Boxing Day was a huge reality check for the players and the manager as it came immediately after the highs of the win over Manchester City. The 4-0 drubbing at Southampton was not what you’d expect from title favourites but fortunately for Arsenal, just about any team in the league looks capable of taking a beating like that right now so one defeat doesn’t change the fact that we are capable of lifting the championship come May. The advantage we built over Manchester City with that win has been wiped out immediately and it is up to the players to put things right over the next couple of games at home before a run of difficult fixtures in January and February.
We play Bournemouth on Monday, less than 48 hours after playing away to Southampton and it is further proof of the sheer stupidity of the scheduling being left at the hands of Sky and BT Sports. Given our lack of options and rest, this is another game where we could really struggle and it is going to take a massive effort to get the better of an impressive Cherries side that will be up for a battle at the Emirates.
- Introduce yourself/your blog to our readers.
My name is Peter Bell. I started going to AFC Bournemouth games in 1981 but even followed them in the late 1970s before my first visit to Dean Court. Cherry Chimes began in 2013 just after Eddie Howe took up his second manager’s term at the club when AFC Bournemouth were playing in League One. My main job is as a journalist so I like writing and just wanted to share my thoughts as a fan with a wider audience as there was not much to read about the Cherries when I was searching for news and views.
- How has the experience of playing in the top flight been so far? What are the expectations for the season?
It has been very difficult for the players and the club. It has been hectic with so many requirements for the ground and media coverage but the club had got over the fantasy of being in the Premier League and the team is now getting some good results. I guess the Cherries have acclimatised and now it is about keeping the consistent performances going and getting some of the players back who have long term injuries before the end of the season.
On the expectation front, I don’t think AFC Bournemouth fans demand a high finish but they want to stay up this season and get some notable wins along the way. My prediction was 14th but as long as they finish above three other teams, we will be delighted.
- Who are the key players for Bournemouth?
We have been surprised by the players that have been most in-form this season as some of them did not feature that much in our Championship winning season. For me it is Dan Gosling that has been the player that has been doing most to get the Cherries playing well in the centre of midfield.
It has also been a big season for Charlie Daniels at left back considering Eddie Howe brought in a record signing Tyrone Mings to give him competition. Matt Ritchie is the player that always had the skill to play at the top level though and he can score special goals as I am sure everyone knows now.
- Just how good a talent is Eddie Howe? Do you see him being successful at a big club like Arsenal in the future?
Eddie Howe has coached all through the league divisions. He has managed with transfer embargoes, points’ deductions and used teenage players just to have 11 men on the pitch. Against all that, he has won three promotions and won the Championship last season. His record is pretty amazing for an English manager of 38 years of age. He will go to the very top of the game, but having left AFC Bournemouth as a player and once as a manger, he has always come back and the bond with the club and fans is unlike anything any other manager is likely to have at a club.
If Eddie does decide that he has to move on at some point, I don’t think it would be Arsenal. His boyhood club was Everton but he loves continental football and maybe he would look for an experience on the continent if he was not considered for the England manager’s job in the future. For the foreseeable future though his dream is to make AFC Bournemouth a bigger club by remaining in the Premier League and building on that.
- How have the summer signings fared so far?
It has been a real disappointment that so many of the new signings have not had much of a chance to show how good they might be. Max Gradel was injured as early as August and Tyrone Mings also had a cruciate ligament injury in the same game against Leicester. Christian Atsu has been on loan from Chelsea and played in two Capital One games but has also been out with a stressed fracture. Sylvain Distin has been great at bring some experience to the back four when he has played and Artur Boruc and Adam Federici are keepers that were used to playing at this level but have had some difficult games. The biggest plus has been Josh King. Even though he has only scored twice this season his game has come on massively and we can all see the improvement.
- How have the long term injuries to the likes of Mings and Callum Wilson affected Bournemouth’s performances?
Eddie Howe has played it down but it has been a big setback. Tyrone Mings has not affected the team so much as Charlie Daniels has been amazing at left back. Still, the team has had to accommodate the loss of Callum’s pace by using players in different ways. Junior Stanislas has come into the side and added the trickery and speed of attack that Max Gradel was bought for.
Josh King and Glenn Murray have had to try and fill the void where Wilson played and Eddie Howe has been using a five-man midfield instead of the 4-4-2 formation that did so well for the team in the Championship. The ankle injury to Tommy Elphick has meant that Adam Smith has played at right back and he has done a tremendous job with Simon Francis moving to centre back. So there have been changes all through the team to get the balance right.
- Your take on Arsenal Football Club.
Title favourites for me; While Arsene Wenger has his critics, the side he has built has an array of attacking talent when they are all fit and the movement and passing of the team is probably the best in the country. In the past it would have been great just to play Arsenal once in the FA Cup or League Cup, but now it is fantastic for our supporters to see how our team will fare against such a top side that is also in the Champions League. It is what our players aspire to. In Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have world-class players and to visit the Emirates stadium will be a huge day out for our fans. But don’t expect us to just roll over. AFC Bournemouth like being underdogs and upsetting the odds.
- Do you think Arsenal are genuine title challengers having seen the best and worst of Arsenal last week?
Despite the defeat to Southampton on Boxing Day, Arenal are still in a great position and will be eager to put matters right. They were supreme against Man City and that quality they have and can unleash at any moment. It would have been helpful for the Cherries if Southampton had been stuffed but they never do us any favours. I’ve already said Arsenal are my tip for the title and have been since day one.
- How will Bournemouth set up for the game? Score prediction?
Likely line-up (in a 4-1-4-1 formation): Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Ritchie, Arter, Gosling, Stanislas, King
I expect Josh King to come back into the side and to test Arsenal’s pace in the back four along with Stanislas. This game really depends on the first goal. If Arsenal get it the score could end up 3-1 or 4-1. But if the Cherries get it, Wenger might lose more points in the title race. I’m going for 1-1 and a frustrating day for Arsenal. AFC Bournemouth are on a six game unbeaten run and it would be brilliant if they can come away from the Emirates with that extended to seven games.
- Predictions for the season.
Arsenal – Champions
Top four to include – Man City, Leicester City and Tottenham
AFC Bournemouth 14th
Relegated – Aston Villa, Sunderland, Newcastle United.
Thanks to Peter Bell and Cherry Chimes and best of luck for Bournemouth for the rest of the season after tonight 🙂