Sunday’s clash between Bournemouth and Arsenal is important to both premiership teams for entirely different reasons. For Arsenal, it’s a chance to get back on track, grab three points and stay in contention during the notoriously difficult month of December.
Normally, opportunities pass the Gunners by and they find themselves watching everyone else compete for the big prizes, after being unceremoniously dumped out of all credible competitions.
In the back of Unai Emery’s mind, it’s important to close the gap and remain in striking distance of the top four. He is no doubt, also contemplating the upcoming games with arch-rivals Spurs at home and Manchester United away.
Two key games that will emphasize progress and development or indicate similar frailties during the tail end of the Wenger years.
Bournemouth’s December fixture list, reads like a horror novel, Manchester City, Liverpool, Wolves, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United. It’s clear that the Turkey may need to stay in the freezer a while longer and with the cava consigned to the fridge.
Even the most devoted Bournemouth fan must be nibbling their finger nails and resigning themselves to a hard month, that may see the cherries heading backwards down the table for January, unless they spring a few surprises.
They are extremely capable of doing that, just like a number of the smaller clubs, nothing can be taken for granted. Bournemouth should be worried, they are only 15 points off the bottom, so any points will do at present.
Arsenal, on the other hand, appear stuck in neutral, not loosing, not winning and clocking up draws that cost points. This has lead to some fans becoming slightly disillusioned after seeing fine expansive performances against Leicester and Fulham.
It appears that fans are responding to unrealistic expectations in Emery’s first season in charge and they need a hefty shot of perspective or risk undermining the campaign.
Bournemouth were desperately unlucky to lose to a misfiring Manchester United and that was followed by a surprising defeat to Newcastle but rest assured, Eddie Howes side will come out all guns blazing.
The Cherries will be without right-back Adam Smith for up to three months which is a significant loss. On a positive note, they have a genuine goal threat in Callum Wilson and they also have the industry and creativity of Jefferson Lerma, Ryan Fraser and David Brooks through the middle.
This will be a heavily contested game and the battle of the midfield may be the clincher. For that reason, I’d go for Mkhitaryan instead of Iwobi on the right, Aubameyang on the left, Ozil in the middle and Lacazette up front.
If I had to bet on a result, I’d go for 2-1, hopefully, Arsenal will find their mojo and if they do, then Bournemouth may be in trouble but expect a tight and feisty first 45 minutes, where the gunners need to be quick out of the blocks. In defence, Leno may be kept fairly busy and will need to repeat the heroics against Wolves.
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