We host Bournemouth in a fixture which signals a schedule ease-up. I am less than pleased about drawing three consecutive games, while also playing as poorly as we did, but it can’t be denied we faced tough opponents.
Bournemouth is a step down from the quality of the sides we drew against. That’s not to say they can’t beat us and that we can drop our concentration levels, however the Cherries are a team we are expected to beat. We are favourites going into the game, which might not have been the case in our 3 previous games.
For us to win the game though, we’ll have to find some fluency and rhythm. Wenger too admits this:
“I believe we have to find our game back. We didn’t lose but if you do not create, that will not last.
“It’s important that we find our simplicity, speed and pacy combinations back. We missed that fluency, and that security in our decision-making that made us dangerous in the final third a little bit. That is what is at stake for us.”
Whether we find our groove will depend on what players start the game, so let’s shoot to the team news.
Team news update
“I don’t think from the other night we have any injuries, so everybody should be available. In cases like Cazorla and Bellerin, they are still out. We have nobody coming back.” – Arsene Wenger
There are noises Bellerin might be back sooner than expected and that will be a welcome boost indeed. Rumour has it the Spaniard might rejoin training end of the week. Fingers crossed.
Perez, meanwhile, had already resumed full training, after just 4 weeks on the sidelines. Arsene will likely exercise caution here:
“Lucas is for the first time in training today [Friday]. He might be in contention for Wednesday [against Southampton], but one training session is not enough to be involved on Sunday.”
Lucas had a second session on Saturday, I wonder whether that’ll make Arsene more inclined to include the Spaniard in match day squad against Bournemouth, but there’s no pressing need to rush Lucas back. We have options on the wings and up front (mercifully Alexis shrugged off his hamstring injury), so I have nothing against easing Lucas back gradually.
Pretty sure we’ll see the same back 5 as against United. Meaning Cech and Monreal back for Ospina and Gibbs. Debuchy isn’t ready by the looks of it, so Jenko will continue to deputise at right-back.
What Arsene does in midfield will play a greater role in the result, however. If he doesn’t start Xhaka again, I will be highly concerned. We need a distributor in central midfield, and none of Coquelin, Elneny or Ramsey fit the mould. Without Cazorla, Xhaka should be a nailed-on starter, yet Wenger sounded reserved once again:
“[Granit] needs to adapt, then we need to find the balance because he plays in a deeper-lying midfield position, and he passes through the lines,” said Arsène Wenger. “He needs to adapt to the way we play and the tactical pace of the English game. I am confident he will do very well.”
I don’t what’s going on with Xhaka, but if Arsene looked at how we played vs United and PSG and thought it was alright, then he clearly missed a couple of things. We need Xhaka in that midfield, or it will continue to look bleak and incompetent at moving the ball forward.
The question of who plays up front is an interesting one. Giroud scored 2 in 2, however with Alexis up front we produced our best football this season. If Arsene finally fine-tunes the supporting cast, starting Alexis over Giroud will be the rational thing to do in most games.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Jenko – Mustafi – Kos – Monreal – Coquelin – Xhaka – Walcott – Ozil – Iwobi – Alexis
At this point a win is absolutely vital. Dropping points against Spurs and United is not ideal, but can be justified to an extent, as other top dogs will drop points there too. Missing out on a win against Bournemouth at home will be very, very far from justifiable.
For us to get a win I’m sure we’ll have to find our rhythm back. We rarely win games we don’t deserve to win, so the quality of the performance will be crucial come Sunday. Maybe it’s even more important for us than for others. Especially on the back of 3 weak showings.
So come on you Gunners. Enough with the November blues.
Back with you for a review of the game.