Arsene Outgunned….and Howe!
14th January 2018, 1.30pm
For the first time in their glorious (in one case) and jobbing (in the other) clubs history - an official scoreline will show Bournemouth beating Arsenal! Another giant slayed - just Spurs and Man City to go… It was another day that will live long in the memory of fans who grew up on home defeats to Rochdale and also in the memory of Jordan Ibe who picked a great time to plunder his first goal.
Eddie finally played the formation a lot of fans had been asking for - returning to the 3-4-3 that did so well against Man City in August. Gosling won back his place in midfield from Arter and Fraser came back in for Pugh - Smith returned for Mousset.
The first half was compelling for fans of either club but probably largely uneventful for the neutrals if we are to be honest. Smith had an early chance when he crept on to Daniels cross field pass (the two wing backs combining) and he cut in and fired narrowly wide on his left peg. Bournemouth were sitting back and playing long into the channels for Wilson to stretch the Arsenal centre backs and leave room for Ibe and Fraser to cash in with pace in the middle……. It wasn`t quite working because the midfield were too deep and the ball was frequently won back allowing Wilshere a lot of time and space to look very impressive. This must have come as a surprise to the select band of keyboard warriors who didn`t rate him!
Arsenal as a result had more of the game in dangerous positions and started to look threatening with Maitland Niles hitting the cross bar from 12 yards and Begovic saving well from Iwobi as the home side lost grip of midfield.
Bournemouth were resorting to playing on the break but either first touch or pass selection was letting them down too often…… a frustration Eddie expressed after the break. First touch, you realise, is the main difference between sides in this division - Gosling was booked chasing one of his and diving. At the other end a great first touch put Welbeck in but Begovic blocked superbly.
Bournemouth rallied and finished the half strongly, Ibe brilliantly wriggling free to create a chance Fraser should have scored from, then the little Scot was in the thick of it again minutes later firing narrowly over.
HT Bournemouth 0 Arsenal 0
Bournemouth made a lack-lustre start to the second half and Arsenal seized an early initiative. Iwobis through ball was special and BELLARIN was not going to be caught. Begovic`s hand was weak and the shot bobbled in off it. On the balance of play it was a fair lead and Bournemouth were going to have to up their game - they did, in some style.
Howe brought on Lys Mousset for Daniels, put Fraser at wing-back and Smith over to the left. It meant a ridiculously attacking side but we are always at our best going forwards……and so it proved.
Mousset was at the heart of the equaliser showing some great close control and a wonderful release on a 1-2 with Fraser, the little Scot bombed on and curled a sumptuous first time cross into the path of WILSON who poached with his normal predatory instinct.
Game on and Bournemouth flooded the game with small triangle give and gos and pace. It was like watching……….Arsenal………just quite a few years ago. Three minutes later and the game was won. Cook had grown into the game and his visionary pass found Wilson in the box and he laid back for IBE to fire the winner in off Cech - boy did he celebrate that one!
There was still 20 minutes to go but Bournemouth managed the game excellently with subs, calmness in the box and resolute blocks when needed……Arsenal ran out of invention and didn`t have the Plan B in Giroud that got them out of the same mess last year. The final whistle heralded great scenes………and 13th place in the league.
FT Bournemouth 2 Arsenal 1
Begovic 6 - Strangely quiet but a couple of vital blocks.
Francis 7 - Comfortable in that position and involved well.
Cook 8 - Solid in the lead attack the ball role - good reading.
Ake 8 - Normal athletic intelligent display on the left hand side.
Smith 9 - Non stop running, harrying, great vision - a super day.
Cook 7 - Grew into the game as it wore on.
Gosling 7 - Normal never say die battling performance.
Daniels 7 - Less involved than Smith but classy when in game.
Ibe 7 - 70% excellent - that number is rising! Good to see goal.
Wilson 8 - A manful running shift, hold up play and poach.
Fraser 8 - Back to last seasons form of inventive running and creation.
(Mousset 7 - added physicality and touch - Afobe/Pugh no score)
The most important thing for me out of today was the formation. There has been a school of thought from many fans, myself included, that the best formation for the players we have is 3-4-3. It gets the four defenders Eddie wants on the pitch but also allows you to play Smith who normally drops out for Francis in an all fit back four. It also allows the two wide forwards to worry less about defensive formation and go at people - which suits Ibe in particular. The issue will be whether Eddie will play King wide right - he should. If he won't, his desire to bring him back will see 4-4-2 return which would be a shame.
The other two crucial parts of this formation which worked today were there are people playing between the lines (to create overload) and when you have to defend you can switch to 5-4-1 without making a forward have to pretend to join in.
I hope he sticks with it. The performances today and against Man City at home should tell him everything he needs to know. We are not a side that can bench people as good as Smith or Steve Cook and we need to surprise more.
So - Howe won it today for me with this change. It was great to see the second half and it should give the players great confidence for the rest of the season. Now let's keep setting up this way please!
Report by Neil Dawson