After three games against opposition of varying degrees of difficulty, it wouldn’t be unfair to say today’s match sees that level drop a little.
That’s not to say that Bournemouth are a walkover by any means, we know there’s really no such thing in the Premier League anymore, but they’re not a Sp*rs, Man United, or PSG. Having come through those last three fixtures unbeaten was not bad at all, but having not won a single one leaves us open to some questioning too.
Was it the quality of the opposition that contributed to performances that were somewhat below par, or was it a little bit of a slump in form? My feeling is that it’s a little from column A, and a little from column B. They were challenging games and the balance of the team hasn’t been quite right. We didn’t click as an attacking force really, so trying to get that part of our game working again is crucial today.
The make-up of the front three will be interesting. Will he stick with Giroud up top and Alexis wide, or revert back to playing the Chilean up front as it does make our game a bit more expansive? It’s a difficult one because Giroud is scoring – with 5 goals in his last 6 games. Alexis hasn’t scored in four matches, same for Walcott, Ozil has one in six, while Alex Iwobi is yet to get off the mark this season.
You might wonder if the presence of Giroud in the team and the non-goalscoring from the others is in any way related. Which isn’t to say it’s his fault, but perhaps when you play a relatively static centre-forward, it takes something away from those players who are more mobile and get their chances from moving into the space that an Alexis style striker leaves.
Something to think about for Arsene Wenger anyway, as is what he does in midfield. To Xhaka or not to Xhaka, that is the question. If we’re looking for somebody to add something to that area of the pitch, then the deep-lying playmaker, as the manager referred to him this week, can certainly bring that. It also seems like the perfect game to try him alongside Aaron Ramsey, if Wenger is minded to keep the Welshman in the team (which he seems to be).
He certainly sounds like he wants this game to help push his team forward again, saying:
When you go through a spell where you’re less good and you don’t lose, it’s still a sign of quality and of spirit. I think what you want is to acknowledge what we can improve. We have lost a bit of creativity, fluency and speed in our movement. That’s what we want to find back and keep our strengths. If you start to win again, the whole thing together will look great.
No doubt Eddie Howe will have looked at so-called smaller sides who have had some success at making Arsenal a bit impotent this season. Middlesbrough came to the Emirates and got a draw, and only a late goal from Laurent Koscielny broke the deadlock away at Burnley. It would be a surprise if he was quite that defensive though. He does like his team to be a bit more expansive and adventurous, and while I doubt they’ll go gung-ho at us, the way they generally play might suit us today.
They’re without Jack Wilshere, of course, due to Premier League rules about loan players facing their parent clubs, and he’s become an important part of their team. Even so, we can take nothing for granted. Let’s hope we can find something approaching our best form today, because it really is time we got back to winning ways.
As ever we’ll have full live blog coverage of the game for you, so if you have other Sunday commitments you can keep up to date with what’s going on. Simply check back later for a post with all the info, or bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.
We’ll have all the post-match reports, goals, stats, player ratings and the rest over on Arseblog News afterwards. Until then, have a good one.