25 November 2016

Cherry-poppin' Gunners gotta get back to winning ways...

e knew that November would be tough, and it has been--enough to see us slip from the top of the Prem table and to let slip through our fingers the same position in our Champions League group. Three consecutive draws have blunted the momentum that we created in September and October; after tense matches against Tottenham, Man U, and PSG, we might like to lick our lips as we size up the Cherries. Howevever, if we're to regain any of the form we did enjoy earlier on, we can't afford to drop our guard just because we're facing a club with a somewhat less-polished pedigree.

Bournemouth seem to be rather enjoying their second-ever season of to-flight football. Having barely staved off relegation a season ago, they currently sit 10th, ahead of mainstays such as Southampton, Stoke, and West Ham. Then again, they've benefitted from our loanee, one Jack Andrew Garry Wilshere, who will be unavailable to face his parent-club. His absence is sure to discombobulate things a bit and put pressure on others to elevate their efforts. One who could benefit from Wilshere's absence is none other than former Gunner Benik Afobe, who has struggled to find time on the pitch even as Bournemouth have looked for more offense.

Defensively, they are decent. Only twice have they conceded more than two goals; Man U hung three on them on Matchday 1, and Man City bullied them for four in mid-September. Beyond that, they've been stolid if not impregnable, and I wouldn't be surprised to see us struggle to break them down. Then again, we have a number of players who are due to break through, having quieted down of late after earlier surges of productivity. Walcott hasn't scored in his last four appearances after getting seven in six matches. Alexis hasn't scored in his last four. Özil has been in silent in his last three.

It's only a matter of time before one or more of them finds his way out of this rut. Some of that is down to fatigue or the inevitable ebb and flow of a player's energy; some of that is down to the quality or tactics of recent opponents . At a risk of downgrading Bournemouth, there is a bit of a drop-off as concerns the latter factor, and this should see our lads' energy surging forward on Sunday.

LAST 3
Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal (07.02.2016)
Arsenal 2-0 Bournemouth (28.12.2015)
Arsenal 3-0 Bournemouth (27.08.1997- League Cup)

FACTFILE
Bournemouth have never scored a goal against Arsenal (only three meetings).
Özil has scored twice and assisted once against the Cherries.
When Arsène Wenger first took the reigns in 1996, Eddie Howe had made just five league appearances for Bournemouth.

INJURIES
Lucas, Bellerin, Cazorla, Welbeck, and Mertesacker have all been ruled out.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI Čech; Gibbs, Koscielny, Mustafi, Jenkinson; Coquelin, Ramsey; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud. 

PREDICTION
The Cherries will not have enough to withstand Arsenal's pent-up frustrations. Arsenal 4-0 AFC Bournemouth