A happy Monday to be had by all us Gooners today, after getting that draw monkey off our backs and getting back to winning ways with a hard fought 2-1 win away to Bournemouth.
I’d said before the game I thought it would be a really tough one and I wasn’t wrong; Bournemouth under Eddie Howe are a good side who have impressed earlier in the season and you could see why after the first 20 minutes. They pressed well, won the ball back in the middle of the park, plus every single knock down or 50-50 seemed to go their way and fall to a red and black shirted player.
They also took advantage of our formation change. Unai went three at the back in what was probably an attempt to avoid being overrun when our full backs marauded forward, but in the first half yesterday it felt like that didn’t really work for me. Bournemouth knew where our weaknesses were and so they pumped plenty of high balls in to our defensive channels, leaving one of our centre halves to deal with the pace of King, Wilson, etc.
And for the first 20 minutes it worked a treat. We looked like we couldn’t contain them, we weren’t retaining possession well enough, we just looked like the Arsenal ‘first half’ team we’ve seen all season. Unai had left out Özil who is normally somebody who can control games more and certainly retains the ball better than many, but those who were selected just couldn’t get a foothold in the game and so for half of the first half I was a worried man, I have to say.
But we wrestled a bit of momentum back and after Torreira (another awesome display by him, by the way) hit the post it felt like we started to string passes together. So to get the slice of fortune from the Lerma og was one thing, but I didn’t think it was against the run of play in the game, as we’d fought back some more control.
Ahh that word: control. If only we could control and manage games more, eh? Because we could have gone in to the second half one up had we not decided to push as many forward as possible for a corner. The finish from King was good but it felt entirely avoidable and what with Emery being the video king one hopes that he’s pointing out to his defenders there what went wrong, because to me it felt like there were two, maybe three, opportunities to stop the goal when it came.
It was poor from us but as poor as we’d been at times and as predictable as our first halves have been this season, what is also predictable is that we have better second halves and so it proved yesterday. We controlled the ball, had the chances, spent most of the time in the Bournemouth half and were deserved victors in the end.
The goal was classic poacher from Auba and the ball in from Kolasinac was inch perfect for him to slide in to the net. It was a well worked goal and showed just why we went three at the back so that we could play our wing backs higher up the pitch and take advantage of Bournemouth’s defensive frailties.
It did feel like Howe played in to Emery’s hands a bit though because in the second half he switched formation to more of a back three and for some reason Bournemouth stopped driving balls into the channels behind Hector and Sead. Without that wide threat happening as often it allowed us to push our players forward more and it was only with about eight minutes of normal time left that we were put on the back foot a bit more as Howe moved back to a 4-4-2.
It was an odd tactical move but we capitalised and so I can’t complain too much. That win feels like a very important one this morning and with some very tough games coming up in the next month it’s important that we get back to winning ways for the confidence. That’s now 17 unbeaten and on Thursday the team travel to Vorskla to see if we can make it 18 before the North London Derby on Sunday. Things are looking decent again after a few blips in the shape of draws.
Just before I sign off though I want to talk about Mkhitaryan. He’s had a few games this season where he’s impressed me, but he’s had more where he’s looked a million miles from the maestro from Dortmund. Yesterday he was abysmal. Corners under cooked, passes not finding their man, shots blazed miles over. If Kolasinac had a drinker against Wolves a couple of weeks ago, he transferred that performance into the psyche of Mkhi yesterday, which made it all the more baffling that the Armenian stayed on the pitch the whole game. There was plenty of talk of Özil not playing against Bournemouth and Emery made some kind of ham-fisted excuse about Bournemouth’s tactical set up, but I have to say that he obviously sees something that none of us do in Mkhitaryan, because you can’t tell me Özil would have been worse than him yesterday.
Still, we got away with it, three points have been had and we move on. Hopefully Özil is recalled to the team for next Sunday’s important match up.
Have a good one and enjoy your Monday folks.