Arsenal’s beleaguered troops took the first small step towards rebuilding their tattered reputation by recording a routine win over Bournemouth at the weekend. Three crucial points saw them climb up to the giddy heights of ninth in the table, but more impressive was the performance. It was the perfect game to get their season back on track as Bournemouth never park the bus and always try to play football. That plays directly into Arsenal’s hands and they earned their third consecutive comfortable home win over Eddie Howe’s men.
The Gunners were expected to win as they had the lowest odds of any Premiership team that weekend, but the relief was palpable in Arsene Wenger’s post-match interview. It was exactly the result he needed: two early goals silenced the Wenger Out brigade and forced a happier mood upon proceedings at The Emirates. Had they gone in at half-time losing or drawing, the boos would have been deafening. As it is they recorded an almost perfect victory: a clean sheet, three goals that will give confidence to Danny Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette, and an eye-pleasing performance.
The manner of the victory should give the whole club a lift: fans, players, officials and most certainly Wenger. But greater challenges lie ahead. Social media users quipped that the eagerly anticipated meltdown on Arsenal Fan TV has simply been delayed to the next match against Chelsea, insinuating that the Blues would destroy Arsenal at Stamford Bridge and mutinous supporters will rant and rave into the microphone.
Yet there is actually cause for optimism given Arsenal’s recent form against Chelsea. They beat them 2-1 in the cup final and followed it up with victory in the Community Shield courtesy of a penalty shoot-out. In both games Arsenal were the better team and deserving of the win. Of course, Chelsea are a different animal now as they look reinvigorated and have won three games in a row to move third in the table.
The defending Premiership champions are the clear favourites to win the game at YouWager, a trusted bookmaker with strong reviews, and Arsenal are outsiders. But Gunners fans can afford to be a little more optimistic going into the game after the result they achieved on Sunday. The team looked far more balanced than they did away at Anfield, where they were humiliated in the previous game. Shunting Hector Bellerin out to the left to accommodate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right was a failed experiment, and Arsenal looked a better team for not having to find a place for Oxlade-Chamberlain. While Liverpool’s £40 million new boy started on the bench as his team lost 5-0 to Man City, Arsenal were doing their own goal difference the world of good. Welbeck scored two and set up the other for Lacazette, and he may well keep his place in the team ahead of the Chelsea game. Alexis Sanchez was booed by sections of the home support for trying to force a transfer to City on deadline day, but one way to win them back over would be to put the Blues to the sword next weekend. Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac were electric on the wings and Granit Xhaka earned a measure of redemption with a composed performance.
Bournemouth are still yet to gain a point this season and Chelsea are streets ahead of the Cherries. Getting a result at Stamford Bridge will undoubtedly be a tall order and it is a shame that Arsenal lost Francis Coquelin to injury as the Frenchman could have given them more bite in midfield. But it is good to see Laurent Koscielny back and looking composed. First up the Gunners host FC Koln in the Europa League and Wenger has promised to field a relatively strong side. It might be prudent for him to rest his best players ahead of the Chelsea game and give fringe players a run out against the Germans. If they go into the game against the Blues with hunger and determination they could surprise everyone. A result against Chelsea would be a huge step in the right direction.