Tuesday 3rd January 2017- 19:45-Sky Sports 1HD
The fast and furious pace of the New Year’s Premier League fixtures continues, with the 5th day in a row of live televised football action, as Bournemouth play Arsenal at Dean Court. Following Bournemouth’s 3-0 victory over Swansea on New Year’s Eve, their first win in 3, and Southampton’s 3-0 loss to Everton yesterday, Bournemouth have moved up to 9th in the league. Despite having lost 3 of their last 5 games, the fact that the Cherries find themselves in the top half of the table, shows the type of job that Eddie Howe is doing at Dean Court. The job that Howe is doing, has him as one of the men being linked with eventually replacing Arsene Wenger at the Emirates.
One of the reasons that Eddie Howe has been linked with the Arsenal job is the style of football he plays at Bournemouth, and Arsene Wenger had a tremendous amount of respect for his opponent tonight:
“He is an example for all of the young English managers that if you work well, if you work your way through with a club, you can get your chance in the Premier League, I think even in the Championship, let’s not forget they had a remarkable season; they scored over 100 goals. They have a style of play that is a positive style of play.”
Bournemouth have been in brilliant form at home this season, winning five games, the same as they managed in the entirety of their first season in the league. In his pre-match press conference, Howe, while happy with his team’s place in the league, was keen to stress he wants more constancy from his team:
“We’re still in that moment as a team where we haven’t consolidated any consistent run. That’s what we’re looking to do. The players have the ability to respond to disappointments and the ability to produce, individually, some very good performances. So it’s a case of trying to do it on a more consistent basis will be the key for us”
In the first meeting between the two clubs this season, Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners with a brace from Alexis Sanchez and another from Theo Walcott. However, the visitors took it to the Gunners and when Callum Wilson netted for the visitors from the penalty spot, they found themselves at level pegging. Bournemouth are also more than capable of mixing it up at home against the big boys, and following the defeat to Arsenal they came back to beat Liverpool 4-3 at Dean Court.
Bournemouth will be without Jack Wilshere, who is ineligible to play against his parent club but Benik Afobe will be in contention after refusing to represent Congo in the African Cup of Nations. Marc Pugh will be out, and Lewis Cook is out with an ankle injury.
The Gunners moved up to third place after their win over Crystal Palace on Sunday. They were excellent and should have won by a bigger margin on the day. Olivier Giroud scored one of the best goals of the season so far and is beginning to consolidate his position as the club’s premier striker once again. A win against the Cherries would take Arsenal back up to 3rd a point clear of Man City, and 1 point behind 2nd place Liverpool.
Other than recent back to back losses to Everton and Man City, Arsenal have been pretty consistent this season, so it will be interesting to see if Arsenal do any business in January as many of their rivals at the top of the table could end up bringing in reinforcements. There remains a concern about their central midfield, but it would be surprising if Arsene Wenger enters into the market. He isn’t one to panic and will be happy with the squad that he has available to him.
In terms of team news for the Gunners, Mesut Ozіl is expected to miss the trip to the south coast after illness ruled him out of Sunday’s 2-0 defeat of Crystal Palace. There could be starts for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlaіn and Shkodran Mustafі after each featured on the bench against the Eagles having recovered from injury.
Wenger will likely make further changes to his team as they prepare for their second match in three days, meaning Aaron Ramsey and Francіs Coquelіn wіll be among those in contention. Danny Welbeck is closing in on a return and could feature in the match-day squad. Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Debuchy, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs will all be missing.