Sunday, 7 February 2016

Back on track?

Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal

Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring the first Arsenal goal.

Arsenal finally managed to secure a win in the Premier League on Sunday, with victory over Bournemouth enabling the Gunners to get their title hopes back on track.

Having dropped to fourth place following their draw against Southampton in their last league outing and with both Leicester and Tottenham winning their games on Saturday, this really was a must win game for the Gunners.

Arsene Wenger stuck with ten of the players who had failed to convert a number of chances against Southampton, as he decided to make only one change to his starting eleven, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming into the side in place of Joel Campbell. The decision to once again start with Flamini in the defensive midfield role was as baffling as it had been against Southampton and Arsenal were almost made to pay as early as the eight minute.

Flamini is a player who gives everything for the cause, he is committed and determined but is very ragged. Where Francis Coquelin is refined in the way he goes about winning back possession for his team, Flamini is very clumsy at times. This is exactly why he receives a yellow card in almost every game he plays. Against Bournemouth, it took Flamini only eight minutes to pick up a yellow card, but in truth he was very glad to see the referee show him the yellow card as it really should have been a red. The Frenchman needlessly jumped two footed into a tackle and although he took the ball, there is no place for that kind of tackle in the game. Such tackles are extremely dangerous and reckless and Flamini could have had no complaints had the referee given him his marching orders. Why Wenger refuses to reintroduce Coquein to the starting eleven, when he is clearly fit enough, is beyond any Arsenal fan or pundit.

There was also no place in the starting eleven yet again for new signing Mohammed Elneny and in fact the Egyptian was not even in the match day squad, missing out as he had done against Southampton. If he has not picked up an injury then this does not bode well for his Arsenal future.

The most important thing for Arsenal on Sunday was to secure a victory, the Gunners did not play at their best, but got the job done. The Gunners did the first part of the job extremely well. They knew that Bournemouth would start the game on the front foot and attempt to set a high tempo. The Gunners had to ride the early storm, make sure they didn’t concede and attempt to keep the home crowd quiet. With former Arsenal youth player Benik Afobe up front and hoping to make a point to Arsene Wenger, this would be easier said than done. However Arsenal managed the first twenty minutes of the game very well, with Koscielny and Gabriel marshalling Afobe to great effect and keeping him out of the game.

Once the first twenty minutes had passed, Arsenal needed to turn the screw and that is exactly what they did, taking the lead in the 23rd minute of the game. Aaron Ramsey lofted a ball over the top of the Bournemouth defence and into the box, towards Giroud. At first it appeared that Sanchez and Giroud would get in each other’s way and the chance would be lost, but the Chilean managed to get himself out of the way in time to allow Giroud to nod the ball back towards Ozil. The German is not renowned for his goal scoring ability but he showed great composure and technique to power home an unstoppable effort on the half volley.

Having taken the lead Arsenal have often sat back and not gone out for the second goal, but on this occasion the Gunners doubled their lead within a minute. A poor clearance from the Bournemouth defence was seized upon and Ramsey played the ball into the path of Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Englishman has not enjoyed a great season so far but showed the great skill and technique he possesses as he allowed the ball to roll across his body before steering a shot across goal, off the far post and into the net. It was Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first ever away goal for the Gunners, highlighting the obvious areas of improvement to his game. Hopefully this will now give him the confidence to kick on.

Unfortunately Arsenal weren’t able to add to their two goal lead and then spent the entire second half sitting back and attempting to hit Bournemouth on the break. Olivier Giroud offered very little up front as he looked distinctly uninterested throughout the second half and therefore the Gunners had no out ball and Bournemouth just kept on coming at them. Fortunately for Arsene Wenger’s side, the home side kept on taking pot shots from outside the area which often flew over the bar and therefore were largely harmless.

At the final whistle fans, players and manager alike were able to breathe a big sigh of relief as Arsenal had finally managed to secure all three points. This was a crucial victory as anything less would have been disastrous. The win also now sets up next weekend’s showdown with Leicester perfectly. Should Arsenal be victorious again, then they will move to within two points of the surprise Premier League leaders. However they must be wary of a side that is flying high on confidence at the minute, one which has a distinct game plan which has proved so effective. Leicester will sit back and attempt to hit the Gunners on the break, but Wenger must ensure his players do not allow themselves to fall victim to these tactics. They need to show a defensive maturity to not commit too many players forward and allow themselves to get caught out on the counter attack against a side that is lightning quick in attack. With this in mind, it is crucial that Wenger sees the error of his ways and Francis Coquelin returns to the starting eleven.

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