Result: Arsenal 1 – 0 Bournemouth
Competition: Premier League
Date: 6 October 2019
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ceballos, Saka, Pepe, Aubameyang
Subs: Martinez, Holding, Tierney, Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Willock, Martinelli
David Luiz’s early headed goal was enough to earn Arsenal three points against a poor Bournemouth side. Arsenal were comfortable through the first half but had to stay sharp to hold back against the Cherries who fought hard in the latter stages in search of an equalizer.
The result solidifies Arsenal’s position in third place and are just a point off Manchester City who sit in second.
In a much changed line-up since the Europa League demolition of Standard Liege, only Dani Ceballos keeps his place in the heart of midfield while left back, Kieran Tierney had to settle for a spot on the bench.
Despite both teams having a reputation for attacking football, it all started very tentatively for the players – with neither of the teams being able to get into the flow with their passing and movement.
It was Aubameyang who brought a spark to the game in the fifth minute as he latched onto the ball on the left wing during a counter attack. In Henry-esque fashion, he cut in on his right foot and curled in a shot towards the far post but missed the target by mere inches.
That ignited a spell of possession which led to Arsenal’s first goal. Arsenal earned a corner, Pepe crossed it in to the box and Luiz flicked on the ball towards an unguarded back post. 1-0 Luiz.
It wasn’t until the 18th minute where Arsenal threatened Bournemouth’s goal again. Saka found a lively Pepe in the inside right channel who tried curling the ball from the edge of the box towards the far post. It was the Ivorian again who was the protagonist as he was hacked down in the box after few tricky stepovers to beat his defender. How a penalty wasn’t given after a VAR review is beyond me.
Bournemouth were surprisingly passive, tepid and slow all through the half as they struggled to play the ball out of the back and have allowed Arsenal to dominate the game. Saka, Guendouzi and even Chambers were allowed shots on goal as the Cherries can’t find a way past second gear.
The half ended 1-0 with Arsenal giving the impression of a predator playing with its prey without going for the kill. They were dominant but were never able to put a poor Bournemouth to the sword.
Unsurprisingly, Bournemouth started the second half with more verve and industry and almost scored an equalizer on the 50th minute with two great opportunities for Callum Wilson.
The first was a driving run through the heart of the defence by Wilson only for him to square across the box for King instead of going for goal. Fortunately, Chambers was back to clear the pass and scupper a simple tap-in for King. Wilson’s second chance involved a missed header from a promising cross – all warning signs for Arsenal who haven’t seemed to match the elevated tempo.
Leno, who had been untroubled through the game, had to be sharp as the Cherries turned the screw on the 55th minute when Stacey made a darting on down the inside right from an overhit pass. Stacey’s last ditch cross swerved dangerously to loop towards the goal but the German pushed it away for a corner.
Emery’s solution to give the Gunners a shot in the arm involved hooking Pepe on the 60th minute for the in-form Martinelli. Pepe wasn’t poor (he got an assist for Luiz’s opener) but his influence was fading as the match played on. Ceballos’ midfield wizardry also gave way to Willock’s box-to-box presence soon after to protect the lead.
It became a game of attrition from both parties as none could find that final ball to threaten in the final third. Emery was happy enough to keep the game that way as Torreira came on for the promising Saka to close out the game.
Aubameyang hit the post and Bournemouth threatened with a couple of half chances as the game went into injury time.
In the end, Arsenal held out for the win. It was not the most impressive performance to date but it earned them three vital points as they climbed to third place – just 1 point behind Manchester City who lost at home to Wolves.