It’s hard to think that our last match was only this past Tuesday. Given the abundance of news surrounding Arsenal this week it has felt an eternity since the world collectively lost its head about Arsenal’s current run of form.
In case you’ve been under a rock or on Mars – you should know that Arsenal are winless in their last four matches. Yes, you read that correctly. With 12 points on the table Arsenal went through the last 4 matches with a whopping 3. Yes, 3. As we talked about in the aftermath of the 0-0 draw against Southampton, taken individually, the draws weren’t bad. On any other day going away to Anfield and the Britannia and coming out with points would be considered “good points.”
But this is Arsenal and we were supposedly in a title run (we are if you are still wondering) and a run of 4 matches without a win – is a cause for concern. Let not your hearts be troubled Gooners. There is still a chance to get back into the good graces of the Premier League title gods and that starts with this weekend’s match against Bournemouth.
Yes, Bournemouth are a solidly coached team. When they set up they set up in what amounts to a 4-5-1 or a modified 4-1-4-1 depending on how deep Surman sits between Arter and Gosling. As Michael Cox points out on the dot com’s scouting report – typically at home they move the ball freely looking to attack their opponents.
We can only hope they play similarly against Arsenal but it’s more likely that at home against a team that likes to keep a hold of the ball itself, they will sit deep looking to counter. We should expect that their attack may be more potent that it was back in December at the Emirates as they are now led by former Arsenal youth product Benik Afobe. Afobe has worked his way from the lower leagues to getting his chance in the Premier League and seems to be taking that chance with both hands. Whomever Wenger choses as the CB tandem will have a handful as Afobe will like nothing more than to make a point to the manager who let him go.
For Arsenal’s part the match has to be a kick starter. Another draw or worse . . . a loss and well the pitchforks that have been out will be joined by torches and burning effigies of the manager. If Arsenal are going to content for the title the next two matches are of the utmost importance to them.
Key Match Up
When Bournemouth visited the Emirates it was death by Mesut Özil. The visitors started brightly and were buoyed by their wins against Chelsea and Manchester United. But over time Arsenal turned the screw and it was Özil who was central to everything.
In the recent run of matches I’ve noticed teams employing multiple players to negate Özil’s influence. For Bournemouth that is going to fall the midfield. They will have to pressure Özil in the final third and try and take away his “magic eye” that lets him see things before they happen. However, that tactic could be detrimental to Bournemouth as that would likely mean that the recently returned Alexis Sanchez could be in space by his lonesome and as every knows that man should never be left alone in the final third.
Where to Worry
If all matches were played on paper, Arsenal would walk this match. But as we know matches aren’t played on paper which means if we’re not careful and patient, we could be in for trouble. Bournemouth were well up to the task against Chelsea and United and make no mistake about it they will be up for it against Arsenal.
The worry is that Arsenal desirous to get back into the winning ways may be careless and press the issue rather than work the ball to open up Bournemouth. In the last few matches we’ve been careless with the ball especially in transition. Passes are going wayward and being intercepted deep in our own end with instant pressure applied to the team.
We can’t force the issue. Arsenal have to be patient and play their game. Take care of the ball and move it with purpose and speed and the game will take care of itself.
Despite it all and the poor month we’ve had, I am still bullish on this team’s title chances. Arsenal showed in the last match up that they were a constant threat to Bournemouth on set pieces. With Sanchez and Coquelin back, the starting 11 is starting to look solid again and it was the XI that went on a tremendous run to end last season. I think the poor run of results ends here and Arsenal comes away with all 3 points.
Players to Watch
Arsenal. Mesut Özil. He was a maestro the last time they met with an assist and a goal and so much more. He will hurt Bournemouth if they don’t pressure him. Hell he still may hurt them if they pressure him.
Bournemouth. Benik Afobe. A player with a point to prove is always a dangerous player.
Injuries and Suspensions
Arsenal: Wilshere (leg), Rosicky (leg), Cazorla (knee)
Bournemouth: Gradel (knee), Wilson (knee), Mings (knee), Stanislas (doubtful)
Referee: Kevin Friend (13M, 44Y, 3R)
Assistant Referees: D Bryan, P Kirkup
Fourth Official: N Swarbrick
UK: Sky Sports 13.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 8:30AM EST
Bournemouth 0 – 2 Arsenal
Manager’s Take (courtesy Arsenal.com)
“It is always very difficult to identify one isolated factor,” the manager told Arsenal Player. “[Against Southampton] we put the effort in – we had absolutely the workrate and the energy level but we just couldn’t finish on the night. We should have scored, normally on our model, four goals. But we didn’t score.
“I will say it’s a little bit linked with belief. We’ve practised quite well in front of goal but I think sometimes, on the night, you want to be a bit more forceful and you’re not relaxed enough.
“You must give credit to the keeper too – he made some great saves. We have to believe that if we produce games of quality, that won’t happen in every single game.”
“We’ve been here so many times, talking about our next opponent, and have come to the same conclusion: that it’s a difficult opponent. We know that. They have just won at Crystal Palace and that means they are a good team.”
Match Facts (Courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta Sports)
- Bournemouth have only played Arsenal twice before losing both games and failing to score in either (conceding five).
- Arsenal have won just one of their last six Barclays Premier League away games (W1 D3 L2).
- The Gunners haven’t gone five Premier League games without a win since August 2011.
- If Arsenal fail to score, it will be four Premier League matches without a goal for the first time since February 2009 and equal their longest run without a goal in the competition.
- Arsenal have dropped seven points from winning positions away from home, more than any other team on the road.
- Bournemouth have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the top flight (14).
- Eddie Howe’s side have scored a league-high tally (8) and proportion (28%) of their goals in the opening 15 minutes of games this season.
- Former Arsenal striker Benik Afobe has scored in each of his last three Premier League appearances for Bournemouth.
- Callum Wilson is still Bournemouth’s top scorer in the Premier League this season (5), yet hasn’t played since the end of September.
- Mesut Ozil is awaiting his first Premier League assist of 2016 despite creating 18 chances for his teammates. Only Spurs’ Christian Eriksen has created more in 2016 than the German (22).