Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 2: Five things we learned as Mesut Ozil saves the day for the Gunners

Ben Burrows
Ozil saved the day for Arsenal: Getty

Mesut Ozil was Arsenal's hero grabbing the winner at Middlesbrough to keep his team in the hunt for the Champions League and perhaps his manager in a job.

Here are five things we learned at the Riverside:

1. Three-sy does it

Arsene Wenger plumped for a back three for the first time since 1997 when a certain Tony Adams – whatever happened to him? – was patrolling the defence. While Rob Holding may never be mistaken for that particular club legend the change in shape did seem to suit the Gunners with the whole side looking a more solid, well put together outfit from the shoddy mess we saw a week ago at Crystal Palace. Now, Grant Leadbitter is no Wilf Zaha, granted, and Negredo stole in behind them far too easily, but it's baby steps. This was better from Arsenal even if just a little.

2. French revolution

Oh how Arsenal have missed their talismanic centre-back. Laurent Koscielny has been absent since the second half against Manchester City and it has showed. He has a mistake in him, as most centre-backs do and as he showed for Negredo’s goal, but his presence appears to calm everyone around him and did so at the Riverside where Holding, a surprise starter, dealt with everything thrown at him with relative ease.


3. It's not all bad for Boro

It remains early days for Steve Agnew’s Boro and it may well be too little too late but they do look an altogether better team with the new man in charge. They can be got at more now – as Arsenal showed – but they also offer a lot more going the other way, far more than under the stewardship of Aitor Karanka. The future may be Championship-shaped, but it’s by no means all doom and gloom.

4. Sanchez the saviour


In their current guise Arsenal aren’t a good enough football team to get over the line despite playing badly. But in Sanchez they have a match-winner who can get them out of jail time and again. The Gunners shaded the first period, perhaps, but went into the break ahead thanks to the sole slice of quality shown in an otherwise bang average affair. That, in essence, is what Sanchez is in this team – the extraordinary buried amongst the ordinary. Lord knows what they will do without him.

5. Ozil to the rescue


It all looked very Arsenal when Negredo nudged Boro back level just after the break. But perhaps the least likely hero emerged to save the Gunners’ skin. Ozil has come in for more than his fair share of stick, and rightly so in the most part. But if you’re willing to crucify him when he’s bad you must too be willing to hold him up when he delivers and deliver he did here. It wasn’t the easiest of finishes but the German made it look so firing in decisively to give his team and his manager a priceless win.

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