The usual five talking points ahead of today’s FA Cup 4th Round tie away to Bournemouth
First game after the 10 men Chelsea comeback
The conviction and will to win at Stamford Bridge last Tuesday evening was huge and we hope will provide a platform for the team to push on and achieve something of substance this season. Arsenal are four ties from an FA Cup final, and the same number in the Europa League where they are also in the last 32. Granted, the draws in cup competitions are like playing online roulette, you just can’t predict who the opposition will be, unlike the Premier League. A decent run in that competition with draws turning into wins should at least see the team qualify for next season’s Europa League (worth approx. £40 million if they can put together a decent run, which would more than twice pay the wages of Mesut Ozil). Of course they need to start cutting out the defensive errors. Which is a timely reminder of the game at the same venue on Boxing Day.
Once more with feeling
Arteta returns to the scene of his first match as Arsenal head coach on 26th December. Only six games have been played since then in 32 days. Back then, Bournemouth secured a home draw in the midst of a 10 game run, that included eight defeats and one win, albeit an unlikely one at Stamford Bridge. Granted it was the first game, and Arteta had the players for only a couple of sessions, but with the appalling run the Cherries were putting together, this was very much a winnable game for the Gunners. The Bournemouth goal in the 1-1 draw came as a result of trying to play the ball out from the back and getting caught. Hopefully the team will be less careless this evening.
The likes of Liverpool and Manchester City rested a fair number of players, but Arsenal’s opposition is tougher than Shrewbury and Fulham and the injuries in defence are also a factor. In terms of outfield players, Arteta only made three changes in the last round after defeating Manchester United five days before. There is one extra day between games this time around, but more to the point, Arsenal only have two chances of a trophy this season. I reckon we will see a strong line-up this evening, not too different from Stamford Bridge, although obviously Bern Leno will step down. Who is at centre-back? Surely the returning Sokratis, but will it be Holding or Mustafi alongside him? Bellerin to continue at right back? Maitland-Niles was on the bench last week so is fit to play. Might Dani Ceballos or Reiss Nelson get a run-out? Even Eddie Nketiah? Second guessing the manager’s starting eleven is like playing in the best online casinos, there are going to be surprises. It really depends how important Arteta feels it is to give the back-up guys some game time, but the feeling here is that he doesn’t like too much rotation, especially at this early stage of his tenure.
If you’d been backing Arsenal to draw matches this season, I think you’d be well up on your betting account. If there is a replay required after tonight, it will be in the midweek before Arsenal’s mid-winter break weekend off on 8th/9th February. One assumes Arteta has an eye on this potential fortnight without a game to seriously embed his methods without needing to obsess about the next match, although a replay at home to Bournemouth effectively wipes out three days of the ten he would have before he even needs to think about Newcastle on 16th February. Is a trip to Dubai in the offing? Maybe tell the players such a prospect is off if they draw or lose tonight and there might be a bit of added incentive. Bournemouth on the other hand have their break over the weekend of 15/16th February so a replay won’t affect their plans so much. They’d fancy their chances of winning more at home though so will presumably go for it. Speaking of draws, the last round the draw for the 4th round took place in the moments before Arsenal kicked off their 3rd round game against Leeds. A good omen? The 5th round draw takes place before tonight’s game.
A rare chance for some Gooners to see a game at Dean Court
Because there are more away tickets for a cup game, many who will have previously had no chance of securing a ticket to see Bournemouth play Arsenal at the Vitality will get the opportunity to attend this game (me included!). Just a shame it wasn’t over the weekend so as to allow for a Saturday night out...
Bournemouth did manage a win at Brighton in their last outing, but overall they are having a poor season. With Arsenal’s upturn in performances since the teams met at the Vitality on Boxing Day you’d really think we should see an away win. Add to this that the Cherries’ priorities this season mean a cup run probably isn’t top of Eddie Howe’s wishlist, which could see him field a weakened team, and the odds tilt even further towards an away win. Here’s hoping!
The campaign to save The Gooner for the 2020/21 season has now been launched. If you wish to see the fanzine continue printing after the end of the current season, details of how to subscribe can be found here. We need to secure 1,000 subscribers by the end of March 29th to continue.
The current issue of The Gooner (281), including a free 2020 'History of the Arsenal Crest' calendar is on sale now. You can order your copy here (for UK orders) or if you are abroad, order here.
The January edition of the monthly (original) Gooner podcast can be listened to and downloaded here