Tonight sees the last of the ties in the FA Cup Fourth Round – replays aside – and it’s a match which involves two sides who have had a shaky season for differing reasons. In the home corner, it’s Bournemouth, the South Coast side who have seemed to be on a direct collision course with relegation for the last few months. The visitors are Arsenal – whose performance levels seem to have risen since Mikel Arteta took the job of manager at the Emirates, but who are yet to really see much of an uptick in results.
Tonight’s tie is an interesting one for many reasons. Bournemouth, in what is now their fifth consecutive season in the Premier League, are looking more vulnerable than at any stage in those last five years. Ideally, tonight they would significantly reshuffle their pack and let the result fall as it may – but a rash of injuries has made that essentially impossible. Arsenal, for their part, should see this is a comfortable win – but they are missing attacking and defensive leaders through injury and have struggled to get a game over the line this season. We’re not saying they’re in a relegation fight, but they are on the same points total as Newcastle and Crystal Palace, who both definitely are in relegation fights.
Angel Gabriel could offer Arsenal immaculate way forward
It’s anyone’s guess why, at the age of 18, Gabriel Martinelli was playing in the fourth tier of Brazilian football, but his appearances so far in England have made him one of the standout young players in the Premier League. In all competitions, he has got on the scoresheet ten times across 21 appearances, and it’s making him hard to ignore as an attacking option for the Gunners. In the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through suspension, the youngster is a pretty good shout to get among the goals this evening.
You can get odds of 5/4 with STSBet on the Brazilian to get among the goals tonight, and those are tempting. One of the most impressive aspects of the player’s showing so far is that while many of his teammates seem to have struggled for form and motivation as the club ensures troubled times, Martinelli has played with a freedom they’ve lacked. This hasn’t gone unnoticed at a club which has made stars out of numerous unheralded youngsters before.
Bournemouth must go with what they have
Seemingly cursed to always be that manager pundits mention when talking about the lack of top-club opportunities for English bosses, Eddie Howe has done impressive things with Bournemouth. When the side is in form, it is capable of playing some thrilling football and this has been achieved without spending a great deal of cash. However, there is also a sense that the Cherries carry a certain amount of naivete which still persists even as they enter the second half of their fifth Premier League campaign. All too often, they simply get swept aside by better-resourced opponents rather than changing tactics to frustrate them.
Additionally, it seems to have been lost on many of the people in positions of power at the club that football is much more than an 11-man game. Five years is more than long enough to build a Premier League-hardened squad – but with eight first-teamers out injured, Bournemouth look anaemic. The current collective seems absolutely unready to handle adversity, particularly in defence. Paddy Power are pricing “More than 3.5 goals” at 11/5 for this game, and with both teams much better on the front foot than they are further back, that seems like a price worth taking.
Gunners progress with simple win
By no means are Bournemouth doomed to relegation – a few wins would lift them out of the struggle they find themselves in right now and, when fully fit, they have the quality to get those. And perhaps a defeat tonight would be of help to them. Certainly, the last thing they want is a replay which would both affect their ability to have a mid-season break and stretch still further their first-team resources. No-one would be happy with a 1-1 draw, which would be a repeat of the result when these teams met here in Arteta’s managerial debut.
Despite just two wins in Arteta’s seven-match career in the dugout, Arsenal do (for the first time in a while) look like a side with a plan. Their 2-2 draw at Chelsea came amid significant adversity of the kind that has caused past Gunners sides to splinter and collapse. They have a chance to kick on against a limited opponent here, and we’d be unsurprised to see them get what they need. At William Hill, you can back Arsenal to lead at half time and go on to win at odds of 8/5. These seem like odds worth taking against such a brittle Bournemouth team.
Bets of the Day
Martinelli to score at any time (STSBet, 5/4); Arsenal/Arsenal (William Hill, 8/5); More than 3.5 goals (Paddy Power, 11/5)