Arsenal ended a run of three successive draws as Alexis Sanchez scored twice and Theo Walcott once to secure victory over Bournemouth. The pressure was on the Gunners after rivals Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City won on Saturday, and they were gifted the lead when Steve Cook’s poor backpass allowed Sanchez to calmly side-foot past Adam Federici. But Callum Wilson equalised with a penalty after referee Mike Jones judged the striker was fouled by Nacho Monreal and, against a rattled home side, Bournemouth missed two good chances when an unmarked Adam Smith headed over before Brad Smith had an angled shot saved.
Arsenal almost restored their lead when a Sanchez strike came off the crossbar but Walcott did score when he headed in a Monreal cross. Monreal escaped conceding another penalty when a Simon Francis pass struck him on the arm in the area before keeper Petr Cech made a crucial save from Benik Afobe. Sanchez made sure of the win when he slotted in an Olivier Giroud cross, moving the Gunners three points behind top-flight leaders Chelsea and two shy of Liverpool and City. Walcott’s second child was born on Friday, and he marked the occasion with his sixth league goal of the campaign, already one more than he managed in the whole of last season. The winger’s tally is his best in the top flight since 2012-13, when he scored 14, and he helped provide a much-needed win for Arsene Wenger’s side as they extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 19 games. Arsenal had struggled to produce their best and most fluent football in some recent high-profile games, having drawn with Tottenham, Manchester United and Paris St-Germain in their past three outings, and, at times, looked less than secure against the Cherries.
However, even though the Gunners – with 51.8% of the ball – did not dominate possession as much as they are used to, they did show signs of a return to form, especially in the second half. Sanchez’s work-rate and threat in front of goal are key to their prospects. He ended a run of four Arsenal games without a goal as he took his league tally to eight for the season. “We started to click again, even though it was in patches,” said Walcott. The scoreline did not reflect Bournemouth’s efforts and, not only will they be left to rue referee Jones’ decision not to give a penalty for Monreal’s handball, they will also regret some of their missed chances. They took the game to the Gunners and the result might have been different had Smith done better than heading high from 10 yards after Nathan Ake nodded a free-kick back across goal. Smith also appeared to make the wrong decision when he chose to have an angled shot, which was saved by Cech, rather than square the ball for Wilson.
Cech also denied Afobe late on as the visitors matched the Gunners in terms of shots on target, with both registering three apiece. “We are disappointed,” said Cherries boss Eddie Howe, who was without on-loan Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, as he was ineligible to play against his parent club. “We came here to win and leave with our heads held high.” Callum Wilson’s goal was Bournemouth’s first against Arsenal in any competition. The Gunners have conceded a penalty in consecutive home games for the first time in the Premier League. Arsenal have had seven shots on target in their past four games in all competitions, and have scored seven goals. Only Crystal Palace (eight) have scored more headed goals than Arsenal (six) in the Premier League this season. Olivier Giroud has been involved in more goals from the bench than any other Premier League player this season (three goals, one assist).