An Alexis brace, either side of a rare Walcott header (which had equalised the gentlest and softest of penalty awards to Bournemouth) hauled the Arsenal back into winning ways.
A fairly long hiatus in match day attendance from your humble scribe meant that given our last three mediocre performances, albeit against above average opposition, meant I feared a game that in theory should be straightforward may not be. I welcomed the combination of fried onions and spiced meats aromas as I surfaced from the underground train at Finsbury Park like long lost friends.
The lack of creativity in the midfield due to the continued absence of Santi meant Wenger tried another midfield pairing of Xhaka and Elneny although the big surprise was the inclusion of Debuchy, a selection that was a out of left field.
Taking my seat in the North bank lower the autumn sunshine kissing the middle and upper tiers, I had a distant view of the Bournemouth support.
Bournemouth in the dark
From kick off it appeared Cech was aiming his goal kicks to our master of aerial ball control Theo, even though he made fair attempts to win headers, which led to attacks on either flanks. Two of these attacks led to defenders hauling down the Ox and I think Alexis thereby resulting in two yellows to the away defenders early on.
This indecision may have led one of them to attempt a calamitous back pass which our genuinely world class forward, Alexis, seized on and slotted home with the efficiency we have come to expect. Even a below fully fit Alexis is a constant threat to the opposition goal and defenders will always hurry their passing and panic can ensue. Of course Alexis can loose possession occasionally but his pluses outweigh this and it’s probably why Wenger is loathe to drop him. An attack without him is far less potent and our pressing is half hearted when he’s not there
An early goal settled the nerves so therefore you’d expect things to improve thereafter – wrong.
An innocuous collision and then the lesser seen Debuchy was off, confirming my suspicions that he doesn’t exist in reality, just as a chimera. His replacement, Gabriel (I pronounce it Gabriel as you would for Gabriel Oak in Far from the Madding Crowd), raising eyebrows and blood pressures in equal measure.
An out of form/flavour player was always going to struggle to slot back in to the side but more so in an unfamiliar position – the Brazilian is no right back and an element of uncertainty was introduced into the back line.
Some confusion in front of the defense after the referee failed to give a foul against Mesut allowed a Bournemouth attack to result in the softest of penalties being given; the home crowd still incensed after the non-award of the foul in the build up.
The last third of the first half had the away side pushing forward for a second goal, with a point blank Cech save keeping parity, and enjoyed rather too much possession to the extent that to go in to the break level was a relief and allowed the Arsenal to regroup.
Half time saw a pitch side interview with our crazy German ex keeper Lehmann, looking more and more like “The Hoff” as the years go on.
The second half restart saw the effects of the Wenger half time hairdryer (less a Fergie style blast of hot air than a gentle mistral) with the home side charging towards me in the north bank end, with Xhaka looking more demonstrative in the midfield.
The Bournemouth defense was teased and stretched apart by a combination of the Ox and Mesut and a cross from the left bounced in the goal keepers area where Theo capped off a vigorous display of forward play with a well taken header to celebrate the birth of his second son and to put the good guys back in the lead.
While it has been said Theo’s performance have dipped a bit recently on today’s performance there was plenty of evidence of “new Theo” – the one who helps out the right back, chases down the ball and tussles in tackles regularly.
With renewed confidence flickers of the old midfield fluency came back and more attacks resulted in some last ditch blocks and cross bar intervention keeping the lead slim. A note of the constant running of Elneny must be made; his constant harrying of the Bournemouth midfield was second only to the pressing of Alexis.
There was still danger at the Arsenal goal as particularly dangerous cross, from a corner, flashed across the goal, which form my viewpoint at the other end of the ground, seemed it would go in and make the score a dreaded “Desmond” ( 2-2 as in Tutu).
A Cech goal kick going into touch had Wenger apoplectic with anger in his puffy, light grey sleeping bag coat.
As the fixed substitution time(65-68 minutes) approached the push for a third goal was still on and Mesut started finding space and the connections he wasn’t getting in the last few games.
Finally Theo and the Ox were subbed, both to appreciative and thankful cheers, with Olly and Ramsey on to keep Bournemouth on the defensive.
Immediately the aerial prowess of the bearded french forward meant more knock downs were won and a third goal seemed inevitable. Olly turned provider with a smart pull back to allow Alexis to run on and dispatch his second goal and conform the win.
In conclusion although win draw or lose today we would still be fourth (yeah, of course our favourite position) small green shoots of recovery were seen in this Santi-less team, but sterner tests lie ahead where a more robust solution to cover the little Spanish maestro’s absence will be needed.
By charybdis1966 (on twitter as @charybdis1966)