup semi-final matchup with Manchester City. Not only is it a great opportunity to advance to the finals, but also to send Manchester City a message relating to Premier League play. City sits three spots ahead in the table, and holds a seven point advantage. However, a convincing win in this FA cup match could set the tone for the stretch run in the Premier League. Wednesday the 26th is their second match of the week, this time a Premier League match at home against Leicester City.