Arsenal face a difficult trip to the Vitality Stadium on Tuesday as they attempt to extend their winning run in the league to three matches. It is important that they continue to put the pressure on the sides above them as there is still an outside chance of a title challenge. For them to do so, they need to win matches like this and can’t afford any more slip ups. Bournemouth played well at the Emirates just over a month ago and they will be confident about getting a result at home if they deliver a similar level of performance. It will be a good game to watch for the neutral as both sides look to play good football.
The home side are coming into this match after a convincing victory over Swansea City, which should give them the confidence to go at Arsenal. They are now in the top half of the table, which is an excellent achievement given the size of the club. Eddie Howe has done a great job and he will be keen to build on that in 2017. It is going to be difficult for them to grow much more, but for Bournemouth to become established in the Premier League is incredible in itself.
The Gunners moved up to third position after their win over Crystal Palace on Sunday. They were excellent and should have won by a bigger margin on the day. Olivier Giroud scored one of the best goals of the season so far and is beginning to consolidate his position as the club’s premier striker once again. It will be interesting to see if Arsenal do any business in January as many of their rivals at the top of the table will. There remains a concern about their central midfield, but it would be surprising if Arsene Wenger enters into the market. He isn’t one to panic and will be happy with the squad that he has available to him.
In the first meeting between the two clubs this season, Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners with a brace from Alexis Sanchez and another from Theo Walcott. Callum Wilson netted for the visitors from the penalty spot. The Gunners also took the three points in the corresponding fixture last season with goals from Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. They will be full of confidence ahead of Tuesday’s match.
Marc Pugh is a doubt for the home side as he continues to suffer from a hamstring strain. Jack Wilshere will be ineligible to play against his parent club, while Lewis Cook is out with an ankle injury.
Shkodran Mustafi could return to the starting eleven after being named as a substitute against Crystal Palace. Danny Welbeck is closing in on a return and could feature in the match-day squad. Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Debuchy, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs will all be missing.
Bournemouth have lost six of their last ten matches, showing an area they need to improve on. Fewer defeats and more draws will stabilise their position in the top half.
Olivier Giroud has scored six times in his last four Premier League starts.
The young winger was talked about as a talent after the departure of Matt Ritchie. Many expected Fraser to make the step up and although he didn’t initially, he is now becoming a fixture in the starting eleven. The turning point came against Liverpool, as he came off the bench to make a game-changing contribution, helping his side comeback from 3-1 down. He was excellent that day, with his movement and direct approach causing the Liverpool defence a lot of problems. Fraser has outperformed Jordon Ibe this season, which is no mean feat considering the former Liverpool player was signed for a big fee during the summer. He started against Swansea and scored to mark another good performance in the first team. Fraser is expected to retain his place and will be eager to prove himself against one of the best sides in the league. He did so against Liverpool and will be a player that Arsenal need to watch out for on the counter-attack.
The Frenchman has been talked about a couple of times before in this preview, and deservedly so after a couple of great performances in the last two matches. He has really taken his opportunity in the first team after a frustrating season so far. Alexis Sanchez was the side’s first choice striker for the majority of the first half of the season, but Giroud has come back into the side and is scoring goals. He is much maligned by some sections of the Arsenal support, but he is a quality striker and one that can make the difference in tight Premier League matches. His goal on Sunday was extraordinary as he pulled off a scorpion kick to open the scoring. He is full of confidence at the moment and will be a handful for the Bournemouth defence. Sanchez has dropped off in recent weeks and now Giroud is stepping up.
It is going to be a good game with plenty of entertainment for the neutral as Bournemouth are one of the few sides that look to attack against the bigger clubs in the league. Eddie Howe has faith in his players to compete with the very best and that is a refreshing attitude when many of his peers look to play deep and counter-attack. The problem for Bournemouth is that their defence isn’t good enough and they make too many mistakes in matches such as these. Arsenal should have too much for Bournemouth once again, but it will be a difficult test and one that the Gunners must pass if they want to challenge for the title. I think they will.