Premier League 2018-19: Bournemouth v Arsenal: Preview & Prediction
If you’d have told Arsenal fans before the season that they’d only be one place ahead of Bournemouth in late November, they’d be calling for Unai Emery’s head, but the reality is that the Cherries have had a remarkable campaign so far this season. Eddie Howe’s side have been one of the surprises of the season so far, but back-to-back losses in their last two Premier League outings has taken some of the shine off their gleaming start.
Arsenal haven’t lost since the opening two rounds of the season and will be looking to extend their unbeaten run, although a trip to Dean Court could prove to be a tricky affair.
Newcastle 2-1 Bournemouth (Premier League)
Newcastle United hadn’t won in any of their first ten league games this season, but they made it two in a row against high flying Bournemouth before the international break. Salomon Rondon has been accumulating praise in recent times, appearing to be much sharper, fitter and clinical this season than he was for West Brom in the previous campaign.
It took just 7 minutes for the Venezuelan to score, converting a cut-back at the second attempt. The Magpies doubled their lead shortly before the break, Rondon with a bullet header. Jefferson Lerma got one back for the visitors in added on time at the end of the first half, but the Cherries couldn't equalise in the second period, despite their best efforts.
Arsenal 1-1 Wolves (Premier League)
To say that a newly promoted side have been unlucky and still sit 11th in the top flight is a very unusual situation, but that’s the scenario that Wolverhampton Wanderers find themselves in. The sheer amount of money that’s been spent and the quality that’s been brought in during the last two seasons meant that Wolves are genuine contenders for a Europa League spot and they showed that against Arsenal before the international break.
Despite early pressure, Ivan Cavaleiro put the visitors ahead after 13 minutes through a great counter-attacking move. The Gunners would put the Wolves area under siege for the rest of the game, spurning a number of good chances, and it seemed like Arsenal were heading towards their first defeat since August.
However, a bit of luck fell their way as substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s cross evaded everybody, including Rui Patricio, and the home side were level with just 5 minutes remaining. Despite Arsenal’s possession superiority, the chances were pretty evenly split and this has to go down as a fair final score.
Adam Smith was brought off in the first half against Newcastle and the full-back is out of contention for this one, likely being replaced by Dan Gosling. Aside from that, it's the same eleven which played in The Cherries' previous match, including recent England international Callum Wilson up front.
Lacazette and Aubameyang are both doubts but will likely be risked with Danny Welbeck ruled out of this one. If either of those don't play, that could hand a start to Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles or even Eddie Nketiah.
Also, don't rule out Sokratis returning to the line-up in defence in place of Rob Holding. Henrikh Mkhitaryan should also get a starting berth after his late goal against Wolves and aside from that, it's the same XI which began that match.
Key Player: Callum Wilson
Just like his club, Callum Wilson's rise to the top has been a sensational one, culminating in scoring for England on his debut against the USA. Wilson has been in excellent form, and his 6 Premier League goals have helped Bournemouth to rise to the place they find themselves in now.
Bournemouth defend as a unit, so singling out one of their players to help keep a clean sheet would be unfair on the rest. Wilson, however, will be crucial to any success that the Cherries will have and the Gunners will have to focus on him if they're to return to London with all three points.
Arsenal to Make the Top 4?
Just a few seasons ago, Arsenal making the top 4 and gaining Champions League qualification was a common joke amongst football fans, but the North London faithful would snatch your hand off if you were to offer them that now.
Despite the unbeaten run that Emery's men have been on, they start this game in fifth and have to usurp either Tottenham or Chelsea if they are to return to the Champions League in 2019.
Of course, they could qualify via winning the Europa League, but that's arguably a more difficult feat, especially with Chelsea in the competition as well.
Prediction: Borunemouth 1-3 Arsenal
Arsenal have to win this one and I believe that they will. Bournemouth will probably force their way through at some point, but the away side should leave with all three points, their attack is too tricky and skilful to be held at bay by the Cherries for the whole game.
Bournemouth Win: 5/2
Arsenal Win: 11/10
First Scorer: Lacazette & Aubameyang - 9/2, Wilson 11/2