It’s time for Mikel Arteta’s first game as the new Arsenal Head Coach, as our Boxing Day fixture sees us take on Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
The Spaniard will have been hard at work on the training pitch, in an attempt to gauge what exactly is needed to propel us back up the table, and also to see who he should field for this crucial encounter.
He will have been buoyed by the fact that his side earned a rare clean sheet on the road in our last game, which he watched from the Everton Directors Box. It was a display full of steel and robustness, something that has been sadly missing from our season.
It shows that the boys were eager to impress their new boss and that they do have it in their locker – so where has it been? That is the task that will have Arteta putting in the hours, but first and foremost he needs to put in some quick fixes that can get us points while the games come thick and fast.
Bournemouth represent our first challenge for our new dawn. The Cherries were on a slump before beating Chelsea a few weeks ago. Boss Eddie Howe has put together a strong squad but they do have some players missing and we have a strong chance of coming away with the points should we show the same strength we did against Everton.
Mikel Arteta has some decisions to make. Who makes his first team selection?
There’s good news on the injury front. Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding are both fit and taking part in full training and it can’t have come at a better time, as Calum Chambers is suspended for this game after amassing five bookings, so Holding could come straight in. Alternatively, Sokratis could slide into defence to partner David Luiz.
In midfield, Dani Ceballos is training too after missing the last two months, but the Spaniard is not sharp enough to be considered. Mesut Ozil is back and ready for selection too, but Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney are both out until well after the New Year.
Mikel Arteta has made no bones about the fact he wants his side to return to the attacking football that the Gunners are renowned for, but does that mean both Aubameyang and Lacazette will play? What about Nicolas Pepe? With Gabriel Martinelli nursing a slight knock, he could rest and Pepe could play.
Player to Watch
With Calum Wilson likely missing out, the Norwegian will carry the goal threat. Harry Wilson will pose a threat from set-plays, but Josh King is strong in the air, has a great touch and if he gets you on the turn, he can eviscerate easily. With Sokratis and Luiz most likely being our central defence, pace isn’t exactly our strong suit. Stay touch-tight and don’t let him run.
How This Could Go
Bournemouth lost their last outing, Burnley snatched a late win and it gives us hope. Without Wilson, the Cherries look a little blunted. We have more than enough to go to the South Coast and take the points.
Still, it doesn’t seem to matter who we play, we have been giving up an alacrity of chances to opposition. That is down to confidence in our side, and that is one of those quick fixes that Arteta can manage. Change that, and watch us at the very least head toward the top eight.
There’s plenty of work to do, everyone can recognize that. This match though, represents a great chance to grab an elusive win.
Predicted Team – Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Saka, Torreira, Xhaka, Aubameyang, Ozil, Nelson, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal
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