On February seventh, Arsenal travel to Dean Court as they look to get their Premier League title challenge back on track. After going into the New year top of the league, Arsenal have only won one of their five Premier League games in 2016. Three draws and a loss on the bounce has put their title challenge in jeopardy and dropped them to fourth place, behind Manchester City, Leicester City, and rivals Tottenham. The disappointing 0-0 draw against Southampton, despite having 10 shots on target, has made this nothing short of a must win game for the Gunners.
Bournemouth are four games unbeaten and are climbing further and further away from the relegation zone. Now seven points off of the bottom three, the Cherries’ recent run of form has them looking like good bets for safety. Now only four wins away from the magical 40 point mark, Bournemouth will look at this as an opportunity to steal an unexpected win against the Gunners.
Outside of their long term injury concerns, Bournemouth are looking pretty good on the injury front. They are still without the Max Gradel, Callum Wilson and Tyrone Mings through their long term knee injuries, but Wilson and Gradel are reported to be only a month or two away from returning and being fit to play in the run in at the end of the season. They look like they’ll be without Junior Stanislas for the game against Arsenal, but they will be getting Josh King back from injury.
Arsenal are also looking pretty good on the injury front, especially considering where they were a month or so ago. Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are both recovering from long term injuries. Tomas Rosicky injured his thigh in his comeback from injury against Burnley and will be without him for another two or three months. They’ll also be without Danny Welbeck as he returns to full match fitness with the under 21s.
Since the two teams last met at the end of December, title challengers Arsenal have accumulated six points in their last five games while relegation threatened Bournemouth have picked up eight points in their last five. While the Cherries have won fewer home games than any team outside of the bottom three, Arsenal have not won a home game since their December 13th against Aston Villa. This is only the third time the two sides have ever met, and the first time outside of London.
Bournemouth: Benik Afobe
After the injures to Max Gradel and Callum Wilson, Bournemouth have struggled for goals at time this season. They addressed that in the January transfer with the signing of an Arsenal academy product in Benik Afobe. Since injuries prevented him from playing in the league for Arsenal, Afobe made his Premier League debut in the 3-1 defeat to West Ham on January 12th. While he didn’t score against the Hammers, he’s scored in all three Premier League games since then. This has become a must win game for Arsenal, and it could just be an Arsenal academy graduate that puts one of the nails in the coffin of Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge.
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez
It has been 305 minutes since Arsenal last scored a Premier League goal and because of that they’ve gone four games without a win. After scoring on his full return to fitness against Burnley, Alexis Sanchez was unable to bag the goal Arsenal needed agaisnt Southampton, but he did create five chances, have two shots on target, and one shot cleared off the line against the Saints. Arsenal are in desperate need of goals and, despite not getting one on Tuesday, Alexis looks like a good candidate to start scoring for them.
Arsenal should have enough to see this one out, but that’s what people have been saying for their last few games. Their desperation to win this game could leave space for Bournemouth to exploit on the counter. Still, they should have enough to get the three points they desperately need.
Prediction: 2-1 Arsenal