Arsenal go to the south coast on Sunday, as Bournemouth welcome the London-based side to the Vitality Stadium for the two teams’ 25th league game of the season.
The Gunners have been, frankly, experiencing a crisis of sorts in the last few weeks, especially given their aims for the league season.
Arsenal have failed to win in their last four league games (not scoring in three of them), casting a feeling of frustration for the fans who, even with a win over Burnley keeping a cup run alive, now feel even further away from a league title, now being eight points away from pole position at time of writing. These upcoming games against Bournemouth and Leicester present Arsenal with a perfect chance to close the gap on Leicester City and firmly end Manchester City’s fight in the title race. However, something drastic must happen in terms of the team’s setup – especially regarding the team’s creativity deep in the midfield and how clinical the attackers are – if the Gunners are to fix this rut that they’re in.
Twitter: Mesut Özil created 10 chances against Southampton; more than any other player in tonight’s game. (@MesutOzilStats)
Last Tuesday, Southampton held Arsenal to a stalemate at the Emirates. The north London side controlled the proceedings for the most part, with the main man Mesut Özil creating ten chances and attempting to score in a couple of situations as well. Despite this, the ineffectiveness of the forwards combined with Fraser Forster’s heroics between the sticks denied Arsenal the all-important goal in what was a slightly surreal game. However, if the team can create like they did on Tuesday, perhaps luck won’t be against them and the likes of Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott will be able to score some much-needed goals.
Bournemouth are having a great season considering their circumstances – the 2015/16 campaign being their first appearance in England’s top-tier. The Cherries are seven points clear of the drop zone, and have managed to continue their attacking, easy-on-the-eye style of play, helped with the additions of young, energetic players who will enforce such a fluid system. One of those players is Benik Afobe, who signed from Wolves in January with a great goalscoring record and continued such a record by scoring in each of his first three league matches. Given the impact he’s having on English football, perhaps Arsenal will regret letting him leave to the Football League – and now the 22-year-old gets to show the Gunners exactly what they missed out on.
Their last match was a 2-1 win over out-of-form Crystal Palace, in which Marc Pugh and Benik Afobe scored the goals for an Eddie Howe side which battled from a goal down to overcome what was a lacklustre Palace performance. The Cherries’ endless pursuit for survival in this league is finally bearing fruit, and their players will look to deliver a message to the league about what they can do with their style of play and their personnel against one of the best in the league.
A player Arsenal need to watch out is Afobe. The forward is becoming a fans’ favourite with his goals to finish off intricate Bournemouth moves, and has delivered in that role – scoring in each of his three appearances for the club. He’s got a point to prove to Arsène Wenger, with Sunday’s occasion being the perfect stage to demonstrate his quality.
The player Bournemouth need to watch out for is Özil. The German will be itching for an assist, having been going through a dry spell in the last month. However, he produced a great display last Tuesday at the Emirates in which he fashioned ten clear-cut chances – somehow none of which resulted in a goal. Nonetheless, the assist record is there to be broken and if Özil is to get there, a direct impact this Sunday will not result in gains for both him and the team.
The last time these two played resulted in a 2-0 home win for Arsenal. It was a fairly comfortable result for the Gunners, with Özil scoring one goal and creating one goal in the process.
Arsène Wenger confirmed Tomas Rosicky will be out for the rest of the season following an injury last Saturday at Burnley. Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla will both be back in March. Danny Welbeck played with the reserves a couple of days ago and is now back in training. The rest of the squad is fit – expect changes to be made to the starting XI.
Twitter: Dat Guy Welbz IS BACK! #afc https://t.co/tPDNSlhAak (@ReadArsenalFC)
Bournemouth will decide whether Junior Stanislas is ready to play today following a knee problem. Callum Wilson and Max Gradel remain out with long-term injuries, as does Tyrone Mings.
– Arsenal have won both of the previous encounters between the two without conceding a goal.
– Bournemouth have dropped 14 points from winning positions, more than any other top-flight team.
– Arsenal have failed to score in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since a run of four matches without a goal between January and February 2009.
– Only Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen has created more chances, 22 in total, than Mesut Özil in this calendar year.
Bournemouth (4-1-4-1): Boruc; Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Surman; Ritchie, Gosling, Arter, Stanislas; Afobe.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Coquelin; Walcott, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.