After setting up Gabriel for his first Arsenal goal in the first half, man of the match Mesut Özil finished off a slick one two with Olly Giroud to score in the second half and secure the Arsenal a much needed, although a largely unspectacular, win.
It had been over four months since my previous visit to our stadium and the differences in the match day experience were apparent – extra airport style security checks were seen at the entrance gates in the wake of the terrorist attacks that have dominated most of the the year as well as a raised police presence at the Underground stations before and after the game.
I was in the north bank lower behind the goal on the fringes of the unofficial standing section. Once the game kicked off to my left people took their seats so I was about to dutifully follow suit until my neighbour on the right urged me to stay up. I had to agree with her with the proviso that if I got told off by the stewards I would then sit.
The talk around me as the team was announced was of the four changes to the starting XI, most notably whether Chambers playing DM with Ramsey would work and if Gibbs would ever claim back the left back slot.
Initially those fears seemed to be founded as AFC Bournemouth, a club that has been found guilty of breaching FFP and is waiting a financial sanction from the football league, started brightly and with a verve seldom seen from newly promoted away teams at Ashburton Grove.
There were mutterings of disquiet with Chambers’ positional ambiguity and with Ramsey looking a touch rusty, he was stretching to make interceptions and then hauled down a Bournemouth midfielder who got away from him, for which he was rightly booked (although a fellow north banker was apoplectic with rage at the decision given that a cynical trip on Theo – who was about to start a counter – hadn’t been punished previously).
The team as a whole was playing tentatively, but given the manner of the trouncing received on the South coast last time out it was understandable that confidence would be a touch low yet once the initial Bournemouth storm had been weathered Arsenal began to dominate proceedings as time went on.
Some cohesion in the Arsenal midfield was found with the Chambers shaking off his earlier uncertainty and Özil beginning to conjure up some of his spectral magic.
The pressure began to build from the home team and a corner was awarded at the Clock End. Being optically challenged all I could see was that Özil took the corner and a tall Arsenal player thumped in the header – relief as whenever an away team keeps Arsenal at bay for the first half hour they would sense gaining something from the game was possible.
Gabriel had scored his first Arsenal goal and that allied to his dominating defensive performance means a bit more centre back rotation is possible – perhaps the BFG could be benched next even though he played well (his only dicey moment when Bellerin left him exposed to the Bournemouth left winger).
Maybe it was the relaxed nature of the supporters around me but there was no sense of the fear of conceding an equaliser soon – although it seemed that post Christmas lethargy meant not only were there gaps in the seats but those that did turn up were not especially vocal.
For the remainder of the first half Özil was ubiquitous – helping out defenders and chasing down opposition back passes on top of unlocking the opposition defence repeatedly.
This continued in the second half and had Olly Giroud continued his scoring form the lead would have been extended. Theo was also full of running and once he turned on his afterburners you could see the panic in the full backs desperation to catch him, he may not have scored but he was pulling the defence into uncomfortable positions and creating space in the Cherries back line.
The Ox was also keen to turn around his wretched form and he appeared to heeded the call of one loud voice in the north bank that had been saying:
“Drive The Ox, drive”
As the Arsenal midfield’s confidence grew Ramsey’s flicks were coming out and all but one of them worked, Chambers’ was making interceptions and controlling the area in front of the back four better and Özil was majestic as he set up chance after chance.
Rather like Alexis last season we have become so reliant on Özil lately and while it is good to have one of the best talents in the Premier League playing for us part of me wishes some others would step up and take some responsibility for creative duties.
Heaven forfend us from our fate if the ex Real Madrid man was to get injured.
To cap off a match winning performance a neat interchange with the off-colour Olly allowed Özil to lash in a well directed shot just in front of me and as the crowd rose blocking my view of the the trajectory of the shot, the cheers confirmed the doubling of our lead.
This lead to Dennis’ song (Bergkamp Wonderland) being appropriated for today’s Man of the match, although some in the North Bank lower felt it sacrilege.
A two goal buffer and a comfort zone that even some late Bournemouth pressure, that required some timely Cech saves, could not dent.
A satisfactory response to the abomination of the last game and a degree of confidence regained.
By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)