Date: 4th January 2017 at 11:16am
Written by: Neil Dawson

And breathe…… It won’t be a surprise if Bournemouth get every home game televised next season, or even get their own world-wide TV channel. Following on from the 4-3 v Liverpool, tonights entertainment saw a nail-biting 3-3 with the Gunners. A great result but one tinged with disappointment after the majestic Cherries swept into a 3-0 lead.

‘Unassailable’ surely……….not for our defence… which conceded three for the sixth time in eight games to give the world wide TV audience another night to remember as Giroud pounced to set up two and score one and dash the Cherries dreams…..

Eddie made three changes tonight, King replaced Wilshere and Wilson came in for Afobe who has yet to be released by Congo. Gosling started for Surman. His game plan was clearly to tire out an Arsenal team playing for the second time in 48 hours and his team went for it from the off with a King daisy cutter and a Stanilsas haymaker troubling Cech.

The football was very zippy, intricate triangles then a released full-back, classic Howesque entertainment although Arsenal were dealing fairly comfortably with the wave upon waves of balls into the box. You wondered if this would all peter out with Arsenal scoring with their first attack as is the norm against big teams but our defence were bang on it and the midfield energy superb to stop any breaks.

The goal the home team deserved arrived on the quarter of the hour mark. Stanislas deserves full credit for as good a cross-field pass as you will see in many a year that found DANIELS steaming unopposed into the penalty area, he controlled.. deftly flicked it over Bellerin and planted it past Cech for a superb opener.

Arsenal were rocked and found themselves 2-0 down 4 minutes later. Fraser proved yet again to be a thorn in the side of a quality opponent and was brought down while flying into the box. A great advantage by the referee allowed Wilson to break and feed him after King had been chopped… WILSON calmly fired past Cech from the white spot for the second time this season.

Arsenal had offered little threat but Ramsey did fire very close on the turn but it was all Bournemouth, sumptuous to watch and so quick…Arter fired wide after a brilliant five man move and Stanislas also bent one into the side netting as the half closed out with Bournemouth absolutely unliveable with…

HT Bournemouth 2 Arsenal 0

The second half started with a brief Arsenal flurry but Boruc was the equal to some routine shots and crosses. Bournemouth were sitting back more but were extremely lively on the break with Fraser and King in particular causing huge concern to the back four with their pace and movement. It was nearly three when an Arter thunderbolt that went in off Wilson was adjudged to have hit the striker’s hand. It was debatable whether the hit-man could have got out the way but he did have his hands in the air to say ‘I’m not offside’ – no need, there was a defender on the line.

It didn’t prevent a third though…….that came with another goal of the highest quality. FRASER raced onto a through ball, outpaced the supposed quickest full-back in the game (Bellerin), outmuscled him by the corner flag before cutting in along the by-line, feinting to cross and cleverly beating Cech at his near post.

Dream land ensued……not even Bournemouth’s defence could mess this one up…….surely. The game changed on the two substitutions. Eddie said after he had to withdraw King and Wee-man, and certainly Fraser was limping but in putting on two defensive players the home team lost their pace and were opting to dig in for a 20 minute Mexican standoff v Sanchez, Giroud, Lucas and the Ox. It was a brave last stand……..and it didn’t work.

The remaining 20 minutes were all Arsenal bar one crucial break where Gosling curled wide of an empty net when it looked easier to score. Resembling a training exercise of attack and defence Bournemouth lined up against continual Arsenal waves. SANCHEZ gave them hope with twenty minutes left when he headed home a flick from Giroud. Five minutes later a goal of astonishing quality had the home team rocking. Again Giroud was the fulcrum flicking on for PEREZ to despatch a booming volley across Boruc and into the corner.

It was at this point every Bournemouth fan knew the inevitable, it was just a question of one or two! The task was made harder as well when Francis departed on a straight red following a lunge on Ramsey. I was right in front of it and thought it a red although I got inundated with texts from people watching on TV telling me it wasn’t, a fact Eddie confirmed so expect an appeal. Arter received a booking after the match for arguing with the departing referee about it.

And so the bombardment continued and ended when Giroud headed home another cross to seal the draw. With three minutes of injury time left we still expected the worst but it was Bournemouth who ended attacking with Arter thumping a drive against Cech…….now had that gone in……….

FT Bournemouth 3 Arsenal 3

Boruc 7 – Couldn’t stop goals and generally safe and good in the air.

Francis 6 – Neat going forwards, occasionally caught behind. Red card.
Cook 7 – Some great blocks and resolute defending until last twenty.
Ake 7 – Looking immense for 70 and then marking went awry.
Daniels 8 – Pick of the defence – outstanding attacking game.

Stanislas 8 – Right on top form, tricks, shots, passing range on point.
Arter 7 – Snarled around more now not on suspension worry.
Gosling 7 – Battled hard first half, slight lack of quality second.
Fraser 9 – Destroyed them with pace and tricks.

King 7 – Clever feet, pace and running ball away from trouble.

Wilson 7 – Battling performance and grew into game as it went on.

(Subs A.Smith 6 – Just not his position, Surman 6 – Very safe …B.Smith – not long enough)
Wow! You have to say that is an outstanding result but like all teams we will rue the fact that 3-0 up at home with 20 minutes to go should be a win. The shame of the whole thing is the talk tomorrow will be of Arsenal’s great come back when it should have been about Bournemouths scintillating destruction of a title challenging team.

For 70 minutes I would say that is our best ever performance. Yes we beat Liverpool but that was 15 minutes of madness. This saw us go toe to toe with a top ten European side and just take them apart. It was magical. We were relentless, it was everything we have come to love about an Eddie side, on TV, against Arsenal, with our best player missing and with a load of ex-lower league players smashing them off the park.

The subs are the contentious part for me. Don’t go defensive and you get pilloried if you chuck away a league. Do go defensive and chuck away a lead and you are over cautious. Who would be a manager?! One thing is for sure though…… we learnt last year in our spell of slower players (Tomlin, Murray etc) that if we don’t take top five opposition down to the other end of the pitch and keep them there they will take our fragile defence apart. Only pace allows us to do this and maybe Surman and Smith was one to many. Perhaps one of those and Ibe to carry on the threat would in hindsight been a better balance.

Without those we were camped in, relying on one of the divisions weakest defences to hold out against one of the divisions best forward lines. You didn’t need to have the tactical nous of Johan Cruyff to work out what might happen………..and it did.

Still – this result shouldn’t effect our season as much as it might Arsenals and the team will surely take huge confidence from the fact that they can take most people apart when on their day. This side is knocking on the door of being something very special in global football terms (it already is for us). We just need to sort the defence out, particularly to aerial balls. You can’t keep gifting teams three goals and we can’t pretend 6 out of 8 games is just bad luck. It may need a sitting midfielder (I still think Ake is the answer), it may need a more aerially dominant centre half – it needs something. it is frightening to think what we could do with this in place.

Still another night to remember, and another tale for the Grandchildren when we are back losing 2-0 to Rochdale in front of 3,400 hardy souls! Enjoy every minute folks…….these really are special days.

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