Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger refused to conceal the significance of his side reviving their stuttering Premier League title bid with victory at lowly Bournemouth before turning up the heat on rivals Leicester.
Two goals inside 88 first-half seconds from playmaker Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ended Arsenal’s four-game winless streak and propelled the Gunners to third in the table, level on points with north London rivals Tottenham in second.
Since beating Manchester City on 21 December, Arsenal have won just three of eight league matches, although victory on the south coast closed the gap on leaders Leicester to five points ahead of Saturday’s showdown with the Foxes at Emirates Stadium.
“We hadn’t won in a while, we had gone four games without a win and when you play at the top it is a long period so your confidence drops a bit,” said Wenger.
“Leicester were running away and us playing them next week makes the game very interesting. In one week Leicester have beaten Liverpool and Manchester City. That means that they suddenly become the favourite to win the Premier League.
“We have been in the title race and we are still in it. We cannot control people’s opinion and we need to show that we believe in it. We have to do it. It is still a long way to go.
“Leicester City is a favourite and we have a big game at home against them and I hope we have enough quality and nerves to deal with that.”
Arsenal opened the scoring on 23 minutes as Ozil netted his first goal since the reverse fixture on 28 December, lashing past Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc from 12 yards following Olivier Giroud’s headed knockdown.
Seconds later midfielder Aaron Ramsey slid in Oxlade-Chamberlain who rifled a low shot across Boruc which found the net off the far post – his first Arsenal goal for 38 appearances and his maiden Premier League strike away from home.
The Gunners were barely troubled by their former striker Benik Afobe, who joined the Cherries from Wolves for £10m last month, although goalkeeper Petr Cech was forced into a late double save to deny Simon Cook and then Harry Arter.