November has seen the usual drop in standards at Arsenal, but despite the annual malaise, Arsenal have maintained the run of games without losing – which currently stands at 18.
The form has dipped and points have been dropped, but more importantly – these tough games which has seen us scrape a point this season, in the last few campaigns we would have surely lost them.
Scraping for positives? Perhaps. The fare that has been served up on the pitch lately has not exactly been up to our usual standard, and a dearth of goals and shots on target suggest a footballing version of writers block. The invention that is our staple at the club has been bereft, and one of the telltale reasons is the loss of Santi Cazorla.
The Spaniard usually is the man responsible for taking possession from Coquelin, and actually being productive – either feeding the wide men or allowing Ozil to weave his magic. Without him, it leaves Coquelin looking to offload to anyone, or actually doing something with it himself, which isn’t pretty.
This game does bring as close to a guarantee as football can give though. Bournemouth play an expansive type of football, and will not come to The Emirates looking to shut up shop. It is exactly the game we need to bring back a little confidence.
With Bournemouth looking to match our attack every step of the way, it is vital our midfielders step up and spark attacks quickly. With Arsene Wenger’s comments yesterday regarding Granit Xhaka, the Swiss midfielder looks the perfect option to play.
Wenger, speaking in his press conference, said that Xhaka’s strength is the pass which goes straight to high midfield and bypasses the opposition’s midfield. With Bournemouth pressing high up, these quick passes could be the key weapon in piercing the Cherries backline.
Petr Cech should come back to take the gloves from Cup Keeper David Ospina, but Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are still missing, although Lucas Perez could well come in for the midweek EFL Cup tie next week.
Francis Coquelin may be limited, but his skillset is sharp. He is the midfield destroyer and again exhibited what he brings in the tussle with PSG on Wednesday. Will he play again so soon after a tough game? Or will Mohamed Elneny be given another chance to pick up some form? Surely Granit Xhaka is the perfect option to play, and with Aaron Ramsey looking assured in the tie with PSG, a midfield combo of Xhaka and Ramsey could well be on the cards.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud combined to great effect in our last match in the PL – the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford – but will either be given a chance from the start? Giroud may find himself on the bench with Alexis starting in the striker spot, but The Ox could grab Alex Iwobi’s spot on the left, with Theo occupying the right attack and Ozil again in the hole. It is all conjecture, but it does show the variety we have in the squad. Giroud would certainly be unlucky not to play, seeing as he has scored in his last two games – and hasn’t started a game in the Premier League this season.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe will have to do without midfield dynamo Jack Wilshere, as playing against his parent club is not part of his loan contract. Speaking of contracts, Arsene Wenger spoke of Wilshere’s Arsenal contract, and stated he is keen to tie Wilshere up for next season. He has impressed all with not only his form on the South Coast, but his fitness. He may have just forced himself into Wengers plans for the future, and with Santi Cazorla not getting any younger, Jack seems the perfect option to replace his vibrant play.
Bournemouth are not a one-man threat though. Calum Wilson, Josh King and Stanislas can all cause defenders nightmares on their day. They also earned their first away win and clean sheet in their last match, by winning 1-0 against Stoke. Their confidence will be high and it will be an entertaining test.
Arsenal lie three points from top spot, and have drawn three of our last four games. We are still within touching distance, but this game will be a telltale sign as to how low the confidence is within the camp. Bournemouth will not camp in their own box, so there can be no excuses regarding a stubborn opponent.
This match will hinge on one thing – which team has the sharper blade? The squad lists point to the Gunners.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez.
Predicted Score – 4-1 Arsenal