Arsenal Vs Bournemouth: Highlights and analysis – You’re joking

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Jordon Ibe of AFC Bournemouth celebrates with team mates after scoring the second AFC Bournemouth goal during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal at Vitality Stadium on January 14, 2018 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Jordon Ibe of AFC Bournemouth celebrates with team mates after scoring the second AFC Bournemouth goal during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal at Vitality Stadium on January 14, 2018 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) /

Arsenal travelled to Bournemouth as they returned to Premier League duties on Sunday afternoon. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis of the 2-1 loss.

Arsenal are a mess. Arsene Wenger is the manager of that mess. No long-term security. No investment. No on-pitch tactics. No strategy. No plan. No thinking, No logic. No composure. No intelligence. No ability to manage games. No ability to defend properly. They represent a Sunday League club. That’s what Arsenal remind me of. And Sunday afternoon’s 2-1 loss to Bournemouth was the perfect showing.

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The first half was a bitty but busy affair. Snappy challenges; enthused running. That was the name of the game. Unfortunately, though, there was a painful lack of quality from either side. Possession swapped hands frequently, with neither side able to protect the ball in midfield, and with a litter of misplaced passes, pressured errors and a general inability to string together neat and tidy play, there was no pattern or fluency to the game.

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Arsenal certainly had the better of the half. 58.3% possession at half-time was emblematic of that. But Bournemouth were not without their own chances. Adam Smith angled a shot wide of the near post early on, before the Cherries enjoyed a prosperous spell to close out the 45 minutes, with Ryan Fraser firing over the crossbar and seeing a shout for a penalty on an Alex Iwobi handball harshly turned down by Kevin Friend. There were also some moments of nervousness seeping into the Arsenal back three. All of Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding sliced clearances into the stands, stressed by the vibrant pressing of the Bournemouth attackers that Eddie Howe was insistent on implementing. But despite the growing periods of panic, Cech had to make just the one save all half.

At the other end, Arsenal created several decent chances. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, twisting and turning his way into a yard of space on the angle of the penalty area clipped the crossbar after some neat work from Alexandre Lacazette; Alex Iwobi saw a few long-range efforts well saved by Asmir Begovic, especially considering the deflection they took along the way; Shkodran Mustafi made his presence known from corners with a dart across the near post, attempting to flick a header towards the goal; and Danny Welbeck squandered the best opportunity, just failing, on the stretch, to steer Lacazette’s through pass past the onrushing Asmir Begovic.

But for the most part, this was a game that lacked quality and creativity in possession. Neither side could engineer the openings necessary; both sides looked devoid of ideas and ingenuity. The only player who did prove his ability was Jack Wilshere. He was wonderful throughout the first half, exuding a calmness that elevated his performance above everyone around him. But there is only so much one midfielder can do. Arsenal needed a spark. The game needed a spark.

Thankfully, it got one. Wilshere received a pass in the middle of the park. He was under instantaneous pressure. But, as he had all game, he controlled the ball, turned, and played a simple pass away. It was not a seemingly significant or special piece of play, but it would result in the opening goal. In the same move, Alex Iwobi would slide a lovely pass inside Charlie Daniels, stretching the pace of Hector Bellerin, whom Daniels had had great struggles with throughout. Bellerin scampered onto the ball, surveyed his options with Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Welbeck in support, before going it alone: a low, across-the-goal effort that deflected off the left hand of Asmir Begovic before bounding into the goal. For however scrappy the finish was, the move was beautiful; for however frustrated Begovic was as he turned to see the ball droop over the goal line, Arsenal were acutely aware of its importance.

The spark, from an Arsenal perspective, did not last long. Bournemouth, slowly, grew into the game, showing signs that they could haul their way back into the match. Ryan Fraser fired a shot straight at Petr Cech, before Jordan Ibe jinked his way past Rob Holding but was unable to get the necessary power behind his effort, which rolled into the welcome arms of the Arsenal goalkeeper.

They were the warning signs. The real danger was quick to follow. Bournemouth’s first goal came through the speed, accuracy and ruthlessness of Ryan Fraser and Calum Wilson. The Arsenal defence all followed the ball — yes, that is schoolboy defending. Fraser got in behind down the right flank. He then curled a lovely cross into the box, bent behind Calum Chambers and Hector Bellerin, and teasing Petr Cech to come and collect. Cech accepted the tease; Wilson accepted the goal, prodding home after his big toe helped him get to the ball first.

The second didn’t take much longer. Just after Wenger shifted to a back-four, Arsenal’s defensive structure disintegrated, not that it was ever that integrated. Rob Holding tried to play offside; Shkodran Mustafi failed to mark; Granit Xhaka went wandering, utterly unaware of the danger. Those three factors combined for a very sloppy goal. After Calum Wilson’s chest and touch fell to Jordan Ibe, there was only one way this was ending: a thumped finish straight down the throat of Petr Cech — it’s difficult to blame Cech given the pace and the proximity of the shot. The goal was soft. It was emblematic of the Gunners’ vulnerabilities. It tells the whole story. It damns the club, the manager, the players. It is downright unacceptable.

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Arsenal pushed for the equaliser. Wenger threw on Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott. Alexandre Lacazette endeavoured. Jack Wilshere probed. Hector Bellerin ran. But nothing happened. Nothing. This was a terrible performance, terrible result, terrible afternoon, and a terrible representation of all the things that are wrong with this football club.