It feels like a lot has happened since the last matchday. Maybe it’s just me but it feels like Arsenal have gone through a lot and here we are at the other side and today, it is time the players delivered, because anything else but a win would feel like we’re really in trouble.
We’ve suffered heavily at the hands of Liverpool. We’ve closed the transfer window poorly and haven’t done what is necessary to strengthen the squad in key positions. And we’ve not answered the key questions about contracts that have been plaguing the team since about January this year.
But we can pick up a win today and at least feel like the club can move forward.
I’m not overly confident though. I’m not feeling massively negative and like we’re definitely going to lose, but let’s just say that if we drew or lost today, it wouldn’t surprise me. Normally with home matches against teams like Bournemouth I always go in to them expecting the win, as I’m sure we all do, but that confidence has been eroded somewhat with what we’ve seen so far this season.
The manager has not been able to deliver a consistent formation with players in natural positions yet. He’s tinkered a lot when he most certainly hasn’t needed to. But now that the transfer window has closed and there are no players for him to make exceptions for, it is an opportunity for us to see a strong team take to the field, which I really hope he does.
Whether that strong team has three at the back or four at the back i’m not sure, but I suspect it might remain with the three for now, because I think this week and next week Arsène keeps the consistency of the formation the team has been playing in recent months. I can’t see him abandoning three at the back just yet. Just my gut feel though.
What I can see is Nacho Monreal once again preferred to play in the centre back position. I think Arsène loves Nacho and will feel like he deserves game time, but I also think that Kolasinac comes in today at left wing back. Again, just a gut feel but that’s what I reckon, with Bellerin on the right and Koscielny and Mustafi in the centre with Monreal. Despite the fact this formation is a dream for Mertesacker to play in given the cover it provides, I can’t see him starting and Holding’s torrid time at Anfield probably means he doesn’t start either, so that would be my tip for the back five.
And despite the fact there was essentially no midfield against Liverpool, I don’t think Wenger changes his midfield duo today, not least because we’ll see more of the ball and we’ll probably have it in more advance positions. So that means that having a deep-lying ball player in Xhaka could be beneficial, as well as an advanced Aaron Ramsey trying to unlock Bournemouth’s back line. The biggest challenge for those two, however, is to actually have a bit of discipline when we don’t have the ball. If Bournemouth have any sense about them they’ll know that Xhaka with no time to pick a pass can be very fruitful and by winning the ball back from us they’ll be able to counter quickly if they have the pace to hit us.
Bournemouth’s strength in that regard will be the likes of King and I would have said Afobe rather than Defoe who, at 34 doesn’t have the pace, even if he does still have the finishing ability. I’ve seen a couple of suggestions to say that Defoe starts but Eddie Howe is a smart man and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him attempt to go for a defensively solid line up with lightning quick attacking players to try to catch us out on the counter like Liverpool did a couple of weeks back. It’s becoming common knowledge that we are abysmal in transition from attack to defence and Bournemouth will be crazy not to try to emphasise that.
But when we do have the ball, there needs to be less profligacy, which is why Wenger would surely be mad to start Welbeck ahead of Lacazette today. The Frenchman looks like he’s got a fancy old finish in him and the fact that he scored two already this season – if you count the onside goal against Stoke – then you’d have to say he must get preferred. We all love Danny for his effort, but that’s two games in a row now in which he’s shown that he’s not a clinical finisher and we will need that against a Bournemouth team who will be set up to frustrate and be compact I think.
The rest of the team will include Ozil and Alexis, quite obviously, I think, and it will be interesting to see if both players want to show they have something to prove by turning in a good performance. We all know that they’re gone this time next year, but we need them to prove their worth by owning games like today and hopefully Mesut’s performance against Norway will give him confidence, whilst Alexis’ rage against the media in Chile gives him some added motivation too.
It’s a hard one to call a game like today. Ordinarily i’d probably say that I’d fancy a home win, but you just don’t know how this team will react, so I have no idea how this one’s going to go. Are the players still playing for the manager? Do they still believe in his way any more? It’s games like today when you can tell and the first 15 minutes will, as usual, help to give us an idea as to whether or not there will be a reaction, or whether this team really is as rudderless as it looks.
I’m up north today, so will probably be forced to watch the game on a dodgy stream, so I can only hope that we get the points needed and i don’t have to throw my MacBook out the window come 5pm.
Catch you all tomorrow.