Bournemouth 2-1 Arsenal: Cherries come from behind to win after poor defensive show from Arsene Wenger’s sorry side
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Bournemouth came from a goal down to beat an Arsenal side which were poor defensively.
Hector Bellerin put the Gunners ahead in the second half but Eddie Howe’s side clinched the three points through strikes from Ryan Fraser and Jordon Ibe.
Quite simply it was rank bad defending from Arsene Wenger’s team.
The news wantaway striker Alexis Sanchez failed to travel with the first team squad to Bournemouth as suitors Manchester United hovered was not the biggest surprise to Gunners fans.
Since being denied a last-minute summer deadline day move to Manchester City in August, the unsettled Chilean’s performances this season have prompted a loss of goodwill for the 29-year-old.
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The player who won plaudits for the quality of his play over the previous three seasons as well as his never-say-die attitude and livewire efforts has been a shadow of his previous self for long periods over the autumn and winter.
With reports of the former Barcelona man’s attitude being poor in training, alienating many team-mates as well as supporters, the majority of those who watch him week in week out would probably say good riddance to him now as he joins an ever-growing list of Arsenal players to sign for the Red Devils – and as such ruin any legacy they may have had in N5.
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A player who stands in direct contrast to the Tocopilla-born sulk is Jack Wilshere. Substituted at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening only due to an ankle ligament strain the Hitchin-reared 26-year-old travelled with his teammates to the south coast, starting the match to the surprise of many.
Such a positive attitude from an Arsenal player is as refreshing as it is welcomed. No wonder he was the only player from the side who bothered to make it to the premier of 89 The Film at the Holloway Odeon back in November – quite simply the lad cares about The Arsenal and the sooner the club offer him a contract commensurate with his worth the better.
Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey also travelled to match having trained in the week.
The Gunners had never previously lost against the Cherries, even if they were returning, nearly 12 months to the day, to the scene of one of the most incredible matches in recent years, the 3-3 draw at the Vitality which saw the visitors fall three goals behind before rallying to grab a point with all three goals coming in the last 15 minutes.
It was in the aftermath of the final whistle Sanchez first showed his frustration with his teammates, throwing his gloves down in anger.
It was far more revealing than Wenger claiming afterwards his side showed ‘mental strength’ – for whatever the merits of the comeback the fact they were three goals down to a side such as Bournemouth – good as they were to finish in ninth place – the two points dropped were a precursor to appalling form through late winter and early spring. A poor run which was to ultimately cost them a place in the Champions League, even if they rallied to win the FA Cup.
With Wenger admitting at London Colney this week he would be staying in North London until the end of his contract at the very least, a win on Sunday would help strengthen claims his side could challenge for a top four spot as they started the day a distant five points off fourth place Liverpool.
Bournemouth for their part sat in a precarious 17th position, even if boss Howe felt his team were in a false position, citing this week his side had 27 points from 27 games last term comparing it to the 21 from 22 games they had gleaned already this term.
Cherries pair Joshua King and Junior Stanislas failed late fitness tests, having been sidelined in recent weeks with hamstring injuries while Jermain Defoe and Tyrone Mings were back in training but remained unavailable.
Lewis Cook and Dan Gosling started while Ryan Fraser returned to pose a test to the Arsenal backline.
At the homely Vitality there was all to play for in terms of league placings – even if win, lose or draw nothing would be changing at the club for the next season and a half at the earliest.
A fact which, despite the best attacking intentions of Wenger’s forwards, filled many with despair - due to the fact his defensive backline appear disjointed not to say badly organised and lacking shape, discipline or nous when the opposition have the ball.
With Arsenal fielding their youngest side since a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa in November 2012 in which Manny Frimpong and Gervinho played with Yossi Benayoun coming on as substitute.
Bournemouth for their part had lost each of their previous nine Premier League games against ‘big six’ opponents, scoring just twice and conceding 23 goals.
The opening stages were a scrappy affair punctuated by Ainsley Maitland-Niles twisted and turned in the box before thudding a shot against the woodwork on nine minutes before moments later Iwobi forced Asmir Begovic into a diving saving as Arsenal started the match brightly.
The Cherries Simon Francis found his way into referee Kevin Friend’s notebook on the half hour after clipping Danny Welbeck on the halfway line.
But despite plenty of endeavour there was a distinct lack of quality in the final third, as evidenced by Mustafi angling a header over the bar from a Xhaka corner eight minutes before the interval when well placed.
Ibe then fired in a low cross which fell to Fraser in a crowded box who fired a powerful shot which was blocked by Chambers but as Friend blew for half-time you felt relief as much as anything.
It has to be said the one bright spot for Arsenal was the performance of Wilshere in the opening 45 minutes – and to think there may still be football managers out there who think Jake Livermore is more deserving of a place in the England team.
On 56 minutes Bellerin raced through after Iwobi played him in behind the home defence to slot past Begovic to put Arsenal ahead.
However 13 minutes later Fraser sucked in four Arsenal players wide on their left flank before firing a low cross into the box. Wilson who had showed good movement to split the defensive pair in the box and find space slotted home to equalise.
Four minutes later Howe’s men were 2-1 up after Wilson fed Ibe in the box who shot past Cech to spark delirium among the home support.
The pair of home goals while commendable, certainly from a Cherries point of view, were eminently preventable – to a team that is organised defensively.
Which Arsenal are simply not – and won’t be until July 2019 at the earliest.