After an ultimately underwhelming draw against PSG in midweek, Arsenal return to Premier League action aiming to finish the doomed month of November off in memorable fashion at the Emirates.
Bournemouth are Sunday’s visitors, and Eddie Howe’s side are eager to build momentum after a morale-boosting victory away in Stoke-on-Trent last time out. Here’s our Arsenal v Bournemouth preview:
Nathan Aké’s towering headed effort, after some sloppy marking in the area, was enough for Bournemouth to prevail. This, however, is a completely different challenge against an unpredictable Arsenal side which is never good for opposition teams away from home.
Arsenal v Bournemouth – Press conference
In the pre-match presser, Arsène Wenger answered a variety of questions – ranging from the side’s 18-match unbeaten run to Eddie Howe’s success on the south Coast and inevitably, midfielder Jack Wilshere.
The talented 24-year-old, who has been plagued with a series of long-term injuries in recent seasons, joined Bournemouth on a season-long loan deal on deadline day back in August. Since then, he’s managed to complete 90 minutes on four consecutive matchdays and continues to develop his all-round game.
Due to the terms of his loan, he’s ineligible to face the Gunners this weekend, but Wenger had this to say about the midfielder, “I felt honestly that if a guy who has been educated here has another season where he doesn’t play because I don’t give him the chance [other players fitter], it would be unfair. We will see how he goes at the end of the season, if Jack comes back to his right level he will play for us.”
On whether Arsenal’s unbeaten run has been overstated recently, given their indifferent performances over the past few weeks, he answered, “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. 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.”
Three successive draws (Tottenham, United and PSG) have raised questions as to whether Arsenal genuinely have enough to sustain a title challenge this season, but equally drawn praise from some critics who wrote Wenger’s side off before a ball had been kicked at the start of the season.
Wenger also hinted at the possibility of rotating his side given the intensity that was on display in midweek against Unai Emery’s men. “I think we have a big enough squad to rotate a little bit because games like Paris Saint-Germain demand a lot,” he added
Arsenal v Bournemouth – Team news
In terms of team news and injury updates, there is no change from midweek.
Chuba Akpom (back), Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck (both knee) are all sidelined until the start of 2017, whilst Lucas Pérez (ankle) is expected to return at some stage next week.
Santi Cazorla (Achilles) is still at least two weeks away from a full return [Edit if we’re lucky], whilst recent reports have suggested Hector Bellerín (ankle) will return to light training at the start of next week.
Kieran Gibbs impressed at left-back in midweek and fitness permitting, could start once more, as competition between himself and Nacho Monreal continues to intensify with matches coming thick-and-fast.
Aaron Ramsey split opinion with his display against PSG, but Wenger is expected to keep faith with the Welshman and start him alongside either Francis Coquelin or Granit Xhaka as part of a midfield duo.
A start could also be in the offing for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has excelled with notable cameo appearances recently but is yet to complete a full 90 in the Premier League this term.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Xhaka; Ox, Sánchez, Özil; Giroud.
Arsenal v Bournemouth – The opposition
As previously stated, Bournemouth are a side eager to build momentum after topsy-turvy results thus far this campaign. They’ve already recorded five defeats this term, but find themselves in a respectable 10th place and have enough quality – even without Wilshere – to cause Arsenal plenty of problems in the final third.
Having kept four clean sheets this term, Howe’s men have done well to silence early doubts over second-season syndrome and will relish another test against one of the League’s best, having held north London rivals Tottenham to a goalless draw at the end of October.
Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas have both scored three league goals this term, and could pose viable threats to the Gunners’ backline. Harry Arter’s level in midfielder has been raised in the presence of Wilshere so it’ll be interesting to see how they shape up without Jack.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Federici; Daniels, Aké, Francis, Cook; Arter, Gosling; Pugh, Stanislas, King; Wilson.