Preview: Arsenal vs. Bournemouth
Seeking a fourth Premier League win on the bounce to remain in control of their title destiny, Arsenal welcome relegation-threatened Bournemouth to the Emirates on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners thumped Everton 4-0 on Wednesday night to extend their lead at the summit, while the Cherries’ most recent contest ended in a 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.
Replicating their one-goal victory over the league leaders at Goodison Park from a few weeks ago was always going to be a tall order for Everton, who shipped goals at will to Arsenal once their resistance was finally broken in the 40th minute.
Gabriel Martinelli – who netted a brace – and Bukayo Saka both hit double figures for the Premier League season, while Martin Odegaard also got in on the act in the second half, as the Gunners’ stellar revival from their mid-season blip continued in front of their ardent fans.
Having made full use of their game in hand, Arsenal have re-established a five-point lead over Man City in first place – taking a whopping 60 points from their opening 25 games of the season – although the champions can close that gap for a couple of hours when they meet Newcastle United on Saturday lunchtime.
Victory over Everton marked just a second win from their last five Premier League contests at the Emirates for Mikel Arteta’s men, but they are firmly back to their free-flowing best and have proven adept at breaking down low blocks – thanks in no small part to the creative influence of Oleksandr Zinchenko, whose “magic” assist for Saka’s opener was lauded by Arteta.
Not since losing to Brentford on the opening day of last season have Arsenal failed to beat a newly-promoted side in the Premier League – winning each of their last eight such games – and those making the long journey north from Bournemouth will no doubt travel in unfounded hope rather than expectation.
Gary O’Neil’s crop would have been roared on by the Arsenal faithful to pull off a shock result against Man City, but despite putting in a valiant performance on their own turf, the abundance of quality in the champions’ ranks ultimately shone through.
Erling Braut Haaland, Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez and a Chris Mepham own goal all contributed to the Cherries’ downfall, but a late Jefferson Lerma effort was just reward for their plucky efforts at the Vitality Stadium, although plucky efforts do not put points on the board.
Facing Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool was not what the doctor ordered for Bournemouth following their first post-World Cup win against Wolverhampton Wanderers two weekends ago, and O’Neil’s team remain below the dotted line in 19th place, but they only have a one-point deficit to make up to Leeds United in 17th.
A period of astute acquisitions in January is yet to bear fruit for Bournemouth, whose post-World Cup points (five) and goals (four) tallies are the worst in the Premier League, and all eight of their previous Premier League games versus the side sitting in first place have ended in defeat.
Arsenal were pretty in pink at the Vitality Stadium back in August, coming up with the goods in a straightforward 3-0 victory while donning their brightly-coloured strip, but even those shirts are not as striking as their surge for Premier League supremacy.
Arsenal Premier League form:
Bournemouth Premier League form:
We say: Arsenal 3-0 Bournemouth
Bournemouth gave Man City a few scares last weekend and deservedly breached the champions’ defence, but similar attempts to silence the Emirates crowd will be met with heavy resistance by Arteta’s rejuvenated crop.
Even with midweek fatigue working against them, Arsenal ought to maintain their unassailable lead in first place with another straightforward win, notching plenty of goals en route.