It’s Bournemouth we are taking on today and you really couldn’t think of a kinder fixture after a drubbing followed by an international break. West Ham, maybe. Crystal Palace, despite being awful under De Boer, would still find a way to cause us problems. They have become something of a bogey team for us in recent seasons.
I’m not saying Bournemouth will be a garden of roses of course. Sure, they lost all three of their opening games, but all by a single goal, and it looked like they would salvage a point at least against City, until the insufferable brat that is Sterling scored in the 97th minute which shouldn’t have been. I can only imagine how hard it was for Bournemouth players to lose in such a fashion in front of their fans on top of that.
Still, the fortunes of Arsenal football club concern me much more. A 1-2 loss to City seems like a gift from above compared to the humiliation we suffered at Anfield. Albeit we got one back on the Scousers by selling them Ox for 40 million. I’m not sure what Pool were thinking when they paid 40 million for Ox (not sure they were thinking at all), but it’s their problem. After their trick with Suarez, the ridiculous Firmino clause and a couple of thrashings at Anfield I’m not overly concerned with the Scousers.
And that brings us back to what I am concerned with: the three points come 5 p.m. Or, rather, 7 p.m., as I’m watching the game from the comfort of my home in Moscow. Let’s shoot to team news.
Team news update
It appears we are going into the game with as clean a bill of health as can be. Iwobi and Chambers should be back in contention, while Wilshere might be in the squad too, though it is less likely to happen for Jack this week:
“He still needs some fitness work, I think. But what I mean is he is in a positive trend. He is getting better and better.” – Arsene Wenger
Apart from that, there will be late checks on players who went away for international duty:
“Alexis, Ospina, Ramsey… they are coming back today [Thursday]. We’ll check that all along the day.”
I have to say this is soothing. I’m sure such a state of health won’t last at Arsenal, but at least we can enjoy it while we can. It also gives the manager options in every position, which is handy given we have at least one glaring hole (I’m looking at you, central midfield).
Player in focus: Mesut Ozil
The German has a good history against the Cherries. Eddie Howe’s men play an attacking style of football unlike many newly-promoted sides, and that means space for our German maestro to exploit.
And exploit he did on previous occasions. I still remember that one game where he created 10 chances but we only won 2-0 because Walcott couldn’t be arsed to finish the lion’s share of those ten chances.
Apart from Bournemouth being a comfortable opponent for Ozil to stretch his muscles on, there are other reasons to think he will perform. Firstly, he is due a performance, and has been for some time. Secondly, he recently called out the critics, which hilariously led to a bunch of them fuming. It is hilarious for two reasons: most of them are twats looking to stick the knife in Arsenal at every conceivable opportunity, but couldn’t handle criticism themselves and because Ozil didn’t call anyone by name. So those the most vitriolic and loud about Arsenal have identified themselves by responding.
However such a move put Ozil under a microscope even more. If he doesn’t perform against Bournemouth, even the milkman will take a stab at him. So the German has backed himself into a corner.
I’m tempted to drop more than half of those who started against Liverpool. Oxlade has thankfully made my job easier here by showing himself out, but we still have a mountain to climb to drop all the underperformers.
I would certainly put Holding out of the crosshairs, the young man’s first two starts this season will last him a lifetime. Question is, whether Wenger trusts Mustafi to perform, and whether Mustafi is actually in a state of mind to perform after we have been vocal about letting him go. The safest bet would be Per Mertesacker alongside Laurent Koscielny. The German’s organisational skills have been sorely missed, just like his calming influence. I would naturally swap Bellerin to the right and start Sead on the left. On a side note, I think we will revert to a 4-2-3-1.
That leaves us with the question of a midfield pairing. It is clear Ramsey and Xhaka ship goals whether directly or indirectly, so Coquelin alongside Granit is the only reasonable answer to this problem. In a left-field shout I would be more than willing to try Chambers and Ramsey in the centre of the park. The former looked very adept at shielding the defence and distributing the ball for a short spell in 2015-2016.
Ozil and Alexis will naturally occupy two of the three spots behind the striker, so I would put Welbeck on the right now Ox is finally gone. Ramsey might be another option if Wenger opts for Coquelin and Xhaka in the middle.
Finally, Alexandre Lacazette should definitely play up front. It was mind-boggling to drop him, a costly mistake indeed, and I’m very hopeful Arsene has learned the lesson at Anfield. Swap him for Giroud/Welbeck later in the game if you must, but Lacazette is our best bet at scoring goals right now, what with Alexis out of form.
Now, the real question is: to what extent Wenger agrees with everything I’ve written above? He certainly won’t go with a Chambers – Ramsey midfield duo, however much I want it or can see it working. I also don’t think we’ll see Ramsey on the right, or Mertesacker start the game.
What I fear most is Arsene reverting to a back four and keeping Xhaka and Ramsey as the central midfield pairing. If he adds someone like Walcott or Iwobi on the right wing on top, we will continue leaking goals, because such a side isn’t equipped with stopping them. Unfortunately, I think at least the former part of my fears will materialise come 3 p.m. Also, I fear Holding will start again, in an attempt to restore some confidence in himself.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Bellerin – Holding – Koscielny – Kolasinac – Xhaka – Ramsey – Welbeck – Ozil – Alexis – Lacazette
We should be well capable of comprehensively beating Bournemouth with the players we have. Whether we will is another question. Much will depend on Arsene Wenger, his ability to motivate players, his selection, his instructions.
I hope sincerely that the spanking at Anfield will make Wenger stop and think what he is doing wrong, and that this thinking will inform better decision-making. I also think that with the window closed we might actually see some commitment from players. Whether it’s worth anything after they have shown none when we needed it most…
With the right attitude and set-up we should be getting the three points. Hope it’s the case come 5 p.m.
Come on you Gunners.