Another day, another ‘cup final’ for The Arsenal and I have to tell you, they all seem to get more intense with each passing week. I thought Wolves was bad. Then I thought Chelsea was worse. The NLD was horrible in the build up, so how do I feel EVEN MORE nervous now than I did for the trip to The Toilet Bowl?

I’ll tell you why: Because it’s within touching distance. The Promised Land feels tantalisingly close. Arsenal are currently top – albeit having played a game more – have just three games left to play and should they win them all, they will have been so close to lifting a first league title in 20 years. It’s so close it feels painful.

If this was February and we were playing Bournemouth, the tone of today’s blog would be very different. It would smack of quite and slightly reserved confidence that we can overcome a side currently quite literally in mid table. Bournemouth are 10th, they in theory have little to play for as they aren’t getting anywhere near a relegation scrap, they’re a team who should by all rights be the archetypal “on the beach”.

But this Bournemouth team are an impressive unit. There is a reason that Iraola was given the job after the good work Gary O’Neil did; he’s a very good manager. Last weekend they smashed Brighton 3-0. The weekend before they beat Wolves 1-0 with 10 men. They’ve beaten Man United away, drawn with Villa away, they’ve shown that they have goals in them and in Dominic Solanke they have a striker in red hot form this season. He’s bagged 18 goals in the Premier League and you can bet your bottom dollar that he wants to hit 20 before the season is out. Their next best goalscorer is Semenyo, who is out injured at the moment on eight goals, the Kluivert on seven. So for our back line the primary objective is clear: Keep Solanke as quiet as you can.

Bournemouth are a decent outfit away from home though. They sit eighth in the table in terms of away games only and have won six, drawn three and lost eight; they tend to go one way or the other and I’m really hopefully they add to the ‘eight’ today. We are in desperate need of it.

They are also good at creating chances away from home. They have the sixth best away xG of all teams in the league and are only six goals behind us in that regard. They do, however, give up chances and are 11th in terms of xG goals allowed, so that offers us some hope that we’ll get opportunities this lunchtime. That also rings true across all games as well, with Bournemouth 12th in the league for average number of goals scored against them by opponents. This feels like a game in which we’re going to see a fair few chances and you’d hope we will score in. So the big question will be whether we can keep both Solanke and Bournemouth out.

In terms of their playing style, Bournemouth have by some distance the most ‘take ons’ in the league i.e. they have players who like to dribble and attack players. So one-on-one duels in the middle and defensive third for us feel crucial. That’s why our duel monsters have to be kings today; Gabriel, Tomiyasu, Rice and Saliba all need to be able to win their individual battles. If they do that, we’ve got a great chance of winning. Bournemouth also make most of their tackles in the middle third or higher up the pitch, which says to me we’re going to get a side who will press us quite high today. So we need to be able to move from back to front quickly to catch them out, because if we can evade their press, there will be space for our creative and attacking players to succeed.

Which makes me wonder about who should be starting. I think a lot of the team picks itself (Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Rice, Odegaard, Saka, Havertz), but who else? I’ve kind of hinted that Tomiyasu should probably be given the nod and given we’ve had a week since our last game (almost) I just feel like he’s the best option right now. Sorry Zinny, at home against an opposition who will press you higher, this just doesn’t feel like the game for you right now. Then in midfield who plays with rice and Odegaard? Again, I feel like it probably has to be Partey. His passing range and ability to get the ball between the lines to feed the likes of Saka, Odegaard or Havertz feels like it should be a definite selection choice for Arteta today. then the final piece of the puzzle is wide left. Do you go with the finisher and guy who is better with the ball at his feet in Trossard? Or do you recognise that if Bournemouth are going to press us high that there will be green grass to run in behind and therefore Martinelli is a better choice? I have no idea on this one. Nor do I have a preference. I think both players could do well today. So whatever the choice, I’ll be happy with it, but if you’re putting a gun to my head I’m probably going with Trossard given his form. He wasn’t great against The Scum but his form in the main has been really good, so that’s the only reason I’m giving him the nod. Regardless of who starts, the other one will of course have a role to play at times and if we go ahead and Bournemouth have to chase the game, maybe the pace of Martinelli is better off the bench?

But regardless of who gets selected, the key that has to be emphasized throughout this Arsenal team is: FOCUS. Keep focused, keep concentration, no silly errors and get the three points. However they come, at this stage of the season, it’s all we’re looking for. Don’t even care if it’s a scrappy 1-0, just do it.

I’m travelling in Germany this morning and so watching the game might be tough, but I’ll certainly be trying my best to find a stream/feed wherever I am come kick off. Fingers crossed boys and girls. Only a win will do.

Catch you all tomorrow…maybe….depends on whether I need to drown my sorrows and am too hungover on Munich beer I guess.

Laters peeps.