Happy Saturday people. And it is that most rarest of things for a football fan: The home Saturday 3pm kick off. Of course it’s a joke that they are not televised these days, of course it’s based on an archaic rule that should have been binned years ago, but as a match going fan I have to tell you; I kind of like the exclusivity of it. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the TV blackout binned, but Saturday 3pm kick offs are a precious thing and if they televised the games but kept to that time, that’d be perfect for me. It’s steeped in tradition and just makes me think back to my childhood and getting to – only once or twice a season – go to The Arsenal in an afternoon. Love it.
As for the game itself today, it is easy to become complacent when you are up against a team second from bottom in the league, with whom you beat 3-0 right at the beginning of the season and who you fully expect to be able to be overcome this afternoon when they visit The Carpet. But this isn’t the toughest league in the world for no reason. Bournemouth travel to us today with absolutely no expectations from anybody for us to beat them and that is a dangerous concoction. They may have been absolutely routed against Man City last weekend, but it was a City team finding form and looking imperious (unfortunately), plus football teams are very different when you play them at home versus away. Bournemouth will have opened themselves up a bit at home to try to get their fans on side, but once City pressed down on their necks it became a bit of a precession. Today I don’t think they’ll be as open and I think they will aim to try to be as compact and difficult to break down as possible.
My hope is that it becomes difficult for them, however, because they have shipped the most goals in the league – by a fair bit. They’ve conceded 48 in 24 games – roughly two for every match – and they have scored just under one for every match. So unlike Everton, Forest and Wolves who just don’t score many goals at all, Bournemouth have been able to find the net a few more times, but they are leaky at the back.
Which is why we should be focused, professional, do our jobs, but not be expectant that we are going to smash a hatful of goals past them, because as we know the Premier League doesn’t play that way. Just look at Forest a couple of weeks ago against City; they can’t really buy a goal, they have shipped 42 goals this season, Man City give them an absolute tonking statistically, yet they still get that equaliser towards the end of the game. We need to be wary of that and we need to start fast and start hard come 3pm. What I’m hoping for is a very strong team to control all areas of the pitch; Ramsdale in goal, White, Saliba, Gabriel and Zinchenko at the back, Partey back in to anchor the midfield, Xhaka and Odegaard as the eights, Saka and Martinelli flanking Trossard up top. And I’ve gone for Trossard mainly because I suspect Eddie is still nursing this ankle injury and I think Arteta hinted at that yesterday in his press conference too. If that’s the case then start Leo and if Eddie is needed in the second half, then give it a go. But with Gabriel Jesus not sounding like we’ll see him this week or next weekend, I don’t think we want to contemplate losing Eddie to injury now either.
If he was fit, however, I think I’d opt for Eddie up top because I don’t think Bournemouth will be as stubborn to break down as Everton, plus I don’t think they’ll play camped in their own box in a super low block. Those are the games Eddie has struggled in but this sort of game feels to me like the type of game that I think Eddie Nketiah might relish. So if he’s fit enough, I’d have a little go at rotation up top today and bring Trossard out. I guess it depends though, because we’re likely to have even more space for Eddie to run in behind on this Thursday when we play Sporting Lisbon, so maybe Arteta sticks with Trossard for now but then brings Eddie back for the Europa League showdown.
As for Bournemouth, I’ve just read that they are missing a few players in Vina, Stanislas, Tavernier, Zabarnyi and Brooks (who I’ve always though was quite talented), which will be a blow for them. Their big game players are Billing, Lerma and Solanke and Solanke will no doubt look to be a physical presence against Saliba and Gabriel today. They also have the benefit of not playing in midweek, so we need to be mindful of the fact that Bournemouth will be fresher than us, but if we impose ouorselves, control the possession and ball, ensure they are chasing us rather than the other way around, then I am hopeful we should have enough to beat the Cherries this lunchtime.
They’ll likely line up with a back three turning in to a back five, with four in front and Solanke up top and they will most likely be looking for transition counters and set pieces. I’ve had a look at their numbers and they make the second fewest progressive carries with the ball in the league, the second fewest progressive passes too. They have the lowest xG of any team in the league which suggests they don’t create many big chances in a match. Oddly though, they have had the most penalties in a game, although I’m not really sure what you read in to that, really. They do launch the ball longer and are fourth highest in the league so I suspect we’ll get plenty of balls fired up to Solanke from the ‘keeper Neto today, so winning the knock downs and turning over possession quickly for us may be a feature we need to consider if we’re to get a win today. They also have the lowest average distance of where their defensive action happens in the league, which suggests that they will indeed sit back and defend deep. The challenge will be whether they are any good at it. We may need to be patient.
And that may well be the mantra Arteta is saying to the players pre game today; patience is a virtue, so don’t force it, but do your job and create the chances and let’s see how we go.
Hopefully it’s forward with another three points.
Catch you lovely people tomorrow.
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