Morning folks – everyone feeling good? Everyone excited for another match day?
Or, are you like me, which is that every time a match day comes around you get that dragging sensation in your stomach? It’s the one where you can’t quite work out whether you feel a bit sick, or you’re hungry, or you just need to get to the loo to exorcise some demons.
That’s what Arsenal does to me and today is no different. Nerves? Most certainly.
It’s Bournemouth away and having seen the Totts sweep a lacklustre Everton to one side, there really is no other option than victory for us today, if we still harbour any fleeting hopes of getting into the Champions League via league qualification.
If this were a game at home I’d most certainly be feeling less nervous though. This season with these types of games we’ve been able to do what necessary on our own soil. But away from home has been a different story and we’ve stuttered and staggered our way through the season with four defeats and four draws out of 11 games. That’s three wins on the road all season at Burnley, Palace and Everton and you’d only say that it was Everton in which we really convinced anyone that we’re worthy winners.
So I’m not going to tap away at my iPhone this morning and tell you that we have got this game in the bag, because this Arsenal team hasn’t really been turning up away from home all season and last weekend we were subjected to some more tripe delivered by the players, so I have no idea what will happen today.
What doesn’t help us the injury list. No Koscielny. No Monreal. No Kolasinac. Ramsey has only just returned from injury so I’d be surprised if he’s fit enough to start. No Giroud to call on from the bench. Possibly no Özil although he’s got a fitness test. Plus we have players like Lacazette who are either out of form or on the way out in terms of Alexis. So it’s hardly a team that is gelling and looking like a well oiled machine.
We’ve struggled all season and never been able to build up any kind of momentum and games like today are the type where I can see that if we are going to get something from it, it’ll be ground out and difficult, because I can’t see a swashbuckling Arsenal performance this lunchtime.
Bournemouth are down there fighting for points and whilst they aren’t a side that are kick and rush, they will still want to start quick to catch us cold, like they did last season. That first half last season was appalling. Ball retention, defensive mistakes, everything went wrong and we really need to avoid that if we want to pick up three points today.
Bournemouth often attack from their left flank but I wonder if Eddie Howe will ask his players to target Maitland-Niles on our left hand side. Whilst he’s shown recovery pace and decent runs in behind, he can be got at and so I suspect he’ll face another test today from the Cherries. That’s where Holding – who is sure to start given the injuries situation – needs to be able to cover him or support on that left hand side and it’s why we simply have to play three at the back I think. With the injuries we have and the personnel I’m just not sure that a back four works and whilst Wenger might have the temptation to go with that if Jack and Rambo are both fit, I’d be going for caution first if I was in his shoes.
Midfield will most likely be Jack and Xhaka and the front three should include Alexis and Lacazette with either Welbeck or Özil if fit. Please, no more Iwobi Arsène, the guy needs to not be played through the form issues. He just needs a timeout. Give the nod to Welbeck if Özil isn’t starting and for Christ’s sake, play Alexis from the start. I want him out of the club so we can all get on with our lives but he will offer something different if he plays, so I would risk his disruptive style of play.
Depending on how the opening exchanges go – as with most Premier League games – we’ll know whether this is an Arsenal team that is capable of turning over a struggling Bournemouth side. They should be, but this is our Arsenal we’re talking about, so there’s absolutely no guarantees whatsoever.
Fingers crossed folks.
Catch you all tomorrow.