Adam Clayton: Middlesbrough are in a false league position

Under-fire Arsene Wenger praised the "mentality" of his players as Arsenal battled to a 2-1 victory at struggling Middlesbrough, but the Gunners boss again refused to clarify his own future at the club.

Arsenal kept alive their slim hopes of securing a Champions League spot next season with a 2-1 Premier League victory at Middlesbrough on Monday that left the hosts in deep danger of relegation.

When asked whether the tactical switch had worked as planned, Wenger replied: "Yes, it is the first time in 20 years".

"We like to dominate the ball, but when the team lacks confidence it's good to change to a system and do something different".

"We've played against teams and we have been in most games and have been pipped by that extra bit of quality that we need to have".

"Recently, we have faced many direct games, and I thought before the game maybe they would play with (Rudy) Gestede and Negredo and go for a very direct game. When you're in a lack-of-confidence situation you know it comes back slowly and only the results help".

The win leaves Arsenal seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City with a game in hand. You could see that one some occasions, we were a bit over-cautious tonight. "That was the first thing we needed and the three points were massive".

Sanchez curled in a free kick right before halftime that was canceled out at the start of the second half by Alvaro Negredo.

"I felt we were focused and committed".

"I think in the first half we did quite well, and in the second half we still gave away some chances on crosses", added Wenger.

Holding, a low profile summer signing from Bolton Wanderers, has spent most of the season on the sidelines despite positive displays when called upon.

The Gunners' best chance before Sanchez opened the scoring came when Aaron Ramsey's goal bound effort was turned away by two Middlesbrough defenders.

Middlesbrough are the only side in English league football not to have won a league game during 2017 and that bad run of form has put them perilously close to an immediate return to the Championship.

Vanessa Coleman

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