Tuesday 23rd January 19.45
Bournemouth are coming into this tie off the back of an impressive win over a struggling Swansea side. That’s not to qualify their weekend success, as to score three goals to nil away from home is a good win in anyone’s book but to merely point out that Swansea were just the kind of team they needed to face following consecutive losses.
Little Jack all grown up
On-loan Arsenal midfielder, Jack Wilshere, was in excellent form for the Cherries and appears to be reveling in the role given to him by manager, Eddie Howe. Their match against the Swans saw him play in the 10 position but often times he has played from deeper in midfield. Either way, he is getting regular game time and it looks to have done wonders for his confidence and stamina, his talent rarely being in doubt.
Is the law an ass?
So it’s a kick to the swingers for Howe insofar as the rules dictate that Wilshere cannot play against his parent club, Arsenal. On the face it, the rule seems to make sense; coming up against one’s primary paymaster and erstwhile teammates might do strange things to a player’s mind, enabling a variable of instability and potential doubt. However, is it right that the loanee is only available for 36 matches of the season? That’s a potential six points which they are unavailable for; a goodly amount not to be sneezed at, especially at the season’s end.
Ooh, that stings!
But rules is rules and Wilshere will watch from the stands. Given his recent form, Arsenal will not be unhappy about that. They, too, come into this match off the back of a win which included a wonder of a goal by the much-maligned Olivier Giroud. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should. A wonder of technique in the face of a needs-must moment produced a scorpion kick of sublime quality, the Frenchman stating after the game that is was probably the best he has ever scored.
High plains grafter
That Giroud should execute something so magnificent will undoubtedly be a boost for him but also for the confidence of an Arsenal attacking line that is currently shorn of Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Chuba Akpom. For the likes of Alexis Sanchez to witness Giroud pull off such a technically excellent goal in the heat of battle will give him the belief that the French forward can, on occasion at least, operate at an exalted level of play; precisely the plain of existence that Sanchez himself largely operates from.
Rovin’ and probin’
Due to injuries, the Gunners are still down numbers in their defence but two cleans sheets in a row coming into this game will do their nerve no harm and with Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka operating in front of them, they might fancy adding a third straight shut-out. Although he can’t replicate the repertoire of the injured Santi Cazorla, Xhaka has a fine range of passes at this disposal and Arsenal will hope that his incisiveness can set the forwards loose from midfield.
Brothers from another mother
Bournemouth are a team that like the ball at their feet and look to make maximum use of their time on it. Not for them booting the ball over the opposition’s midfield in the hope of hitting the man up top. They will look to play through and around Arsenal and however it ends up, this should be an entertaining match as a result. After all, at their best, few do that kind of football better than Arsenal and signs suggest that they have hit a decent vein of form.
Expect a match high on quality passing and clever movement but you should also expect Arsenal to win. It’s not just that Bournemouth are missing Wilshere, they also seem incapable of winning back-to-back matches. That stat will become redundant at some stage, of course, but probably not here. Arsenal possess the necessary quality to win what should be a tough game. The best price for that result is 5/6 and comes by way of WilliamHill.