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Arsenal Find Their Clinical Touch

Match Review: Bournemouth 0 Arsenal 2 - Premier League 07.02.2016

After Leicester pummelled Man City on Saturday, it was absolutely vital for us to get three points at Bournemouth. I haven’t really taken Leicester seriously this season, but I think their result at the Etihad can leave no doubt, the midlands team are bang in the race, if not the favourites. I was completely wrong and ahead of our huge clash with them at the Emirates, there could be no slip-ups on the coast.

There was no small measure of horror on my part as I read Flamini’s name on the team sheet again. The partnership between him and Ramsey has been pretty disastrous over recent weeks and with Coquelin so close to fitness, it hopefully will be the last time we see it for a while. Gabriel also kept his place after a shaky game against Southampton, while Chamberlain came in for Campbell in the only change to the side.

Only nine minutes in, Flamini gave yet another example of why most of us are quite glad his contract will soon be up. The mental Frenchman went jumping into a nasty, two-footed challenge when there was absolutely no need to and he was very lucky that he was only given a yellow. For me it was a nailed on red card. He was off his feet, he was reckless, using excessive force and he clearly endangered the other player with his tackle. He should have been sent off and if the ref had made the right call it could have cost us dear, as Bournemouth were no pushovers and more than capable of taking advantage. I was also a bit disappointed to hear Wenger not only dismiss the tackle as a foul, but to also suggest that the free-kick could have gone the other way. After all the terrible injuries we’ve suffered such as Eduardo’s and Ramsey’s, you’d think he’d be keen for us to avoid making such challenges ourselves. That challenge had no place in any team’s game, least of all ours.

Bournemouth have a very small ground and a tight pitch compared to most Premier League venues and as such they tried to congest what little space there was and stop us playing. For the first twenty odd minutes it worked, as neither team gained a firm grip on the game. There were signs we were growing into the game as we tested balls over the top and in behind. Eventually it paid off and our quality showed in a rapid one-two punch. The first came in slightly atypical fashion for us, with Ramsey lifting the ball into the box, Giroud knocking the ball back down and Özil hammering in a tremendous half-volley. I think sometimes our unwillingness to embrace this sort of method with Giroud on the pitch has seen us miss out in games we could have got points in. You need a plan B when you come up against teams that look to stay tight and disrupt plan A. Özil’s finish was excellent too, probably the hardest he’s ever struck a ball in his career!

Ninety seconds later we struck again, as we used Bournemouth’s tactics against them. They tried to be too fancy at the back and our pressing caused them to give the ball away. Chamberlain raced into the box down the right and layered a low shot in off the post for his first goal of the season and his first away goal for Arsenal. After three games without a goal it was refreshing to see us finally look clinical. Not taking our chances has been costing us and if we’ve found our scoring touch again, it might have come just at the right time.

That flurry of activity was pretty much the peak of the game, as we never really built on our goals and Bournemouth put us under pressure as they searched for a route back into the game. Bournemouth were probably the better team in the second half and there was an air of just holding what we had from us. I don’t blame the team, confidence must have been low before the game and just getting three points was a big deal. Bournemouth are a good side too, their full backs were impressive and although they lacked a cutting edge, they still gave us some nasty scares and Cech had to be alert.

ozil goal celebration arsenal bournemouth premier league

So where does this leave the title race? After last weekend we seemed to be facing an uphill battle to stay in touch with the leaders. But Leicester pulling City’s pants down in their own back yard has shaken things up again. There’s no real doubt now, it’s a four horse title race and any given weekend could see a shock result. I also have to say that of the four teams, Leicester look the most convincing as they continue to roll on without a care for what anyone else thinks. Man City are even more self-destructive than we are and with their away form already sketchy, a thumping at home must be a real worry for them. Sp*rs are worryingly consistent and look like a proper team, but being Sp*rs they are liable to implode at any moment.

This weekend could be a huge moment in the title race. Having looked at Leicester’s run in, it is a lot kinder than ours. None of their home games present a major test, as Norwich, West Brom, Newcastle, Southampton, Swansea, West Ham and Everton visit the King Power. Away games may be where we need them to drop points and it starts with us. After Leicester visit the Emirates, their remaining trips are to Watford, Palace, Sunderland, Man Utd and Chelsea. Watford and Palace are tricky games and with Man Utd and Chelsea as two of their last three, they’ll face a serious test of nerve if they’re still leading the way towards the end. But having seen off a huge challenge going to City, they will not fear any team in the slightest.

A win at the Emirates and Leicester would be clear favourites for the title, which is why it is so vital for us to beat them. Even a draw is a massive positive for them. If we beat them, the doubts will start creeping back in and they could start dropping points. If we don’t, the wave of momentum they’re riding may carry them to being the most unlikely champions in the history of English football.

Teams

Bournemouth (4-5-1)
Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Ritchie (Stanislas 66’), Gosling (King 66’), Arter, Pugh, Afobe (Grabban 77’)
Subs
Federici, Iturbe, King, Distin, Grabban, Stanislas, O’Kane

Arsenal (4-2-3-1)
Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal, Flamini (Y), Ramsey, Chamberlain (Coquelin 67’), Özil, Alexis (Gibbs 82’), Giroud (Walcott 93’)
Subs
Ospina, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Campbell

Player Ratings

Cech - 8/10 - Made some very important stops and will likely have to next week too
Bellerin - 9/10 - A standout performance, rock solid for the whole game
Koscielny - 7/10 - Looked fairly comfortable and dealt with Afobe well
Gabriel - 6/10 - Made a nasty error that could have been costly, still erratic
Monreal - 7/10 - Received high praise from Pirlo recently, although made an unusual error
Flamini - 4/10 - Brainless and reckless, hopefully we left him on the coast
Ramsey - 8/10 - A welcome return to form, largely down to him keeping it simple for once
Chamberlain - 8/10 - Excellent contribution with his goal, now needs to be consistent
Özil - 8/10 - Has been quiet for a few weeks, but back with a bang, super strike
Alexis - 7/10 - Working his hole off as usual, we could use one of his bursts of form though
Giroud - 7/10 - Good work for the first goal, hopefully will get some of his own soon
Subs
Coquelin - 7/10 - Hope he’s fit to start now, Mahrez vs Flamini is bringing me out in a cold sweat
Gibbs - N/A
Walcott - N/A

 

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Tags: Match Review, Match Report, Bournemouth vs Arsenal, Özil goal, Ox Goal, Ox first away goal

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