The Cherries, who had cruised to an impressive 3-0 win over managerless Swansea on Saturday, had come up with a solid showing the last time both sides had met at the Emirates, but the game had yielded a disappointing 3-1 loss to the Gunners.
The recent 2-0 win over Crystal Palace did lift Arsenal to third in the table, nine points behind table topping Chelsea and one point ahead fourth placed Spurs, had picked up a crucial 2-0 win at Vitality Stadium last season, thanks to goals from Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil.
Gunners look to cement top four berth
Olivier Giroud’s stunning scorpion kick and Alex Iwobi’s late strike were enough to see off Sam Allardyce’s Palace on Sunday at the Emirates, as Manchester City slipped out of the top four for the first time this season.
It was Giroud’s second goal in just as many games as the 1-0 win over West Brom on Boxing Day had seen the out-of-favor Frenchman find the back of the net with a bullet header to get Arsenal back on track following their defeat to Manchester City.
Giroud’s usage in the last two games has seen Alexis Sanchez drop off to play on the left and has allowed Mesut Ozil a target man to look for up front. Although, the influential German was missing through an illness against the Eagles, but a return to action against Eddie Howe’s side could see Arsenal adopt a more direct approach.
Wenger’s men have third best defensive record in the league this season, after Chelsea and Tottenham. The acquisition of Shkodran Mustafi and the centre-half pairing that the former Valencia man has formed with Laurent Koscielny has meant that Arsenal have conceded only 19 goals this season- joint third best with Manchester United. It’s been a key to their performances this season.
In terms of goals scored too, Arsenal are third best in the league at 42, only behind Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp’s free-flowing Liverpool side. The goal-scoring exploits of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have been crucial and the Germany International, quite strangely so, has record more goals than assists this season. Theo Walcott, who missed the last games, has scored eight times too, indicative of how his rise to prominence is well underway.
This is only the fourth time that both sides are meeting each other and Arsenal have come out on top in all three of them.
The Cherries go hunting for consistency
Despite being as high as tenth in the table, Bournemouth seem to fall short of consistency. They win one game and lose the next. And the cycle has seemed to continue since the season began. The 3-0 triumph over floundering Swansea two days ago was impressive enough, but playing Arsenal and losing to them could bring back inconsistency back to the fore.
The Cherries are known to put up a fight against the bigger side of the division and their 4-3 win over Liverpool and the solid 0-0 draw against Spurs goes to show that. And the fact that both games were played at Vitality Stadium itself proves that Bournemouth aren’t a side to be taken for granted, especially at home when the crowd is right behind them.
The energy with which the Bournemouth forward line and the midfield closes the opposition down at home is always troublesome for any side, let alone a team from the top six of the league. They have collected the tenth highest amount of points at home this season- 16 and are only two and three points behind City and United in that sense.
Eddie Howe’s men from the South Coast are eighth in the league, in terms of most goals scored and their performances against teams from the lower half have helped them better that tally. Jack Wilshere’s impressive showings have made sure that the Englishman has acted as the chief creator for Bournemouth in the heart of the park- picking the ball up from deep and circulating it forward with purpose.
They have though, they have let in 31 goals- the eighth highest in the league and the occasional tendency to concede two or three in a game have played a part in not taking them to ninth or eighth in the table.
Doubtful duo could worry Arsenal
While Arsenal still have Mathieu Debuchy, Santi Cazorla and Per Mertesacker out, the fitness of Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott would be worrying Arsene Wenger. Ozil is doubt because of an illness, while Walcott is yet to recover from his calf strain.
For Bournemouth though, the exclusion of Marc Pugh isn’t a surprise considering the match winner during their game against Leicester missed the last two games too. Summer signing Lewis Cook would still be out and is likely to return later this month. And Jack Wilshere won’t feature as the side he is on loan from the side that is coming to town.
Bournemouth: Boruc; Francis, Cook, Ake, Daniels; Arter, Surman; Smith, Stanislas, King; Afobe.
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Sanchez; Giroud.