There was an air of "don't know if we should boo or try and show our support" around the Emirates at the start of Arsenal's match against Hull City in the English Premier League, and while the Gunners did not exactly put up a vintage performance that had Arsene Wenger, perched in the director's box again, purring in delight or the fans singing in joyous wonder at their team's brilliance, the players did just enough to get the crisis articles out of the way for a few days.
Coming into this match on the back of two straight defeats in the Premier League – to Watford and Chelsea – which had seen their title challenge come crashing down, Arsenal could really afford nothing but a win against relegation-battling Hull.
The football, at times, was outstanding, without being overly-effective; there were plenty of chances created, but there was a lot of over-elaboration as well, which brought the groans out. However, in the end, thanks to a couple of Alexis Sanchez goals, via the help of a hand and a penalty, Arsenal managed to stop their losing streak at two and pick up a much-needed three points.
In a frenetic start, both sides had chances to open the scoring, with Hull coming close when Lazar Markovic, the on-loan Liverpool midfielder, zipped a cross across goal, with Oumar Niasse unable to get a touch. Niasse would get a touch off another cross, though, from Kamil Grosicki, but his header was well saved by Petr Cech.
At the other end, Arsenal created several openings, but they went begging thanks to the extra pass or a poor finish. Ozil had a couple, one of which, a volley, which went high, while Sanchez should have really opened the scoring earlier, when he found space inside the box, but saw a shot with his left foot trickle just wide.
Hector Bellerin also had a glorious chance to put the home side in the lead after a typical Arsenal passing move. However, when the time came for the right-back, in the starting XI after recovering from the head injury suffered when he was poleaxed by Marcos Alonso last weekend, to show calmness in the finish, he fired wide instead.
Arsenal were the better team and they were eventually rewarded with the goal in the 34th minute. Ozil played a cross from the left, with the ball eventually falling to Kieran Gibbs, whose shot was blocked by the Hull defence. The ball, though, fell to Sanchez and while his initial shot was saved by Eldin Jakupovic, the rebound hit Sanchez's hand and nestled into the net.
The goal stood, because it was ball to hand, rather than the other way around, even if Hull, battling for their Premier League lives, will feel hard done by.
Arsenal went down a gear in the second half, with clear-cut chances few and far between and while Hull threatened every now and then – they could have gone a man up had Mark Clattenburg seen a challenge from Gibbs on Markovic as a last man one – they never really looked like troubling Cech too much.
Inevitably, off a counter-attack, Arsenal found their second goal. Ozil broke clear, before finding Sanchez, who had the Hull goalkeeper Jakupovic, thinking he was a centre-back, well, well out of his line, to beat. Sanchez kept his head, found a cross for the substitute Lucas Perez, whose header was stopped on the line by Samuel Clucas. Unfortunately for the Hull City man, the ball was stopped with his hand, and a red card and penalty was the decision.
Sanchez tucked in the penalty and Arsenal completed a 2-0 win.
The Gunners are now nine points behind Chelsea, who play Burnley on Sunday, and while a title charge is now unlikely, Wenger will be relieved to see his side get back to winning ways, particularly with the Champions League last 16 first leg against Bayern Munich coming up.
Other results: Manchester United 2-0 Watford; Middlesbrough 0-0 Everton; Stoke City 1-0 Crystal Palace; Sunderland 0-4 Southampton; West Ham 2-2 West Brom.