Getting away with it...
AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Arsenal
The great interlull of 2018 finally came to an end as the Premiership resumed, Arsenal finding themselves on the south coast with a tricky trip to Bournemouth. Memories of the past two visits live long in the memory, points saved and thrown away against a mid table team that really shouldn't be that difficult. Dean Court is hardly a coliseum and Eddie Howe is no Cesar but Arsene Wenger always found it a bogey too hard to pick, would Unai Emery fair any better?
Guessing what the Arsenal boss is going to do with selections and formations is turning into a bit of a mugs game that Ray Winstone would be proud of and again it proved with the announcement of 'three at the back' and Mesut Ozil on the bench. A tight groin being enough for Lacazette to miss the trip meaning Aubameyang getting his chance up top.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi, Holding, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang
Again (again), Arsenal started slowly like a team that had just woken from a deep sleep and had never seen each other before, Bournemouth were pressing and easily exposing the space behind Kolasinac and looking dangerous, the young Brooks in particular seemed to be relishing the chance to run at a back line that were getting undone by simple one two's. At the other end Arsenal were huffing but not puffing, more 'Ivor the Engine' than anything resembling a dragon.
Bournemouth were unlucky not to take the lead in the 8th minute, another one two which found Brooks offside was actually onside. All thanks in no short measure too Mustafi being on his backside again, I'm not sure why he feels the need to go to ground so much, possibly too much FIFA 19, but for a seasoned International it's a genuine concern, his yearning for the 'dive in' rarely serves the team well. Got away with another one!
A few minutes later Torreira managed to hit the post with a good shot from outside the box, the other two he took in the first half were high wide and handsome, but at least he had a go, the only other real chance fell to Aubameyang. Neatly controlling the ball on his chest after a missed header from a conner he managed only to clear the bar when hitting the target was easier.
The first goal when it came was spectacular if not a bit fortunate, on 30 mins Iwobi finding Kolasinac on the left who's poor cross was met with one of the best own goals of the season. A sort of mid air volley from Lerma, quite what the young lad was trying is anyones guess but the result saw the ball whistle past Begovic. 1-0 Arsenal.
Now its at this point commentators will start alerting the viewer to stats, the last time Arsenal went 1-0 up at Bournemouth they lost 2-1 etc, but with just seconds of injury time to go and Arsenal on the attack, most Arsenal fans are thinking...
"..the first winning position at half time this season".
So you can guess what happens next...
Iwobi and Mykitaryan both trying tricks in the Bournemouth penalty area and Iwobi loses possession. Arsenal are caught with six players up front and as Bournemouth break at pace nobody tries to run back apart from Bellerin, (slightly half hearted) . Kolasinac is barely moving on the halfway line as Holding is left two on one. The finish was sublime from King curling the ball away from Leno, but jeeze, what a stupid stupid piece of play from Arsenal.
Did anyone predict the usual Emery changes at halftime? Not for me on this occasion, the same 11 that had done little to inspire trotted out for the second half, Mykitaryan in particular being extremely lucky not to get hooked in my opinion.
So what happened in the second half?
Well Arsenal played better, like they do in second halves. The passing was quicker, the movement more decisive and Kolasinac decided he wasn't going to defend full stop so left Holding to monitor that side of the pitch. The result was a good chance for Aubameyang, wasted over the bar on 63 minute before a quick free-kick got Arsenal back in front. Iwobi with a neat pass to Kolasinac on the left who's cross found Aubameyang for a tap in. Just about deserved for the second half performance in the end but Arsenal did their best not to hang on to the lead. With about 15 minutes to go Unai decided to make some changes bringing on Guendouzi and Ramsey and taking off Torriera, if this move was supposed to shut up shop then it so nearly failed. Bournemouth grew in confidence, hitting the post and missing two very presentable chances in the last ten minutes, at the other end Arsenal had a couple of breaks, one in particular which saw Mykitaryan kick his own foot rather than the ball. Mikki... a proper Meerkat against Bournemouth!
With literally seconds left on the clock, Shodran Mustafi tried to rip the "worst man of the match" trophy from Henrik by doing his 'going to ground' thing. Right on the edge of the Arsenal box, with cover around him, 'that switch' went in his head again, upending the Bournemouth player and presenting the home side with a chance to equalise with the last kick of the game.
What seemed like an age passed before the free-kick came to nothing. Game over and 3 points to Arsenal.
Positives: Not many on the playing side but a win is a win.
Negatives: Defending is still a real problem and isn't improving no matter what formation Unai opts for.
Leno: Didn't do much wrong and and saved us a couple of times. MOM 7/10
Bellerin: Good going forward, could have done more for the equaliser. 7/10
Sokratis: Looked clumsy and got done too many times. 6/10
Mustafi: Just stop it. 3/10
Holding: The best of our back three though he was left exposed by Kolasinac. 7/10
Kolasinac: Missing in action, but set up two goals. Come back quick Monreal. 5/10
Torreira: Not everything worked but Arsenal looked weaker when he went off. 6/10
Xhaka: Did nothing spectacular or nothing terrible. 6/10
Mkhitaryan: Woeful... simples! 2/10
Iwobi: Plenty of tricks, just can't shoot for toffee. 7/10
Aubameyang: Scored one, should have had three, but that one was enough. 7/10
Ramsey: Ran around a lot. 4/10
Guendouzi: Looked composed in possession. 6/10
Nketiah: Got 30 seconds and didn't get a touch, better than Mikki though. 4/10
Next up Europa League fun on Thursday before the big one on Sunday. Sort it out Emery!