Before both sides go into their respective FA Cup away matches against Millwall and Preston North End, they face each other in search of vital points that’ll keep either side in the in the hunt for the title or an improbable European spot.
The last time they faced each other was towards the end of November. Arsenal won quite comfortably with goals from Alexis Sanchez and one from Theo Walcott (cue Danny Welbeck goading Jack Wilshere.) Bournemouth though score a goal of their own through Callum Wilson.
When Bournemouth hosted Arsenal last season, Arsenal won convincingly with goals from Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming within a minute of each other.
Arsenal come into this match off the back of a 2-0 home win against Crystal Palace while Bournemouth fared similarly well and were victorious 3-0 away at Swansea.
Going into this match, I think Eddie Howe’s side would’ve learnt a lot from their defeats against Arsenal and I believe they will be a totally different side this time round.
Eddie Howe’s side could inflict further misery on Arsenal’s faltering title charge should they win but Arsene Wenger’s side will be determined to secure a third successive win. Bournemouth have already taken a major scalp at Dean Court this season, their incredible 4-3 victory against Liverpool. Arsenal do not want to be next on the “hit list”. Bournemouth have the rather strange ability to turn a normal Premier League game into a supercharged FA Cup tie and the atmosphere at the ground plays a massive part in that.
Arsenal’s title charge has been helped a little this week by Liverpool dropping points at Sunderland but with Tottenham Hotspur only a point behind them, this is not the time to be taking the foot off the gas.
This match comes days before the third round of the FA Cup, so don’t expect too much chopping and changing from the two sides. For Arsenal, Mesut Ozil could remain ruled out through illness just as he was ruled out for the game against Crystal Palace. Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs could also miss out through injury and Mohamed Elneny is away on international duty with Egypt as they prepare for the African Cup of Nations.
For Bournemouth, Jack Wilshere misses this match as loan rules state a player cannot play against his parent club.Whilst Marc Pugh remains an injury doubt. The Cherries will have Benik Afobe available though as he turned down the offer to play for DR Congo at the African Cup of Nations.
Wenger has bemoaned the tight fixture schedule which has seen his side play three times in as many days, citing it as the most “uneven Christmas period ever”. It’s a little unfortunate that they’ve had so little rest but they can do nothing about that and will just have to soldier on.
Looking at the match facts, I’d say that Bournemouth have the upper hand as they have already won five league matches at home, the same number of home league match they won last season. Arsenal, on the other hand, would be less fancied based on the fact they haven’t won away since beating West Ham exactly a month ago. Having said that, Arsenal are most people’s favourites to win this encounter.
I hope Bournemouth turn up with an interest in winning, unlike West Brom who many accused of turning up to Arsenal looking for a draw. That way we’ll see a real battle.
Should Arsenal win this match, Wenger’s side would move four points clear of Tottenham Hotspur and six points behind Chelsea. However, a Bournemouth win will make life that much harder for Arsenal to battle for the title.
Speaking of Tottenham and Chelsea, the sides meet on Wednesday. Which side would I like to see win? I prefer the referee…
Feature image credit: Chris Downer