Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Arsenal's Trip To Bournemouth Previewed

It's been just over 48 hours since Arsenal last played, but the festive TV schedule dictates that they must play again tonight. They travel to the south coast to play a Bournemouth team who have had an extra 24 hours to recover after they played at Swansea on Saturday and they will hope to get some advantage from that. It's not easy to know what advantage they might gain, but Arsene Wenger has to be wary of fatigue in his players and will probably make a few changes. 

He also has to be conscious of the need to close the gap on Chelsea and that Arsenal would close that gap to six points with a win tonight. Chelsea don't play until tomorrow night and they will equal Arsenal's record of 14 consecutive Premier League wins if they beat Spurs. I'm sure Spurs will have no will to keep an Arsenal record intact, but equally they will want to win their way back into the top four after City pushed them back to fifth place yesterday.

Things are tightening up behind Chelsea with Liverpool only drawing at Sunderland and United winning again and Arsenal need to do their part tonight. The defeats at Everton and City before Christmas were huge blows to their title ambitions, but the chance to possibly gain some ground on Chelsea tonight just cannot be passed up. They play away to Chelsea early next month and they need to keep them within touching distance before that game comes around.

Bournemouth are no pushovers though as they showed when they came from 3-1 down at home to Liverpool to win 4-3. Arsenal cannot let them get a foothold in the game tonight and they need to be ruthless with the chances which Bournemouth will give up. They can be good going forward, but they have real issues in defence and Arsenal need to take advantage of them.

The absence of Arsenal loanee Jack Wilshere will be  a blow for Bournemouth and that absence should hopefully help Arsenal to gain a grip of the game in midfield. When they came to the Emirates not so long ago Bournemouth played well and the 3-1 score line was a little flattering for Arsenal. A similar result tonight would be more than acceptable and any win will do for me.

I can't see Alexis Sanchez sitting this one out or any other game for that matter if he has anything to do with it. I would be surprised to see Olivier Giroud miss out too as fatigue cannot be a factor for a player who has hardly started a game so far this season. There are a few others too who should be good too good with defenders usually having a little less to recover from than their attacking counterparts.

We could see Shkodran Mustafi make a return, but I think Gabriel Paulista might just keep his place. Mustafi still hasn't lost a game in an Arsenal shirt and I think he is our best option alongside Laurent Koscielny in central defence, but he might have to wait a little while before ousting Gabriel from the team. Otherwise there's the possibility of switching Kieran Gibbs for Nacho Monreal in defence too, but again I don't think it will happen after Gibbs picked up a knock a couple of games ago. 

Elsewhere in the team I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get a chance to play from the start. With rotation needed the three of them should be more than capable of playing, but I imagine Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott will still be short and Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker will need a little longer before they make their comebacks. It's still a pretty strong team though and certainly strong enough to take the three points.

The defensive situation has at least improved in the last two games with consecutive clean sheets, but I'm still a little worried about the lack of chances being created and goals scored at the moment. It looked to have improved against Bournemouth and West Ham, but things haven't been too good in that department for too long now. If we're going to really challenge for the league (which I doubt) we will need to find a ruthless streak. At the moment that ruthless streak is missing, but a comprehensive win tonight could be just what the doctor ordered to get things further back on track.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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