Sunday 27th November 14.15
14.15 Arsenal v Bournemouth
It’s November. We’re not sure how it is elsewhere but in much of Europe, November has been relegated from a sovereign month to a vassal state for Christmas. Essentially co-opted by Santa and his capitalist cronies (we’re joking about Santa), November has little to recommend of itself so we must search for some new meaning, an event or act that happens with some regularity each year at this time. Hold on, what’s this? Oh yes, it looks like it’s Arsenal and the beginning of their winter struggles. Ho, ho, ho.
Same old, same old…
Yes, despite having finished as runners up in their CL group for six seasons in a row and paying the price in the knock-out round that followed, they conspired to put in an awful performance midweek against PSG in a result that all but condemns to coming second again. Crucially for this weekend, what was particularly alarming was the utter lack of effort shown by the Gunners after PSG had equalized, especially given that they must have known how this would effect their standing in the group. The more things change and all that.
Here to stay
Everyone seems to like Bournemouth and Eddie Howe. They are a bunch of plucky lads looking to maintain a long-term presence in the BPL and he is a young, British manager with a charming smile and a pleasing, positive approach to football. Put like that they sound like a bloody Hallmark holiday, which is to say vomit-inducing. But perhaps that’s overly cynical. They attempt to play an attractive brand of football and often can succeed in those attempts. Win or lose, they’re brave enough to stick to their principles even when the going gets tough and for that they deserve credit.
Focus and fresh legs
Looking at the form table over the last five games, Bournemouth sit just behind Arsenal. Without any European football to distract them during the week, Howe will have had a good stretch on the training ground with his players, the entire focus of which will have been on this game. One cloud in their sky will be the fact that they won’t be in a position to play Jack Wilshere as current rules dictate that loanees are not eligible to play against their parent club. That is a shame for all concerned.
What is it about November?
So, can Arsenal shake the straightjacket of November tradition from off of their shuddering shoulders? It’s hard to say. Sense would suggest that, even taking into account their stuttering form of late and travails in front of goal, they should be too strong for the game but relatively limited visitors. However, Sense and Arsenal have a fractious, inconsistent relationship and history tells us that when they struggle at this time of year, it tends to get worse before it gets better.
All things considered, then, this column shall throw itself to the whims of the subjective and back Bournemouth to win outright. Santi Cazorla is a big miss in midfield for Arsenal and without him dictating from deep, their forwards are no way near as effective. Bournemouth, too, will suffer in the absence of Wilshere but they will look to outplay Arsenal, compensating for their perceived lack of quality with a will to win which Arsenal seem to have misplaced. If that sounds reasonable to you, you’ll be delighted with the price of 8/1 that BetFred are offering for that outcome.