There were lots of interesting plot lines in this FA cup encounter between the two sides, Arsenal and Bournemouth who have both been extremely poor for the bulk of the season.
The performance of Bournemouth and Arsenal in this game would probably indicate the immediate future of each and go some way to splitting the sides fortunes.
Bournemouth have been over achieving for years and it’s mainly thanks to Eddie Howe that they’ve survived this long. However, over the course of time, with the gruelling fixture list and demands of an extremely competitive league, teams start to crumble, especially if funds haven’t been forthcoming and there’s a real danger that this year will see the South Coast side fall into the championship.
This was also another chance to check out Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake, who was allegedly an Arsenal target.
He did reasonably well but I’m not sure he’s the upgrade Arsenal need at a price they want.
From an Arsenal perspective, there was a glimpse into the future with Arteta selecting Willock, Saka, Martinelli and Nketiah, all in the side from the first whistle.
Arsenal’s problems has been their inability to seize control of a game and get results. They have lacked any form of cohesion from front to back but their Spanish coach has at least instilled a much grittier persona to the North London club.
They had become a soft touch and even though Bournemouth have had their own problems, they must have felt the sides were evenly matched before kick off.
That thought lasted up until the fifth minute, when Joe Willock pulled off an impressive swivel which left his man for dead, before passing to the impressive Martinelli.
The young Brazilian then found make shift left back Bukayo Saka, who unleashed a blistering finish which stretched the net.
Arsenal applied pressure and remained dominant for the majority of the first half but when it starts to feel like that, supporters are normally treated to the mother of all meltdowns and at least a draw.
Despite less possession, Bournemouth weren’t out of it. They lacked quality and confidence and some of the basic errors were more that of a side two divisions lower.
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Howe looked a pained figure as he looked for solutions that probably don’t exist or are beyond his battered side.
Nathan Ake was clearly hoping for the type of game that promoted a move away from Bournemouth but his colleagues had other ideas.
Like helping Eddie Nketiah, who managed to grab a goal (26) and justified Arteta’s decision to keep the young striker at Arsenal, after pulling the plug on his loan spell at Leeds. Saka put a fizzling low cross into the home sides box and all Nketiah had to do was select a style of finish just to help it on its journey past Travers to double the lead.
Wilson had looked the best player for the hosts as he made a nuisance of himself in and around the Arsenal box but the striker isn’t prolific enough to keep Bournemouth in goals.
In the second half, the home side looked like they actually fancied the task. Probably aware that Arsenal hand out their best gifts around the 70 minute mark with their traditional pantomime defending.
Yet, it all fell into a stalemate for a period, with Arsenal gearing down and lacking urgency and Bournemouth lacking any penetration.
In terms of transfer, Eddie Howe needs a striker urgently and someone that can push the team forward from the midfield.
Guendouzi was testing the refs patience at times and it has to be said that the energetic, springy haired Frenchman tends to involve himself where he shouldn’t.
He also objects far too often, talks too much and falls to the ground like a man that’s been hit in the head by a coconut.
Talking of the fallen, Mustafi took an early bath after he was stretchered off (58) to be replaced by Rob Holding. The giant German landed awkwardly and may have damaged his ankle trying to clear his lines.
With Arsenal’s transfer strategy withering in the light of financial reality, the last thing they needed was another injury at the back. One more and they’ll be in serious trouble with a definite lack of quality and options.
66 minutes in and Bournemouth nearly got the goal that their second half effort had deserved, when Martinez went to punch clear but mistimed his jump. Simpson connected with his head from the cross but it went whistling wide, much to the relief of Arsenal’s cup keeper.
As is often the case, early goals make for a flat second half and Arsenal’s intensity seemed to drop substantially allowing their hosts to give a better account of themselves.
Bournemouth’s only consolation was a goal from Sturridge (90+3) but in fairness it felt as if a reply was on the cards.
In the end a defeat to Arsenal in the FA cup is a bonus as far as Eddie Howe is concerned, because he can now try to find some form in the premiership and cling on to survival but from the evidence of this he has a lot of work to do.
Arsenal won’t get too carried away after this result, they need to work on consistency that lasts a full 90 minutes and they also need to be more ruthless up front to close a game.
Arteta will now concentrate on getting valuable points to maintain the teams position and advance upwards if they can. Whereas Bournemouth are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun and by the end of March, it could all be over for them in the premiership.