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Bou vs. Ars: Prem's Longest Serving Managers Go Head-to-Head

2018 hasn't been particularly kind to Arsenal. Three competitions, two draws, one loss - and while the draws were arguably respectable against Chelsea, the wounds of the demoralizing 4-2 loss to Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round of the FA Cup are still raw. But there's rarely much time to dismay - Arsenal travel to the Vitality stadium on Sunday afternoon to come up against Eddie Howe's low-flying Bournemouth side, in what is a must-win game for Arsene Wenger to keep his side in contention for a Champions League position by-way of the Premier League.The news of the past week has generally been dominated with one name: Alexis Sanchez.It looks beyond likely that the 29-year-old is leaving North London, with his most likely destination Manchester - City and United both interested - so it appears that ties will be cut, in the coming week or so. What currently remains to be seen is whether he will play a part on Sunday. Beginning the League Cup Semi-Final game against Chelsea on the bench, the forward took to the field in the place of Alexandre Lacazette in the latter stages of the game. Will he start against Bournemouth? My gut says that he probably will not - the thinking being that the side will want to adjust to life without their unpopular star player sooner rather than later - but a very valid argument could be made for playing a world-class player when he is fit and available, regardless of transfer situation. Regardless of Sanchez's involvement, his (current) manager said in the pre-match press conference - that was almost entirely filled with unanswerable questions about his player's future - that he would not be let go until a replacement is prepared, whomever that may be.This game features the current two longest-serving managers in the Premier league, although Wenger will once again not be on the side-lines for this match, as he sits out the final game of his 3-match ban following the comments he made about referee Mike Dean following the West Bromwich Albion game on New Year's Eve. In another interesting quirk, stopper Petr Cech can become the first goalkeeper to keep 200 Premier League clean sheets - he has 162 for Chelsea and 37 for Arsenal. With the Gunners conceding 8 goals in their past 4 league games, however, this may be a tough feat.One player who will be praying he finds the net is Lacazette. The Frenchman hasn’t managed to score in any of his last seven League games – his longest run without a goal since a run of 10 matches in the latter half of the 2013 season. He’ll certainly be striving to break his duck and chip in with a goal.In some positive news, there has been a sizable midfield boost this week; not through the addition of players, but the return.The first is Aaron Ramsey, who after over a month out of action has recovered from a hamstring injury. He should be fit enough to play a part in the game against Bournemouth, although he may start the match on the bench due to a lack of match fitness. The other good news is the prognosis of Jack Wilshire's injury. When the in-form English midfielder, who spent last season plying his trade with Bournemouth began limping against Chelsea in the cup, it was hard not to fear the very worst - but thankfully, that's not the case. Wenger reported the midfielder, who returned to scoring in the previous league game against the Blues, was "not out yet" when asked whether he would feature against the Cherries, adding that he seen him "walking normally and his scan was good,".In terms of other player's fitness, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal and Olivier Giroud are still out, with countering reports emerging as to the fitness of Sead Kolasinac. Mesut Ozil is also a doubt, with his fitness following a knee injury deemed to be 50/50. The German play-maker may be fit enough to get a place on the bench, with a late test prior to the game the defining factor in whether he will play or not.Bournemouth have not been having a great time of-late; as Arsenal fans can relate to all too well, when it rains, it pours. The Cherries currently sit in 16th, one point above the relegation places. With only one win in the past 9 Premier League matches - an admittedly impressive 2-1 victory over Sam Allardyce's in-form Everton - it has been a rough couple of weeks for Howe's free-flowing side.What has added to this recent downturn in form is injuries to important players, and thankfully for Arsenal's case, it looks like this will also be the case for Sunday's match-up. Constant threat Jermain Defoe will not play a part in the game, as he has just returned from injury to train again; as is the case with Tyrone Mings. Influential pair Joshua King and Junior Stanislas face fitness tests, having been sidelined in recent weeks with hamstring injuries, and Howe will be desperate for them to be deemed playable.Arsenal won the reverse fixture of this match 3-0 in September, with Danny Welbeck scoring twice; a common result in this fixture - Bournemouth have never won in six previous encounters with Arsenal, and conceded at least twice in each of those games.With all of these important players either out or on the bench for Bournemouth and the past record, you would feel that on-paper this should be an easy game for a side nearly double the points of their opposition... but results of late have not inspired confidence, especially away from home - winning only 3 of 11 this season. The league games proceeding Sunday’s tie are Crystal Palace at the Emirates and bottom side Swansea City away at the Liberty Stadium. There’s no doubt about it – Arsenal need to bring home 3 points in each of these ties, with matches against Tottenham and Manchester City on the horizon in February. It all starts against Bournemouth.Arsenal travel to the Vitality Stadium on Sunday to face-off against Bournemouth in the Premier League, with kick-off scheduled for 13.30pm.