The Premier League returns with the trip to Bournemouth, a return to one of the numerous crime scenes of last season. It was a woeful defeat and one hopefully consigned to the bin. Have we replaced them with draws? Unai Emery made everyone aware he isn’t satisfied with the last three results in that respect.
Results yesterday make three points obligatory if we’re to realise the much-stated ‘ambition’ of returning to the top four. A win takes us to within a point of Chelsea and three of Tottenham, pointed given the upcoming North London derby.
We need a win anyway. Three consecutive draws and three relatively poor performances. Wolves out-worked us; their goal highlighted our vulnerability at the back early in matches which others have exposed this season. That was a post-international break performance delivered a fortnight early.
I wonder if it was the cumulative effect though? It was the seventh game after the last break with minimal changes made to the XI each time, bar the League Cup. Injuries forced Emery’s hand but now he has options despite being hemmed in other areas.
Nacho Monreal is out for a while leaving Sead Kolasinac the opportunity to stake a claim for the Spaniard’s replacement. He hasn’t impressed so far but after a spell on the sidelines himself, as well as being out of the side due to Monreal’s form, is that surprising?
Kolasinac’s form saw him included in the Bundesliga team of the year. Was the pinnacle or setting the standard? We’ll find out very quickly. The Bosnian does, however, seem to be physically suited to Emery’s pressing game. Are we seeing the same learning curve Hector Bellerin followed? The Spaniard’s defensive game has vastly improved in recent weeks as he finds the balance between attacking and ‘staying home’.
Today’s team will be instructive in Emery’s thinking, certainly at the back. Watching Chelsea’s disintegration yesterday, I can’t have been the only one who thought ‘At least we haven’t got Luiz at the back…but we do have Mustafi’? Will Sokratis return to partner Rob Holding? I’m assuming the youngster retains his place but that’s by no means guaranteed. Of course it is. Or as much as it can be.
It’s never as simple as one decision in a team. Danny Welbeck’s injury complicates Emery’s forward thinking. At home, it seems straightforward to shoehorn PEA and Lacazette into the XI but away from home? Certainly in a run-of-the-mill fixture.
This isn’t such a game. Bournemouth
Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Iwobi; Aubameyang
Some will be surprised by Aubameyang instead of Lacazette but I would go on pace alone. Both are capable, we know that but to start it’s personal preference.
Anyway, we’re an hour or so away from kick-off so enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.