Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Arsenal See Off Bournemouth As Bigger Tests Await Them

After a traumatic two week wait for a game since their 4-0 drubbing by Liverpool it was back to Premier League action for Arsenal on Saturday when Bournemouth came calling. We didn't find them easy to beat last season with a 3-3 draw at their place while we struggled to eventually beat them 3-1 at the Emirates. It was a different matter on Saturday though as Arsenal won easily and could have scored a few more than the three goals they managed.

The team was more or less as expected with the exception of Alexis Sanchez I suppose who was on the bench with Danny Welbeck retaining his place. We did see the return of both Sead Kolasinac and Alexander Lacazette though which meant the team looked balanced with players playing in more or less their best positions. The one exception was Nacho Monreal who looks like he's now a certainty as one of the three central defenders despite it not being his position. He has done well there though and it makes sense to play him on the left of that back three.

As good as Arsenal were it has to be said Bournemouth offered very little and it was all too easy. Welbeck took his second goal well even if he was a little fortunate with his first goal and Lacazette took his goal very well too. We were rarely under pressure at the back with the exception of Jermain Defoe hitting the post early in the second half and a late flurry which saw Petr Cech make one good save right at death when we were down to 10 men.

The reason we were a man shy was Francis Coquelin picked up an injury when we had already used all of our subs and his absence means are midfield options are even more limited. He would have been a shoe-in to play against Cologne in the Europa League on Thursday night, but Arsene Wenger might have to get a little creative with his team selection now. I suppose Mohamed Elneny will play, but who partners him in the centre of midfield is the big question and will it mean a recall for Jack Wilshere.

As tempted as the manager might be to play a much weakened side he will also want to make sure we're not playing catch up in our group as it's a competition we can most definitely have real hopes of winning. United showed the advantages of winning it last season as it qualified them for the Champions League despite only finishing sixth in the league and we might need that safety net come the end of the season. The problem with playing a strong team is we face Chelsea away from home three days later and it's a game where we have to turn up in a big way.

After the debacle of Liverpool and our dreadful away record against any sort of good side for far too many years it has reached a stage where the fans are unwilling to accept any more of the dross we have seen far too often. Anything other than a defeat at Chelsea would be a great result, but if we lose while playing well and giving our all it would be a marked improvement from what we have seen too often in the past and against Liverpool only a couple of weeks ago. Chelsea have recovered from losing their opening game and look like they will be right up there in the title race again this season.

When you look at our players as individuals they are capable of being a very good team, but far too often the sum of the parts does not match up to those individual parts. We need to play as a team with players who are willing to give their all for the team and for their team mates too with no players hiding. It's certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility, but after Liverpool it's a hard stretch to believe it will happen.

If we can come through the Chelsea game with our pride intact the fixture schedule is pretty kind to us relatively speaking until at least November. We could give ourselves something to build on in that Chelsea game and a good run after it could leave us in a fairly good position. I know there's a lot of ifs and buts in there and the chances are the team will let us down, but as a fan you have to believe your team can do it despite what your eyes tell you sometimes.

I'm not saying we're going to win the league, but we have been completely written off for a top four place by far too many "experts" already. A top four finish is most certainly not beyond the team and squad as it is even if the chances of winning the league are slim to none. While a top four finish isn't the bee all and end all it's certainly far superior to the alternative which sees us playing on Thursday nights this season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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