Bournemouth Review: The Sideshow Begins

Arsenal 1 – 0 Bournemouth

A match which saw many boxes ticked left as many questions unanswered. We’ve reached the heady heights of third and no-one is quite sure how.

Yesterday encapsulated our season in one game. Bournemouth were as supine as Liege in the first half. It’s baffling that we went into the interval only one ahead. Not because we missed a host of chances but because of how bad the Cherries were.

It might have been 2 – 0. Inexplicably, VAR refused to overrule the hapless match official when Nicolas Pepe was felled in the area. At the heart of the matter is the PGMO officials; the same referees who routinely make bad decisions in real-time are doing the same in the video booth.

But that doesn’t excuse our own performance.

Before the match, Eddie Howe claimed he wanted his side to avoid mistakes of previous visits when Bournemouth lost the game after conceding an early goal. His players listen to him as intently as ours do to Unai.

Sideshow Bob headed home from a rare well-delivered set-piece. Nicolas Pepe can’t score – and it isn’t through lack of effort – hit a sweet corner, Luiz headed home, guiding the ball across the goalkeeper. An early goal settled us into sustained spells of possession although we didn’t cause many moments of genuine concern for them.

The second half was the polar opposite. Bournemouth started quickly; Howe must have put a rocket up their backsides during the interval. We retreated, in a manner not dissimilar to the second-half collapse at Watford. Where was the leadership on the pitch? Certainly, there was none from the captain.

We held out, largely thanks to Leno’s alertness from a tight angle, Guendouzi’s late timely tackle and Chambers size 11 intervening on the goalline.

Party Chambers

We, the other hand, didn’t manage an effort of note from the hour-mark when Chambers skewed a volley wide. Aubameyang struck the post but was offside so it wasn’t worthy of the name.

There’s no question in my mind that Chambers was the best player on the park yesterday. He was decisive in the tackle but as eager to support the attack. It was his awareness that created Aubameyang’s late chance, intercepting Bournemouth’s attempts to pass out from the back.

However, his was one of the few bright spots. We kept a clean sheet and the players deserve some credit for that. It wasn’t a convincing performance. Maybe that’s how we begin with the first XI. Maybe that’s how we follow on from three clean sheets in the recent cup matches.

That question will be answered in a fortnight’s time at Bramall Lane. Whatever these players think they have faced before, that fixture is going to feature a no-nonsense approach from the home side. Defenders and midfielders who shrink in the face of pressure need not board the coach for that match.

It’s a tough gig when a coach guides a team to third in the Premier League. Guide is a polite way of saying stumbling. We’re the wide receiver tripping at the five-yard line and just about landing in the endzone.

While we’re unbeaten in eight but it’s a struggle to claim we’re in form. A look at those matches show the cup games were comfortable victories but in the league itself, we have yet to put in a good performance this season, let alone string a few together.

Form is Underpinned by Performances

It is remarkably similar to last season’s 20-odd games unbeaten. It was hotch-potch, hit and miss; you scratch your head wondering how we didn’t lose or how we won. Sometimes in the same game.

Therein is the conundrum of Unai Emery’s Arsenal. We do not have a defined style of play. It’s hard for the players to build confidence when we lurch from the good to the bad and sometimes ugly. In a results business, it’s the final score which counts but even then, it’s performances which build those long runs.

If you aren’t playing well for sustained periods but still win, the players don’t take confidence from the results. They know at some point, the whole kit and caboodle will unravel.

That, to me, is where we’re at right now. Deja vu.

Which is why this morning brings a mass of contradictory feelings. Happy at the result, with the league position, especially since there are a few players who won’t be in the side at Sheffield United.

Yet I wonder how long it will last? Emery deserves the plaudits for the cup performances but brickbats for our league form. It underlines that he is a cup specialist, used to coaching teams to peak for a one-off, with different tactics every match in the competition.

However, league football requires a basic plan to be consistently applied. Ours, at present, seems to be one which requires a big gap between the attack and everyone else.

Emery picked a team yesterday mindful of the exertions the youngsters put in over the past week. I have no issue with the one-off selection taking that into account. That becomes a problem when underperforming senior players block the young ‘uns route to the starting line-up.

Tough Times Require Hard Choices

There’s no doubt the Spaniard has some tough choices ahead. Holding, Bellerin and Tierney are all in contention for places after the international break. Which one of Sokratis and Luiz makes way? One has to go because playing with a back-three seems out of the question.

Emery is hiding behind the fitness levels of the young trio as a reason not to select them. But in a fortnight’s time, that won’t be the issue. He wasn’t ever going to say the older pair are on their last legs but he can’t avoid making the decision forever.

As for the Spaniard’s claim it was up to Xhaka and himself to improve the perception of his captain, it didn’t work. Eight games into the season and yesterday’s yellow card puts him on the cusp of a one-match suspension.

At ten cautions, it’s a two-match ban. Before Christmas, he’ll miss three games. What is the next level after that? The book hitting him squarely on the head in the hope it knocks sense into him?

I doubt it.

So where does that all leave us?

Third in the Premier League, a clean sheet, eight unbeaten with a massive ‘BUT’ hovering over us.

Let’s hope that when it all restarts in a fortnight that we can begin to erase those letters.

’til Tomorrow.

37 thoughts on “Bournemouth Review: The Sideshow Begins

  1. andy1886 says:

    Morning YW.

    Xhaka may not be the problem, but he certainly appears to be for many supporters. Take him out and we can have a decent balanced MF three (DM and a CM/B2B and a creative influence to complete the trio). Put him in and we have a player who is none of those things and on top of that others around him have to pick up the work he cannot do.

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  2. Adam Singh says:

    Great review. Especially like you analysis on Emery suiting cup games where we need one off game plans vs basic plan / style for the league.

    The next three league games are all winnable and surely provide an opportunity to build some sort of form and style with a best 11 now available (pending international injuries and Lacazette return) for selection.

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  3. Ferkov says:

    2 weeeks! 😱
    Might get bored enough to watch yesterday’s game in that time. Though from what I read, I’m not too sure. Thanks YW , saved me 2 hrs .
    At least there’s some decent rugby on.

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  4. iLostInSpace says:

    Ferkov,

    Don’t bother wasting your precious free minutes watching last night’s game. It was horrible. It was as dull a performance as I’ve seen in years. But then if the end always justifies the means for you, go ahead. It was horrible. Still pissed that I stayed up till 2AM to watch this drab that Emery calls football.

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  5. Dukey says:

    We got our Arsenal back….we got our Arsenal back..we got our late eighties early nineties winning ugly Arsenal back …altogether now….we ..

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  6. Las says:

    Dukey,

    C’mon Dukey. It is not like “boring, boring Arsenal” it is more like “scared, scared Arsenal”. Not quite the same.

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  7. Wailesy says:

    Thanks Yogi,

    The cherries were terrible 1st half but we pressed very well and moved the ball around with good energy.

    Yes Emery has some big decisions to make. I’m hoping he fucks Xhaka off and plays Luiz in a 3. I reckon that would work

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  8. consolsbob says:

    Dukey,

    Not ‘boring, boring’ at all, Duke.

    We controlled those games. It is chaos when we play now. No game control whatsoever.

    Scared describes how we play very well.

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  9. Las says:

    Great post as always, YW!
    I am very much with you. Emery is only fit being a cup coach in a small team. He was in the same shoes, the same shite in PSG. He is afraid of star players, he is not able to handle the continuous pressure in League nor has his own style. There is no Emeryball. He starts with safety first approach then if it’s not working – and usually not working- he is trying to adapt. This is not a style mind philosophy. I trusted him that he will learn and/or Arsenal will suit him more than PSG. But sadly that is not the case.
    You just can’t take a no-risk approach in PL. All the team if and when smells blood pick you apart, like Watford did with us.
    I don’t have a clue why Emery is brave in the cups and shy in the league.

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  10. Pete the Thirst says:

    Gotta take the positives from yesterday. A clean sheet; less chances conceded; a victory.

    Beyond that the 2nd half in particular was poor. We seemed to be dozing for periods. A real lack of energy which I can’t understand.

    It could be a lot worse though…just look at the carry on up the Seven Sisters Road.

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  11. andy1886 says:

    Dukey,

    Think you’ve got your dates wrong there! Late 80’s/early 90’s Arsenal were good entertaining times, we were top scorers in 88/89 and had a GD of +37 (winning the title on goals scored), in 90/91 we were second highest scorers and had a GD of +56!!

    We had Rocky, Merse, Smudger, Limpar et al and played a fast aggressive game. No tippy-tappy crap. You could say that about the post ’92 side, or the early eighties teams, but not about the late 80’s/early 90’s sides.

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  12. Spike says:

    “Wide receiver? End zone…?”

    What language is this Yogi???

    Perhaps Xhaka can be promoted to Unai’s PA, then he might actually find something he has a talent for.

    I effing hate the fact he plays for Arsenal, never mind is the captain.

    Atrocious man management from the hapless Head coach…

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  13. Paulie Walnuts says:

    I think UE will stick with Sokratis & Luis until either injury , suspension or consecutive losses force his hand.

    With DL around a back three might be worth a look at , particularly as he played his best football in that formation under Conte at Chelsea. Going to that formation would save Unai from dropping someone (he really could be Arsene’s son) & allow our fullbacks to get forward more.

    Despite Chambers impressing, Bellerin should get his starting place back as soon as he’s match fit. At least Chambers has shown he’s an option there. He could finally become a useful , versatile squad member.

    The left back spot should be more of a contest & may well be rotated. Whilst Kolasinac has been OK I’m hoping Tierney is better.

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  14. Ferkov says:

    iLostInSpace,

    Noted
    Two weeks to resist.
    Just watched the indefatigable Adrian Clarks breakdown, and even he had a note of resignation by the end. Subject closed for me.
    Despite Bellerins upcoming availability, I hope Chambers gets a decent crack of the whip. He has been a constant in our motm contenders every game he’s started. Captains spot?

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  15. Spike says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    I dont think Emery is as attached to sokratis as he is to certain others! So I can see Holding coming in, sooner rather than later.

    Here’s a team I’m actually looking forward to seeing…

    Leno
    Bellerin Holding, Luiz, Tierney
    Torreira Guendouzi
    Pepe Ceballos Auba
    Lacazette

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  16. Ferkov says:

    Spike,

    Your not alone that’s for certain, besides my views on Chambers.
    There’s an Elephant that needs booting out of the room first tho.

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  17. Ferkov says:

    Is it one or two more games/ yellows before Granit has to sit out? Hope it doesn’t coincide with a convenient cup tie . That would be an absolute travesty.

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  18. Blue Yonder says:

    Good article and analysis, especially the point about no defined style of play. The team has to have a basic style for which they’re known and with which the players are familiar and perform well at. Then you tweak things from time to time for particular matches.
    It’s hard to see how performances will improve unless he develops a basic style.
    So, that’s a mark against Emery. Then there’s his team selection. When the returnees are all fully integrated, where (and when) do Holding and Chambers play? I don’t get it.

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  19. jonnygunner says:

    Paulie Walnuts:
    I think UE will stick with Sokratis & Luis until either injury , suspension or consecutive losses force his hand.

    With DL around a back three might be worth a look at , particularly as he played his best football in that formation under Conte at Chelsea. Going to that formation would save Unai from dropping someone (he really could be Arsene’s son) & allow our fullbacks to get forward more.

    Despite Chambers impressing,Bellerinshould get his starting place back as soon as he’s match fit. At least Chambers has shown he’s an option there. He could finally become a useful , versatile squad member.

    The left back spot should be more of a contest & may well be rotated. Whilst Kolasinac has been OK I’m hoping Tierney is better.

    Don’t agree-Chambers has proved so far to be way better than a squad utility player.
    He should be given a chance.

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  20. Blue Yonder says:

    jonnygunner,

    Don’t agree-Chambers has proved so far to be way better than a squad utility player.
    He should be given a chance.

    Hear, Hear.
    Chambers should be playing at CB, also Holding. That Sokratis and Sideshow Bob are preferred to them is asinine. Or Chambers at DM but that, bizarrely, belongs to the captain.

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  21. nicky says:

    There is something tragically wrong when Arsenal supporters on this site begin to look forward to the captain receiving sufficient yellows in order to receive added suspensions.
    If the Manager continues to have faith in the guy, surely it behoves on the supporters to do the same. 😎

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  22. Ferkov says:

    nicky,

    I , sir, do not disagree.
    He’s on 4 ,btw. It’s not like it’s wishful thinking or anything.
    It’s a minor miracle he didn’t get one yesterday,
    But When he gets his next one it would be perverse, imo, for it not to avail an opportunity for an alternative midfield to show their metal against PL opposition.
    Surely the purpose of having 5 captains is to allow for enforced absences, of every description.

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  23. freddo says:

    Chambers for DM. Quick, but not super-quick. Good control. Great engine. strong in the tackle. Good in the air. If Emery thinks the Terrier is too short, Chambers is the man. Just not Xhaka.

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  24. Dukey says:

    andy1886,

    Andy you are older than me I think! I was a junior gunner in 1990! We were always known as boring even when winning with those players. I do remember the cup winners cup final, it was a turkey of a game and we were outplayed but we won 1-0. Its how we won a lot of games back then wasn’t it.

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  25. Dukey says:

    Let’s be honest we were all tired of seeing us dominate possession with 80% tippy tappy ball control and lose 2-0. Id rather we look clumsy and boring and win 1-0 for now.

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  26. Ferkov says:

    Dukey,

    Clumsy’s not the best quality tho. I’d appreciate if we shifted to targeted and boring as a first step to redemption.
    But spot on , much preferred to tip tap oops.

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  27. jonnygunner says:

    nicky:
    There is something tragically wrong when Arsenal supporters on this site begin to look forward to the captain receiving sufficient yellows in order to receive added suspensions.
    If the Manager continues to have faith in the guy, surely it behoves on the supporters to do the same.

    Not really Nicky-everything is subjective for a start…..we all have our opinions on players and the manager’s selections.
    I don’t know (for a start) how the hell Granit is a regular, let alone the captain.Why then should I not feel that he gets another yellow ticket to seal his fate for a while?
    Other than a half sensible(very occasionally) left foot,I really can’t see what he contributes to the side.
    He’s constantly niggling opposition players,petty fouling and just being downright petulant in general.
    I don’t know if you have children Nicky, but if let’s say you had 3 sons- he’d be the one you’d always have to keep an eye on.He’d be without question the first one to be in trouble with the coppers…..I think you know what I mean.He just can’t help himself.He constantly gets into situations where fans think ‘here we go again’ – when it’s completely unnecessary,he puts us under pressure for no reason.
    The reason my faith in Emery is waning is because he’s picked this clown as the leader of our side.
    Let’s be honest,we’re third because the teams below us are crap this year…we’re scraping wins(and draws)-so no we shouldn’t blindly follow what you kept saying about Wenger if I’m not mistaken?Get behind him,how can you question him etc.

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  28. Ferkov says:

    jonnygunner,

    And I thought Nicky was being facetious 🤔
    How are your 3 sons ? Sounds like you’ve been burned.
    If my dad were to read this, he’d have some dreadful flashbacks. Sorry Dad.

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  29. Bufallo says:

    The fact is somehow we are third in the league. Doesn’t matter how bad we’ve been or how bad other teams have been, if we are still 3rd at the end of the season, i’ll take that and Emery no doubt gets a new contract. If we finish 3rd this season and the captain is somehow a key part of that (although my imagination can’t stretch that far) then Emery is vindicated.
    Given the fixture run by the time City visit in December we should be in a very very strong position. If we’re not i’d say Emery is in trouble.

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  30. jonnygunner says:

    Ferkov:
    jonnygunner,

    And I thought Nicky was being facetious
    How are your 3 sons ? Sounds like you’ve been burned.
    If my dad were to read this, he’d have some dreadful flashbacks. Sorry Dad.

    You presume too much mate-I was being hypothetical.

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  31. andy1886 says:

    Dukey,

    Hello youngster! Yes, by the CWC final in ’94 we’d reverted to ‘one-nil to the Arsenal’ but prior to that we were quite entertaining (up until 92-93 season anyway). At least we could defend though.

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  32. The Arsesores Archipeligo. says:

    It may be a cup half full complaint YW, but the comment about ‘playing bad and winning’ does not just apply to a matter of time before everything necessarily unravels.

    We also say that if you can win when you play badly there is plenty left in the tank when you start playing well. The question is answered in ‘can we play well?’

    Well we can and the ‘other’ cup teams showed that.

    Many of those that won against Liege are actually first team players, but having young strikers and differing midfield and defence options is a great position to be in, if used well.

    I remain glass half full frankly.

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