Sixth meets fifth at the Vitality Stadium this weekend, with Bournemouth looking for their first points in three games after a couple of frustrating outings. Speaking of frustration, visitors Arsenal have won just once in their last five games, and that came in a League Cup victory over Blackpool. These are two fine sides who’ve surprised a lot of people so far this season, but the outcome of this game could tip one of them into… well, not a crisis, but certainly a run of form that threatens to derail their season.
The Gunners come into this game with questions over the fitness of striker Alexandre Lacazette, which could mean a chance to play through the middle from the start for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Bournemouth will have had the entire international break to stew over a 2-1 loss to strugglers Newcastle, as well as a long-term injury to left-back Adam Smith, and they really need the fillip a positive result could give them here.
Bournemouth vs Arsenal Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Arsenal
This match is exceptionally hard to call. If Bournemouth were in the form they were showing throughout the first couple of months of the season, they could reasonably be favourites, but it is hard to stick that tag on a team that has just lost to Newcastle. Similarly, Arsenal are experiencing some difficulty in getting separation from their opponents, drawing three consecutive Premier League games. We’d give the nod to Arsenal to win this one narrowly, though, because Arsenal are better-equipped with players to pick up the goals needed in a close game.
Our recommended tip: Draw HT, Arsenal FT
The Gunners have had a quite eventful season, going on a long winning run after losing their first two games to Manchester City and Chelsea. The one thing to remain constant in a season of streaks (two losses, then seven wins, then three draws) has been that Arsenal haven’t led at half-time in any league game. This at least indicates that they finish strongly and, if they get to the break with the scores level, you can be confident of Unibet’s 9/2 (5.50) odds on Draw/Arsenal coming off. The Cherries were sunk by a last-minute goal in their last home game, so this will be a nervy one for them.
Arsenal stumbled across Bournemouth at this very stadium in January, when Eddie Howe’s men were in the heart of their best form of the season. The game didn’t end well for a Gunners side still unaware that they were in Arsene Wenger’s farewell lap, although they took the lead through Hector Bellerin. His 52nd-minute opener seemed set to give them the points, until a two-goal salvo on 70 and 74 minutes from Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe gave the home side the points.
It was revenge for the Cherries after a September trouncing in which Danny Welbeck scored twice and Lacazette once as the Gunners ran out 3-0 winners.
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Players to watch: David Brooks & Shkodran Mustafi
Bournemouth’s impressive start to the season has been even more startling because the side, who spent much of last season in the doldrums, signed few first-team players in the summer, choosing to favour squad continuity. Brooks was one of the exceptions, arriving from Sheffield United, and has slotted right in to the Cherries’ expansive attacking game. The Welsh international has scored three times so far this season, and will benefit from plenty of attacking freedom thanks to the presence of Ibe and Ryan Fraser on the wings.
Mustafi is highlighted here primarily because he’s played every minute of every league game so far this season, and is the only Arsenal player to have done so. The German stopper has come in for a certain amount of criticism, but Arsenal have lost precious few games while the personnel around Mustafi has been constantly revolving. The confidence Unai Emery is showing in his centre-back will certainly help, and let’s not forget the former Valencia man has a World Cup winners’ medal in his collection.