Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe's fury as Flamini escapes red after lunge
Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal
Aaron Ramsey rightly felt Arsenal's "badly needed" victory yesterday was settled in the first-half but the lingering question was when exactly that was.
Could it have been when Mathieu Flamini avoided an eighth-minute red card for a two-footed challenge on Dan Gosling? Or was it in the 88 seconds when both Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck, ending 328 minutes of scoreless frustration for Arsenal and recharging their title challenge?
Really, the two are connected, especially since an ultimately easy win over Bournemouth could have been a lot trickier. Arsenal finally turned their form around but Eddie Howe, the Cherries manager, believed Flamini should have walked.
"I felt it was a red card," Howe said. "I had a very good view and it was two-footed. That type of tackle has been outlawed. It was a straight red card and it had a huge bearing on the game. I was surprised when the ref only produced the yellow."
Flamini denied that, said the referee made "a good decision" and was backed in that view by his manager, Arsene Wenger. Either way, it meant Arsenal avoided what could have become a very difficult situation after four games without a victory, and won this with a quick double blast.
The fact that their two goals came in such rapid succession is probably not a coincidence, since it felt as though they were suddenly released by finally scoring.
They were not exactly playing with freedom before Ozil's strike, and the manner of the goal said much. Rather than the incisive passing that marked the first half of their campaign, Arsenal went direct. Ramsey played a long ball up, Olivier Giroud excellently knocked it down and Ozil lashed it past Artur Boruc.
Wenger admitted afterwards that the scoreless run had been weighing on his players' minds. He praised Ozil's new combative spirit - and how he has started scoring with his right foot.
"When they don't score, the confidence goes," the Arsenal manager said. "I think (Ozil)has added a fighting attitude. It was a top performance again. He scored with his right foot. If he continues, he will become even stronger."
Arsenal looked stronger in play, and put together the sort of slick move that had been absent in the last few games. Ramsey fed Oxlade-Chamberlain for the midfielder to power the ball in precisely off the post.
Wenger admitted that Leicester are now favourites for the title, in what seemed like an attempt to increase the pressure on Claudio Ranieri's men before they the Emirates next week.
"In one week Leicester have beaten Liverpool and Man City. So that means they become the favourites. That makes our game on Sunday a very big one," Wenger said.
Ramsey added: "We needed this win badly. We needed to close the gap. There was no room for error and we responded well."
BOURNEMOUTH: Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Gosling (King, 65 mins), Arter, Ritchie (Stanislas, 65 mins), Pugh, Afobe (Grabban, 76 mins). Unused subs: Federici, Distin, O'Kane, Iturbe.
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Coquelin, 67 mins), Ramsey, Flamini, Sanchez (Gibbs, 81 mins), Ozil, Giroud (Walcott, 90 mins). Unused subs: Ospina, Mertesacker, Campbell, Iwobi.
Man of the match: Mesut Ozil
Match Rating: 7/10
Referee: Kevin Friend