The normal five talking points ahead today’s visit of Bournemouth in the Premier League…
It’s rare that you can actually second guess Unai Emery, but looking at the line ups of the last four Arsenal matches, there do look to be two distinct sides emerging. Only Lucas Torreira started both the matches against Manchester United and Standard Liege. So I’d say he is the only question regarding who Emery will select in his eleven today. It looks a fairly safe bet that the ten other players that began at Old Trafford last Monday evening will start this afternoon. But it’s a home game, so the question is whether or not Emery will feel like playing Torreira for a third match in seven days and retain a relatively defensive three in midfield. Or be more adventurous and start someone like Dani Ceballos behind the front three. Other options there are Joe Willock or even, dare I even contemplate it, Mesut Ozil. I mean, Bournemouth at home is an Ozil game if Emery is ever going to play one of his five captains again. So it feels like that third midfield spot is the only selection there is any doubt over. What will be more interesting is who is selected after the international break away to Sheffield United, with Bellerin, Tierney and Holding all surely in contention for selection, and hopefully Alex Lacazette fit again.
Bournemouth are no pushovers this season
You’ve got to credit Eddie Howe. He keeps an unfashionable club in the Premier League and they seem to be improving with every season. So much so that an away win today would see the Cherries leapfrog Arsenal into the top six. Mind you, it’s that stage of the season where all kinds of weird things are going on before things settle down. I mean, right now, Crystal Palace are in fourth place for God’s sake! Go figure. In fairness though, Bournemouth’s three wins have come against Villa, Everton and Southampton, with draws at home to Sheffield United and West Ham. They lost 3-1 against both Man City and Leicester. So fair play to them for picking up points they should be capable of, but it’s early days.
Of course though, history is on Arsenal’s side
Quite simply, in the four seasons Bournemouth have been in the top flight, there have only been two aberrations for the Gunners – a loss and a draw, both at the Vitality Stadium (I wonder if the old timers still call in Dean Court?). When Eddie Howe’s men come to Arsenal, they lose. 2-0, 3-1, 3-0, 5-1. File under home banker? Let’s hope for a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll, eh? Arsenal will leapfrog three teams currently above them to sit in third place if they pick up three points today.
Remember that 22 match sequence in the autumn of 2018? Well, whisper it quietly, but Arsenal have now actually gone seven games unbeaten. Granted, that has included some very dodgy halves of football against Spurs, Watford and Villa, and there have already been calls for Unai Emery’s head. But on paper, it doesn’t look so bad. Mind you, even a year ago, everyone could see the fragility of the side, even if they were avoiding defeat, and the chickens eventually came home to roost. So let’s not get too excited, although not losing is obviously a good habit. That run may well continue, at least until Leicester away on 9th November, and if they can negotiate that, the next really tricky game is against Manchester City at the Emirates on 15th December. Arsenal will have played a further minimum 14 matches by then, although that does include a visit to Anfield in the Carabao Cup. If they can get through that and Leicester away though, there is a chance of racking up 21 matches without defeat by the time Pep Guardiola and company roll up. You’d get decent odds on that, and I am tempted to lay a victory for Arsenal's opposition in the betting markets on a game by game basis and see how it compounds, because it’s certainly possible. I might leave out that Liverpool cup tie until the line-ups are announced though…
The Europa League Factor
It’s interesting to note how Burnley and Wolves have suffered in the Premier League from Europa League participation in the last two seasons. Without doing the research, I imagine that there were players that played in both competitions for those two clubs, hence the drop off the following weekend in domestic fixtures. That shows the advantage of having a stronger squad which the top six sides are able to do due to their financial muscle, and you certainly can’t foresee any drop off for Arsenal today because we will see at least ten fresh players (albeit light run outs for Pepe, Guendouzi and Aubameyang from the bench on Thursday when the game was already won). Granted, that scenario changes in the later rounds, but for now, fatigue is not a factor, and it was seriously encouraging to see the strength of the so-called shadow team last Thursday evening. Surely Gabriel Martinelli is worth a place on the bench after his last two outings in the cups? It would be good if he could get 20 minutes on the pitch, ideally with the game in the bag.
The game screams a home win, but of course, about the only really predictable thing about this Premier League season so far is that Liverpool will find a way of winning, however bizarre – home games against Sheffield United and Leicester have shown us that. So, sure, you can’t take anything for granted, but Bournemouth will try and play the game the same way as Arsenal do, and at home, such an approach normally suits the Gunners unless it is one of the top two who are doing it. As long as Emery’s players don’t make any daft errors, they should be fine… hmmmmmm.
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