Arsenal (1) 1 AFC Bournemouth (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 6th October 2019. Kick-off time: 2.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka; Mattéo Guendouzi, Nicolas Pépé, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Emiliano Martínez; Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: David Luiz
Yellow Cards: Gabriel Martinelli
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 53%
Referee: Martin Atkinson
After just nine minutes, the only goal of the match came, thankfully from David Luiz, and from that moment onwards the die was firmly cast in our favour, as fate would have it. And it was a very good job as well that the goal came when it did, as there were times when things looked a trifle rocky out there in London N5. But the real man of the moment was not Señor Luiz (even though it was his first goal in Arsenal colours), but Nicolas Pépé, whose well-taken corner enabled our much-maligned centre-back to score with an excellent glancing header. Up until the sixty-third minute, when he was substituted for Gabriel Martinelli, he showed enough promise for us all to believe that this young man will be a true star for the club over the next few seasons or so; he nearly even got us a penalty as well, when he was brought down by Diego Rico. After a VAR check, the penalty was denied, but the intent to score was certainly in there from our striker.
Let’s be honest, for the first twenty minutes or so, we were lively and creating chances (hence the goal), and after that, we calmed down and became less animated and as a result, less passionate. Although it has to be said that we did create one or two chances (mainly for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), after this period, by the time half-time arrived, most of our supporters appeared to seem incredulous at their post-goal appearance in this half.
As is often the case, the second half was a totally different story altogether. Somehow, we were unable to build on our lead and appeared to be more intent on a holding, possession-based game rather than an out-and-out attacking one. This led Bournemouth to wake up and start feeling their feet, mainly because our midfield became almost non-existent at times, and so became woeful. The visitors were desperately unlucky not to equalise, and their wingers had enough space and time to cause us real concern. Thank God for a sterling performance by Calum Chambers, who was truly immense at the back. The match needed livening up from our perspective, and aside from the aforementioned Pépé/Martinelli substitution, Joe Willock came on for a rather lacklustre Dani Ceballos on 75 minutes, and eight minutes later, Lucas Torreira replaced an ineffective Bukayo Saka, but still we were unable to score another goal.
Unbelievably, we were most fortunate not to concede a late goal in injury time, and thankfully we walked away with maximum points from this match today.
Look, it wasn’t pretty, and at times it was a close run thing, but a win is a win, and this time it landed us in third place, with just a point behind Manchester City, which is a truly magnificent achievement for this squad at this point in the season. The Premiership is the most demanding league in the world, and at times we have to accept that we need to grind out matches to get maximum points from a game, which is exactly what happened here at The Emirates today. Having said that, it was an element of concern that we faded away somewhat in the second half, and remember as this was not the line-up that destroyed Standard Liège on Thursday, fatigue couldn’t have been an issue here. Enough of the negatives, there are positives here. This was the first clean sheet that we kept at The Emirates this season, and it was encouraging to see Calum Chambers, Mattéo Guendouzi and Nicolas Pépé step up to the plate when needed. Due to the international break, we don’t play again for fifteen days; let’s see what the Sheffield United match will bring. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Monday, 21st October at 8.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.