Result: Bournemouth 1-1 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 26 December 2019
Venue: Vitality Stadium
Starting XI: Leno, Maitland-Niles, David Luiz, Sokratis, Saka, Torreira, Xhaka, Nelson, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Martinez, Mustafi, Mavropanos, Guendouzi, Willock, Smith Rowe, Pepe
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cancelled out Dan Gosling’s first half opener as Arsenal drew 1-1 with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
Both sides showed plenty of energy and intent in an end-to-end 90 minutes but a dearth of quality in attacking areas proved to be very frustrating for Mikel Arteta in his first game as head coach.
Arteta’s first lineup as head coach saw him return Mesut Ozil and Alex Lacazette to the starting lineup. Emile Smith Rowe dropped to the bench while Gabriel Martinelli, nursing a hamstring problem, wasn’t in the squad. At the back, the suspended Calum Chambers was replaced by Sokratis. Other than that, it was the same side that started against Everton meaning Bukayo Saka once again got game time as left-back.
In his opening press conferences, Mikel Arteta demanded more intensity from the Arsenal players and made clear he wanted us to get back to dominating games and creating chances. In that respect, he won’t have been disappointed with the opening 30 minutes.
We popped the ball around in midfield with pace and urgency, repeatedly finding Mesut Ozil in pockets of space between the Bournemouth midfield and defence. From there, the German created chance after chance for his teammates. Unfortunately, nobody in a yellow shirt showed any composure in and around the box.
Lacazette received the ball in dangerous positions on three occasions in the opening 15 minutes but his attempts to control and shoot were, to put it kindly, fucking awful. It was like he was playing with boots made of giant timber.
Saka and Nelson found plenty of space on the flanks but were similarly profligate both attacking balls into the box and trying to provide for teammates. Sure, they’re young and they’ll improve, but we’re paying the price at the moment for not having cutting edge quality in the final third.
Sure enough, Bournemouth, who’d had a couple of efforts via Fraser and Wilson, took the lead on 35 minutes. Our attempts to play out from the back on the left side backfired massively. Again. On this occasion, Stacey did the damage with a driving run and pull back that Gosling converted from close range. It was the home side’s first shot on target. (1-0)
We went back to probing but it was the Cherries who looked the more likely to bag another. King, tormenting Nelson down the left, evaded a Sokratis challenge and tried to beat Leno at the near post. The German read the effort and blocked it for a corner.
Saka summed up our efforts in the final seconds of the half with yet another awful final pass having worked his way to the edge of the box. This one was shanked into the crowd behind the goal.
Ozil picked up where he left off playing a one-two with Lacazette before feeding Aubameyang. The captain tried a Thierry and curled just over.
Able to sit deep and in numbers, Bournemouth were happy enough soaking up our passive possession. We looked to be going into our shell a bit but Arteta kept barking on the touchline. He was pleading with his players to keep closing down, to keep the tempo high, to keep believing.
Auba had a chance, created brilliantly by Ozil, but he couldn’t get off a shot. Two minutes later, the Gabon international made no mistake. The build-up was ridiculously scruffy with Lacazette and Ozil working a ball to Nelson whose deflected shot fell to Auba and he slotted home at the near post. Auba ran to the travelling Gooners and was buried in a mass of bodies. His celebrations earned him a booking. On the touchline, Arteta threw a few high-fives. (1-1).
Could we find another? Nearly. A brilliant Luiz pass split the Bournemouth defence to find Lacazette. He took a decent touch, freed space for the shot but it was just blocked for a corner.
Somewhat surprisingly, with 15 minutes remaining, Ozil went off to be replaced by Willock. He didn’t look too pleased having produced his best display of the season. A second change was forced on Arteta when Sokratis suffered what looked like a concussion. On came Mustafi.
The game was scrappy. Two sides lacking form and confidence threatening punches but missing with their swings. Bournemouth thought they’d grabbed a goal when Calum Wilson followed in a Harry Wilson shot that was parried by Leno into his path. VAR had a look and confirmed he was offside.
Pepe came on for Nelson and promptly needed treatment after being hacked down trying to launch a counter-attack. In the closing stages, Saka had several chances to get the ball into the box from the left but, as was the case throughout the game, he couldn’t deliver.
It’s hard to fault the players’ effort today, they certainly ran around a lot both in and out of possession. Having 17 shots on goal was positive, only getting two of those on target was not. At vital moments we failed to execute the basics; controlling the ball, making the right pass, crossing the ball and shooting. Assuming we fix all that, we might get better. Easy!
It’s a hard ask of Mikel Arteta who only has a few hours on the training pitch with his players before we take on Chelsea in three days time. At the time of writing, the gap between us and the relegation zone is down to four points. It’s embarrassing having to even reference the drop this far into the season, but it is what it is.