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A pair of fine goals by Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil allowed Arsenal to halt its streak of consecutive away losses at four with a 2-1 victory over relegation-bound Middlesbrough.
With Arsenal in danger of finishing out of the Premier League top four for the first time in 21 years, manager Arsene Wenger, on Monday made six changes to the line-up that lost last week to Crystal Palace. Even more significantly, the Frenchman went with a three-man backline, a formation he last used in 1997.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the standout player for the Gunners in the first half as the visitors dominated possession, though without posing a real threat to the Middlesbrough goal until the 42nd minute, when Alexis scored on a masterful direct free kick.
While unable to match Arsenal in quality, Boro managed to turn up the intensity in the second half and the hard work paid off in the 50th minute with an equaliser from Alvaro Negredo.
Daniel Ayala would have put the home side ahead at the hour mark but for a desperate stop by Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech.
As the game grew more open, the gap in talent between the two clubs became more evident and Özil gave the Gunners a 2-1 lead in the 71st minute with a goal made possible by Alexis and Aaron Ramsey.
The win brings Arsenal to 57 points from 31 matches.
Now in sixth place, the Gunners trail fourth-place Manchester City by seven points, but the London club have a game in hand.
Middlesbrough, with 24 points from 32 matches, are mired in 19th place, six points from safety.
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