By: Timothy Dehinbo
Arsenal will be the first visitors to Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium in 2017, on Tuesday night, as they look to keep their faltering Premier League title tilt on track.
After a testing December, the Gunners find themselves nine points behind rampant leaders Chelsea, and are well aware they have a mountain to climb if they are going to launch a serious challenge for top spot.
This trip to an improving Bournemouth side will be another big test for Arsene Wenger’s men.
For the Cherries, the fixture presents a tremendous chance to get 2017 started in style. The previous year was one to remember for manager Eddie Howe and his players, and they will be relishing the chance to get one over on their illustrious visitors on Tuesday.
As two of the most technical sides in the division, this encounter is not one to be missed. Here are the key details for
the game, the latest team news for both teams and a closer look at what to expect on the south coast tonight.
For Bournemouth, Jack Wilshere will be a big miss for the Cherries, as he will not feature against his parent club as part of his loan agreement. Steve Cook and Danny Pugh will also sit this one out with injuries.
Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Per Mertesacker remain long-term absentees for the Gunners. Mesut Ozil is expected to return to the starting XI after missing the match against Crystal Palace on Sunday due to illness.
Shkodran Mustafi made the bench against the Palace and could be fit to start against the Cherries, although Gabriel Paulista has done well in his absence. During this congested part of the season, there are certain teams that are expected to struggle and others that managers would rather avoid.
Bournemouth fall into the latter category. That’s because Howe’s side is one of the most dynamic, aggressive and energetic in the division. Those are traits the Cherries showcased in spades during the 3-0 win over Swansea City on Saturday, as they annihilated their hosts on New year’s eve.
According to Duncan Alexander of Opta, midway through their second season in the top flight, Bournemouth look like a thorough bred Premier League outfit: Meanwhile Bournemouth have officially taken the ‘League One Team who are comfortable in the PL’ crown from Swansea in a ceremony in Swansea, via his twitter page @oilysailor.
Although, the squad may not be packed with really big names, but the system Howe has implemented means the team is still effective. So while Wilshere’s absence may seem significant, the manager will be confident of coping without the playmaker.
Arsenal, in practice, should relish this one. Bournemouth always look to open the game up, and as a result, players like Ozil and Sanchez should find themselves with plenty of space in the final third.
It will be the first away game the Gunners have featured in since their back-to-back losses on the road in December against Everton and Manchester City. According to WhoScored.com, the sequence represents their worst away form for a long time: “Arsenal Have lost consecutive away Premier League matches for the first time since April
2014 (vs Everton & Chelsea) via @WhoScored on twitter.
Having had one day less to prepare for this game than Bournemouth, it will be interesting to see how many changes Wenger makes for this one, especially having come up against a robust Crystal Palace side on Sunday.
Bournemouth’s work rate and fluidity will give the Gunners problems on Tuesday, and they have enough to get on the score-sheet.
Arsenal’s attacking talent should offset any weary legs, though, and they should take a share of the spoils from what looks to be an entertaining contest at the Vitality stadium.
PREDICTION: AFC BOURNEMOUTH 2-2 ARSENAL