Alexis Sanchez returned to a mixed reception as Arsenal eased a tense Emirates Stadium with two first-half goals in a 3-0 Premier League win over Bournemouth.
Sanchez was back on club duty, having seen his push for a move to Manchester City fall flat before the transfer deadline amid a miserable international break with Chile, and made way for Alexandre Lacazette in the starting XI, before emerging to a mixture of cheers and jeers in the second period.
A 4-0 thrashing at Liverpool a fortnight previously and uncertainty over Sanchez’s situation had seen Arsene Wenger come under pressure just months into a new two-year contract, but his players rediscovered their groove to comfortably dispatch Eddie Howe’s strugglers.
Danny Welbeck nodded in with Arsenal’s first attack and laid on a second for Lacazette, before finishing again himself after the break.
Wenger had talked up his side as title contenders before kick-off and the reaction on the pitch was promising – even if it would be unfair to evaluate the accuracy of the manager’s claim against a Bournemouth outfit that scarcely looked like landing a blow.
Howe’s men remain in the bottom three after four defeats this season, while Arsenal move onto six points ahead of a tough week which sees Cologne visit London in the Europa League before Wenger takes his side to champions Chelsea.
Arsenal’s nerves were settled by a goal within six minutes, the recalled Sead Kolasinac making the difference with an incisive run and cross on the left to tee up Welbeck for a close-range header.
Asmir Begovic parried Granit Xhaka’s low strike clear as Kolasinac made progress again, before the goalkeeper saved brilliantly from a Mesut Ozil free-kick.
Xhaka then failed to keep his 20-yard effort down after Lacazette’s fine hold-up play as Arsenal continued to pile the pressure on the floundering visitors.
And Lacazette deservedly doubled the hosts’ lead shortly before the half-hour mark with a cool finish high past Begovic from Welbeck’s pass.
Lacazette could have scored again 10 minutes later when Begovic hurriedly hacked a clearance against Welbeck, but the former Chelsea man smothered the subsequent shot before accosting Tyrone Mings for a shoddy back pass.
While Bournemouth were slightly fortunate to escape a penalty award as Adam Smith handled Ozil’s volley, the visitors regrouped at the break and initially threatened as Jermain Defoe crashed a header against the post.
But Welbeck’s 50th-minute goal – fired hard and low across Begovic from the left-hand side of the area – ensured Arsenal would cruise through the remainder of the second-half.
Ozil thrashed wide and Welbeck lifted a delicate right-footed just beyond the left-hand upright, with Wenger then introducing Sanchez from the bench 15 minutes from time.
The Chilean could not get on the scoresheet despite one stoppage-time effort – well saved by Begovic – but sections of the home fans chanted his name throughout the closing stages.
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