Written by Neil Dawson
Bournemouth started their Dean Court decade with a defeat to Northampton, the fact that they ended it with the fans being mildly disappointed that Arsenal came from behind to rescue a point through Patrick Aubameyang shows the remarkable decade we have enjoyed under Eddie Howe.
Before the game, Eddie had asked for more entertainment and quicker balls to his front three and he was rewarded with a very spirited first 55 minutes before his team ran out of steam and allowed Arsenal to come back into the game through their excellent forward line.
The question of who would play left-back received the answer few anticipated – Jack Simpson… the side retaining a back four with Cook in for an injured Franno. Billings recent ‘meh’ displays also saw him stepping out of the side to accommodate Calum Wilson’s return with King moving to the wing.
Bournemouth started much brighter and achieved what this season is a noteworthy point – a shot on target…Wilson turned in the area to feed an unmarked Fraser who should have arguably done better than smack the ball at Leno’s legs. At the other end, Stacey was very smart to block when Lacazette broke through. Bournemouth were moving the ball well but again poor passing in the final third was allowing Arsenal to break with Ozil enjoying alarming amounts of space until Eddie switched Gosling and Lerma to allow the Columbian to pick him up.
Another bright move saw Fraser’s deflected cross fall into the path of Callum whose flashing left-foot volley was just over the bar. In an end to end, half Stacey and Gosling again made vital blocks to deny goal-bound opportunities. Bournemouth finished the half with some great periods of play with the midfield and forwards linking well and Stacey joining in on the right to great effect. It was his involvement that brought the goal, overlapping with perfect timing to receive Callum’s pass and cross for GOSLING to expertly poke home on the run.
HT Bournemouth 1 Arsenal 0
The second half saw Arsenal start with a great curling effort from Aubameyang just over the bar signalling intent but it was Bournemouth that again established a grip with some decent attacks again let down with some poor decision making, Wilson in particular not finding his passing or lay off range again too often.
Arsenal then started to take over with some long periods of play and Eddie desperately waving his team out….but often to no avail. The gunner’s front three were very sharp on the break and outstripped us a few times – notably when Lacazette went clean through but dragged his shot wide.
It still didn’t look like a goal was coming though with Arsenal rarely testing Ramsdale other than from crosses so it was a surprise when the equalised – one of those moments that happens to teams on a poor run too – a complete miskicked shot throwing the whole defence off and falling for AUBEMANYANG six yards out to side-foot home.
Eddie brought Harry Wilson on for King and Billing on for Gosling as the side tried to get some grip on the game and this alleviated the pressure a little with the new legs forcing us forwards again but too often poor decision making with the final ball hampered the moves and the one time Harry broke free to see his shot well saved by Leno, Callum was offside from the rebound.
The on-target shot count remained stuck resolutely on three. It flicked to four in the last minute, much to Eddie’s anger when Harry had a free-kick way out wide but with all the height advantage we had he opted to fire it straight at Leno rather than fizz one towards Cook, Billing and Mepham.
FT Bournemouth 1 Arsenal 1
Ramsdale 7 – Not much to do but did it comfortably
Stacey 9 – Outstanding attacking display and really improving defensively
Cook 8 – Great to have him back and he won everything on the ground and in the air.
Mepham 8 – Another very calm and influential defending display.
Simpson 5 – Gave his all in a very unusual position but exposed on and off-ball a little
King 7 – Lively wing display before being subbed
Cook 6 – Some good covering but some poor passing again
Lerma 8 – He is just the boss isn’t he? Another top-class display of tackling
Gosling 7 – Ran out of puff a bit but didn’t half put in a great first half running display
Fraser 6 – Some good passages and work-rate outstanding. Poor final ball.
Wilson 5 – Just not really at the party at the moment – some really slack moments.
MOM- Stacey for me – thought he was excellent and really growing into the game with us, his best display yet by far, strong, fast and skilful use of the flanks.
It was a fair result and a credible result as Arsenal have some fine players and were looking to impress a new manager. Eddie will be disappointed with the fluke nature of the equaliser as the team could have really done with that break. Now just two points off relegation and behind a Saints side we know are really poor kind of sums up what an under-achieving season it has been.
Today we showed signs though of looking very tidy in attack but with a complete lack of cutting edge. It is ten games now since Callum last scored – September was the month that also saw Fraser last feature on the score-sheet. It is a concern and with 1 in 50 striker Solanke the only alternative then one would imagine that there may be a delve into the transfer market for a goalscorer – something we thought we had well covered at the start of the season.
So what’s the issue. It is hard to tell but I think we need to get to the bottom of why our players get pushed back and sit so deep. The last two games has shown Eddie frantically waving them forwards pretty much all second half. Again a 4-3-3 with King and Fraser constantly in the box became a 4-5-1 with neither of them doing it. The midfield as well stopped the lung-busting runs with both Gosling and Cook tiring and Stacey’s forays although entertaining also left us exposed a few times right at the death.
The key thing today though was not to lose to a late scrappy win and have some confidence to take into what is fast becoming the most crucial 5 or 6 games in our stay in the top flight. Can we cobble a team together for all of it…… who will be back fit…. the next two games are the side just above us and below us then we move on to Villa who are the best of the bottom three. Not a time for feint hearts……strap in folks… and always remember it is better than losing to Northampton at home….
I think 5 for Simpson and Callum is too harsh though. Jack certainly tends to give a slack pass or three, that is his major issue I think. But after a worrying start, which was to be expected, he grew into the role and did better as the game wore on. He did get some important challenges in and linked fairly well down the side too. Also worked his socks off and was an easy 6. More 6.5-7 really! I also watched Callum closely. Initially, he was very frustrating as he wasn’t able to keep the ball. But again, I noticed he worked harder and harder as the game progressed and that has been lacking from him recently. So a 6 from me, if nothing else, the work rate and effort got much better from him. Needs a goal though obviously.
A couple of small things – the Lacazette chance when he went through, that was a block from…I think…Mepham? Or was it Stacey? Think it was Mepham. And their goal, it was Gosling who got out to half block the shot, which diverted it to Aubameyang. Not sure why Steve Cook had dropped three yards though, if he was up a touch he would have been able to block. – Join the conversation, click here.