For the final Premier League game of November, Arsene Wenger made seven (7!) changes to the team which drew 2-2 with PSG in midweek. Out went Ospina, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Iwobi, and Giroud. In came Cech, Debuchy, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Walcott.
The French international right-back was making his first appearance since November last year and he looked comfortable enough until the 15th minute when he went down with an injury. He must feel somewhat cursed, his time at the club has been punctuated by problems, and he said afterwards he thought it was ‘severe‘, so he faces another spell on the sidelines when perhaps a door had been opened for him to play a few games with Bellerin out of action. Gabriel came on to replace him.
Before that we’d taken the lead when a defensive howler presented Alexis Sanchez with the kind of chance he just gobbles up. The defender underhit his pass back to the keeper, the Chilean picked it up and rolled the ball home to make it 1-0.
To Bournemouth’s credit they responded well and were enjoying a pretty good spell when they were handed the chance to equalise. Firstly, a foul on Mesut Ozil was completely ignored and when the ball rebounded off Alexis into the box, Callum Wilson threw himself into Monreal, a move which referee Mike Jones deemed a foul by the Arsenal man. Shkodran Mustafi picked up a yellow card for his protests, and Wilson made no mistake from the spot to equalise.
As has been our way a bit this season, we wobbled a bit, and they might have been ahead almost straight away but a glorious chance was spurned, Smith (I think), heading over the bar when he really should have scored. We did end the first period strongly, and Alexis came close to restoring the lead but his fizzing slicer smashed off the bar with the keeper well and truly beaten.
We went ahead early in the second half through Theo Walcott. Ozil twisted and turned in the box, clipped the ball to the back post and Nacho Monreal’s first time cross to the back post was perfectly weighted for Walcott to nod home. He did the rock-a-bye-baby celebration for some reason. No idea why.
Once again though, Bournemouth didn’t let their heads drop and it was all very even. We had to defend well at times as they threatened after spells of good possession, and there was another penalty shout against Monreal for handball, but it was very much a case of ball to hand. Petr Cech made a smart save to deny former Arsenal man Benik Afobe an equaliser.
Ramsey and Giroud came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott, and both of them added something to our attacking play. Ramsey crossed for Giroud, Giroud chested one down for Ramsey but he couldn’t quite get over the shot. The Frenchman was involved in the goal that sealed the deal though, running onto an Ozil pass and cutting it back for Alexis to side-foot home as the game went into injury time.
It capped an excellent day for the Chilean who felt so good about things he gave what I think was his first ever post-game interview in English. You can see it here, but this was by far the best bit:
Alexis: “I am happy for my friend [Walcott], for the team, for the fans is fantastic, so now I'm going to go home with my dogs!” pic.twitter.com/XFhDyCALfz
— arseblog (@arseblog) November 27, 2016
So, nice to get back to winning ways, something Arsene Wenger was pleased about afterwards too, saying:
I felt we started well but when they equalised we were nervous and that’s where having three consecutive draws played a little bit on our minds. At half-time it was down to us to calm down and focus on the game we wanted to play. In the second half we created many dangerous situations but Bournemouth remained dangerous too because they can keep the ball well and attack very well. They’re one of the teams who can compare their possession with the top teams in the Premier League.
And, of course, he had praise for man of the match Sanchez:
Even when he looks dead, he’s still alive and always finds the resources to do something special. He has that conditioning which allows him to always find an extra gear to be dangerous.
That brings his goal total for the season to 10, the first player to hit double figures so far, and once again we saw a team that looked more cohesive when he played up front. Further back I thought the midfield worked pretty well, particularly in the second half. Elneny was all energy and as tidy on the ball as ever, while Xhaka made 9/11 tackles, 14 ball recoveries, 3 interceptions and used the ball very smartly at times.
We thought that perhaps the Sp*rs game was a breakthrough one for him, but he still ended up benched for the next two. Yesterday was another very positive display, and hopefully he can kick on from here, and maybe he’s convinced the manager a little further as to what he can bring to the team.
Overall, a difficult enough day, Bournemouth played well and made it more challenging than some might have expected, but it was hugely important to get a win under our belts again and we did just that. And look, when you take three points and Jose Mourinho gets sent off again, it’s a good day all in all. Given the other results this weekend, we had to win, and there were some positive signs from the performance in general.
Now, our attention turns to Wednesday night and the EFL Cup. That’ll probably be something James and I will discuss in the Arsecast Extra this morning. Remember, if you have questions or topics for discussion, please send them to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter and use the hashtag #arsecastextra. Podcast will be available for you before lunch.