The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League fixture at the Emirates against Bournemouth.
Points, points, points
In my preview of Arsenal’s win against Southampton at the weekend, I stated my belief that 76 points would be enough to secure fourth place and Champions League football next season. That meant 26 points from the 12 Premier League games they had left, and the three gained on Sunday makes that 23 from 11. Given the inconsistency of the Gunners away, we should expect nothing less than 12 points from their home fixtures against Bournemouth, Newcastle, Palace and Brighton. That leaves 11 points to be gained from the home game v Manchester United, and trips to Spurs, Everton, Watford, Leicester, Wolves and Burnley. Three wins and two draws (ideally with at least one of the draws being against United). Broken down like that, it’s certainly achievable. But fail to win any of those four home matches against the lesser lights and we are looking at trouble. If you want to check out a sports book online and put on a bet, the oddsmakers certainly expect a home win this evening. You can get Arsenal at 4/9, the draw at 4/1 and a Bournemouth victory at a massive 13/2. It would be a major shock if Unai Emery’s side failed to triumph this evening, as well as a massive blow to their top four hopes.
Bournemouth struggle on the road
Eddie Howe’s team have hit something of a slump, with just two wins from their last nine league outings. Their prospects look even bleaker when their record when visiting the top six teams comes under scrutiny. They’ve visited all of the others at the top end of the table apart from the Gunners, losing all five matches, scoring just two goals and conceding 17. Add to this that they have also conceded two or more goals in each of their last eight league away matches against all opponents, and it really does point to a ‘fill your boots’ kind of evening. Think of it as winning at the best payout casino in Las Vegas. That is the kind of joy we should get this evening if things go to form.
Arsenal’s first half scoring problems over?
Remember the days when the Gunners could not score for love nor money before the second half? This problem seems to have been rectified. Six of their last eight Premier League goals have come before the interval. It makes for a more comfortable 90 minutes than, for example, waiting for Lucas Torreira to score a late winner against Huddersfield, or over an hour before a shot on target is registered against the likes of Cardiff. The match against Southampton suggested there is hope Arsenal can rekindle their creative mojo, and Bournemouth are little better than the Saints.
Mustafi to continue at right back in a back four
Stephan Lichtsteiner put in a decent display against Southampton before being subbed, due it transpires to a lower back injury that makes him questionable for this game. Shkodran Mustafi switched to his position for the closing stages of Sunday’s win, and there is a view that he is better suited to the position. It’s certainly where he played when he appeared for Germany’s 2014 World Cup winning side. He can pass the ball well and his tendency to go to ground is better suited to defending wide. Ainsley Maitland-Niles may also have recovered sufficiently from illness to provide an option there. As ever with Unai Emery’s starting eleven, it’s difficult to predict accurately who will be on the teamsheet, but at this stage of the season, the more options the better.
You’d have to imagine Unai Emery will have half a mind on Saturday lunchtime’s trip to Wembley to face Tottenham, so expect to see some of the names that were on the bench last weekend to start this evening. Prime candidates to begin the game are Aubameyang, Ozil, Guendouzi and Koscielny, with possible rests for Xhaka, Iwobi and Ramsey. You’d have to say that Bournemouth are the type of side Mesut Ozil should revel playing against, and Arsenal need to start getting greater value from their highest played employee.
Anything but a home win is something I don’t want to contemplate. And the respective recent records of both sides suggest Arsenal will score at least twice. An away goal can’t be ruled out given the Gunners’ defensive issues, although the clean sheets against BATE Borisov and Southampton in the last two home matches give cause for hope. So I’m going to be optimistic and predict a clean sheet and a 3-0 victory for Unai Emery’s side, to take the pressure off slightly ahead of the weekend trip to face Spurs.
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