While AFC Bournemouth welcome Arsenal FC to the Vitality Stadium, they know that a single point against the Gunners would be good enough for a side that is trying to avoid relegation in their first season in the Premier League.
However, that is not how Bournemouth like to play their football, and we can very well expect an interesting game with Arsenal struggling to regain their form that had given them the tag of serious title challengers, just a few weeks back. The Gunners on their part find themselves with a difficult fixture, at a time in the season when they are finding it difficult to get going on the Premier League table.
Eddie Howe: The Philosopher
Out of the three teams that got promotion this season, Norwich City and Bournemouth have been known for playing an exciting brand of football. However, it was the difficult times that proved the mettle of the managers of the two teams.
While Norwich manager Alex Neil took a more pragmatic approach to weather out the difficult times, Howe decided to weather out the storm with his philosophy of attacking football intact. The young Bournemouth manager has attracted a lot of praise from experts for sticking to his guns. However, he has also wisened up, and gotten a bit of steel in his side, in the form of January signing Benik Afobe.
Arsene Wenger: The Professor
While the 38-year-young Howe has been applauded for sticking to his philosophy, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is someone who has been traversing down that path for a long long while now, and has evolved into ‘the Professor’, as he tries to lead his charges to their first Premier League title in over a decade.
However, the Gunners have been struggling of late, and need to get back to their winning ways. The Frenchman has to get key players like Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez performing once again, in order to get his team to score those crucial goals.
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Benik Afobe vs. Per Mertesacker
Eddie Howe has realised that he cannot merely rely on technical skill to keep Bournemouth afloat in the Premier League. Thus, he has signed a strong and pacey forward like Benik Afobe to add another dimension to their attack. Afobe’s inclusion in the team has worked wonders for Bournemouth, as he has scored thrice in his four appearances for the Cherries. Also Afobe would be doubly motivated to do well against the side where he was once a youth player.
Arsenal have some good centrebacks, but Afobe would be looking to exploit German defender Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace to get behind the Gunners’ defence and score the goals for Bournemouth. However, Mertesacker is also one of the best defenders in the world, and would be looking to get to the ball before Afobe can out-run him.
Andrew Surman vs. Mesut Özil
Andrew Surman is likely to have a difficult Sunday evening as he prepares to square off against Mesut Özil in the middle of the park. Surman, who mainly plays the role of the defensive midfield cover for the back-four, needs to bring his A-game to the pitch, in order to stop the German playmaker.
On the other hand Özil has been arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League this season. The German is by far the highest assist producer of the season, setting up 16 goals so far in the Premier League. The second highest assist producer in the league is Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Erikssen, who is a long way behind Özil, with 10 assists.
Adam Smith vs. Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez has had a brilliant season at the Emirates before being stopped short by a hamstring injury. However, the Chliean star has returned to full fitness, and would be looking to have a real go at the Bournemouth defence, in order to find his way back to the form that had made him one of the stars among the Arsenal fans.
Adam Smith is one of the marauding fullbacks of Bournemouth, and would be looking to add to their play, with his overlapping runs up the field. However, he may reduce the number of runs he makes up the field, as he has Sanchez in front of him, and is likely to have his hands full with the Chilean.
- The Cherries have a number of creative players on their starting XI, and would be looking to create their chances against the Gunners with their help.
- Bournemouth likes to keep possession of the ball and pass it around. Although they are less likely to hogg the ball against Arsenal FC, the away side also needs to be careful when the Cherries attack.
- Bournemouth are not good at defending set pieces, and with the likes of Mertesacker, Koscielny, and Giroud attacking the ball from indirect free kicks and corners, set pieces are a real worry for Howe’s side.
- The Cherries have a tendency of making silly mistakes while defending, and it would not take much for the quality Arsenal players to capitalise on one of them, at some point in the match.
- Arsenal themselves are quite good at defending set pieces though, and with Petr Cech in goal, they also have a pair of safe hands to rely on.
- The Gunners play a lot of through balls to their forwards, who are constantly looking to get behind the opposition’s defence.
- Although they have Petr Cech in goal, the Gunners have still been susceptible to long shots, and that is one avenue Bournemouth might try exploring.
- Stopping the creative department of their opponents has always been an issue for the Gunners, but they would be hoping that the problem gets solved with the return of Francis Coquelin to full fitness.