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Back To Winning Ways

The international break had finally ended and once again it was time to watch our beloved Arsenal play once more. Thank God that was the last interlull for the year, as we head into a very busy end-of-year fixture list for Premier League clubs. First up on the list was Bournemouth, a side who beat us in this fixture last season for the very first time ever.

Bournemouth have been very confident lately, and their results have been showing it, so this away fixture was going to be a lot trickier than playing against any of the other clubs outside the top 6. And plus, we had drawn our last 3 games in the Premier League, so it was time to pick up another win and gain our confidence back… especially because of who were going to play in our next 2 fixtures. So yes, I was a little nervous for this game but I had the reassurance that some of our key players didn’t participate in the international break and were well rested. That reassurance died down a bit once I saw the team news released. No Lacazette? Özil on the bench? Holding, Mustafi and Sokratis playing? “What’s going on!?” I thought as I looked at this new look to our team. But I tried to look at it from a tactical approach, and I tried to see it how the experts would see it. With all 3 of our center backs playing, as well as Bellerin and Kolasinac, this meant we were resorting to 5 at the back, something we haven’t seen Emery play with before. You see, with the 3 central midfielders, this meant that Bellerin and Kola had license to bomb forward more, and provide the width… but it also meant that there would be more stability at the back. Maybe he realized the attacking threat of Bournemouth and decided that he needed more defenders, or maybe he took a chance on a new system just to see how it pans out? Either way, it worked, but only just.

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We were extremely lucky not to have gone 1-0 down in the opening 7 minutes. Brooks scored for Bournemouth but his goal was deemed offside luckily. Looking at some of the replays, you could see that has was marginally onside as the ball was played to him. It’s those kind of decisions that won’t go in our favour next year when VAR is implemented. Lucas Torreira struck the post not more than a minute later after a great interception ad run. That would’ve been the Uruguayans first goal for the club, and it was too bad he was denied by the upright. In terms of first half displays, it wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t the greatest. Our defenders couldn’t really cope with the speed of Bournemouth’s attackers, and so resorted to some wresting moves occasionally to bring them down. However, from an attacking perspective we did a little better. Kolasinac and Bellerin worked really hard down those wings and were often the outlet for all our attacks. One of those balls that Kola crossed in led to one of the most beautiful own goals I’ve seen since Carl Jenkinson scored for us in pre-season a few years ago. Lermer tried to block the cross coming in but instead toe-poked/volleyed it past Begovic to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal.

It seemed like we were going to go into the break with the lead for the first time this season, but on the stroke of half time Bournemouth hit us with a counter attack after we committed too many bodies forward in search of a second goal. Josh King was unmarked in space, as Brooks played the ball to him, only for him to curl the ball beautifully into the top left corner of Leno’s goal to make it 1-1 before half time. F*********ck… So close! But at least we weren’t in a losing position. I knew that we were stronger in the second half, so I wasn’t too worried at this stage.

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We looked a better side in the second half, and grabbed a goal half way through after Lerma brought down Mustafi. The free kick was taken quickly, and Alex Iwobi played a beautiful ball in for Kola to latch onto, who then played it across the face of goal towards Aubameyang, who slid to get a touch on it and placed it in the bottom corner. 2-1 to the Arsenal and we had our lead back. A few moments later, Torriera was subbed off for Guendouzi, which shocked me a bit, because when you’re holding a 2-1 lead, you need someone like Torriera to help see out the game. But Emery stated in the post match conference that Torreira seemed to be tiring and didn’t want to risk him getting an injury. Fair enough. The other substitution saw Iwobi come off for Ramsey, which baffled me even more. I really thought Emery would bring Mhki off as he was having a torrid game in my opinion. Bournemouth continued to threaten for the rest of the half and came close as Lerma struck the same post that Torreira did in the first half. They had a 95th minute free kick outside of our box as well after Mustafi pulled one of his classic fouls out at a dangerous time. I genuinely thought they were gonna score from that, I mean, that’s the luck you deserve when your defender makes stupid decisions like that, right? But alas, Stanislas blasted it over and the referee called an end to the game, meaning that we were 17 games unbeaten and 1 point behind Chelsea in the top 4.

My Player Ratings:

Leno: 6/10

Didn’t have much to do. Make a couple of good saves but his distribution on the day was off.

Bellerin: 7/10

Provided a constant threat down that right hand side. Good running on the day.

Mustafi: 5/10

Not bad, but not his greatest game. -1 for conceding a foul in a dangerous area at a dangerous time. Had me real nervous.

Holding: 6/10

Pretty standard game for him. I think he struggled to cope with the pace of Bournemouth’s attack at times.

Sokratis: 6/10

Great to have him back, although showed some signs of a Greek wrestler within him. Still made a couple of good tackles though.

Kolasinac: 8/10

Great game from Kola today. Misread a couple of passes but was a threat down the left and bagged 2 assists in the end. Probably my MOTM.

Xhaka: 6/10

I thought he captained the side well today in the absence of Özil. Controlled the midfield quite well.

Torreira: 7/10

Good game for him as well. Passed well and made a shit load of interceptions to win possession back. Came close to scoring by hitting the post.

Mhkitaryan: 4/10

Probably the worst player on the day if you ask me. Nothing was coming off for him and his passing wasn’t great. Also, what was going on with his hair on the day?

Iwobi: 6/10

Had an average game, showed some attacking promise at times. Fed that beautiful ball in to Kola for the second goal, therefore he assisted the assister.

Aubameyang: 7/10

Won the game for us in the end, but went missing for a large portion of the game which frustrated me. Great finish though… Tied on top of the list of most goals next to Sergio Aguero.

Subs:

Guendouzi: 6/10

Still shows so much confidence on the pitch! Passing was good.

Ramsey: 6/10

Didn’t have much time to play but linked up well with Xhaka in Midfield.

Nketiah: N/A

Was on for way too short for me to rate him

So in the end we triumphed and walked away with all three 3 points. That was a much needed win to get our spirits up before the big North London Derby on Sunday. First up we’ve got some Europa League action on Thursday, but with us already through to the knockout stages,  hope Emery rests a lot of the key players so that we can put out a strong side for Sunday’s match. I think we’ll win it!

Come on you Gunners!

- Written by Gunnercast ZA

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