Arsenal saw a lack of organisation allow Bournemouth’s simple approach to prove effective, while they struggled to put their opponents away again despite the result, writes Oliver Fisher.
A perfect response
When Arsenal took a 12th minute lead in front of an expectant home crowd through Alexis Sanchez, you could be forgiven for thinking the result would become a formality.
The reality, however, was that Bournemouth regrouped exceptionally and produced a wonderful fightback that had Arsenal thoroughly rattled.
The Cherries deployed a solid game plan in which they attempted to exploit the home side’s defensive frailties. Arial balls whipped in with good quality, plus clever runs from striker Callum Wilson stretched the back-line and put Arsene Wenger’s side under serious pressure.
Then came the contentious incident. Wilson was adjudged to have been bundled over by Nacho Monreal as he chased a deflected ball that was heading to the byline. The referee pointed to the spot without hesitation, and Wilson made no mistake from the spot.
In truth, the spaces were opening up between the central defenders and full-backs for Arsenal, and that’s what Eddie Howe set out to stretch using the pace and intelligence of Wilson, and they almost took the lead moments after restoring parity.
Nathan Ake’s header back across goal was put over by Adam Smith, and Gunners fans were forced to rally their troops, having not expected such a period of pressure from the visitors.
Then Brad Smith found space in the left side of the area having taken advantage of the aforementioned Arsenal frailty, and Cech was required to parry his shot when Wilson was seemingly unmarked. The Gunners were seriously at sea, and the fact they left the field to audible boos was an indication of the balance of play.
Prolific and decisive
Despite an impressive first half from Bournemouth, Theo Walcott restored Arsenal’s lead with a back-post header.
The goal meant that the Gunners had amassed six shots on target in the last four matches, and scored six goals. Maybe not creating bags of chances, but certainly putting them away when it matters.
Is this the hallmark of a good team? Or does it expose the fact that they may often come up short against top sides?
Goals breed confidence, and that proved to be the case as the Gunners took advantage of Bournemouth’s change in approach. The Cherries were forced to play higher, no longer able to put nine players inside the box to defend due to the fact it would yield no reward.
Wenger’s side still struggled to break Bournemouth down decisively despite numerous balls down the flanks and runs to the byline, demonstrating that they still lack either a combination of the ideas, final ball and presence from the centre-forward.
Ultimately, that makes games that should be straightforward (for a supposed title challenger) look and feel a lot more difficult than they should. It allowed the visitors to have decent spells of play and always remains within touching distance, and as the game went on the travelling support became more hopeful.
The Cherries had an effort cleared off the line heightening the sense of insecurity around the Emirates, and adding to the argument that Arsenal can struggle to put teams away.
Nonetheless, a late Alexis Sanchez goal did end any risk of a late stunner, and the three points is a big psychological boost to a team that had drawn three on the spin in all competitions heading into the fixture.