Can the Gunners beat the Cherries?

AFC Bournemouth host Arsenal in their Premier League clash at the Vitality Stadium this afternoon (1.30pm kick-off UK time).

It’s a vital much for both teams for very differing reasons.

The Cherries are in 17th place in the Premier League table, with 21 points from 22 matches.

They are unbeaten in their last three league games (W1, D2), but sit just a point above the relegation zone.

They won their last home league match, against Everton, but have not won back-to-back Premier League matches at Vitality Stadium since March 2017.

Bournemouth have lost five of their 11 home leagues matches this campaign. They lost six at the Vitality Stadium during the whole of last season.

The Cherries have conceded in each of their last nine league games.

AFC Bournemouth have lost 10 of their 13 Premier League matches played on a Sunday (W1 D2 L10).

Arsenal are in 6th place in the Premier League table, with 39 points from 22 matches.

With transfer speculation threatening to overshadow what’s happening on the pitch.

The Gunners can’t afford to drop any further points if they are to challenge for a top 4 finish.

They are five points behind the top four and playing catch-up after drawing three of the last four league matches.

The Gunners have drawn five of their last seven Premier League matches.

They have only won three of their 11 away league games this season and have conceded eight goals in their last four league matches.

Head-to-Head

Arsenal are unbeaten in their five Premier League matches with AFC Bournemouth. (W4, D1)

The Gunners fought from 3-0 down to earn a point in this exact fixture last season, the only time they’ve ever come back from such a deficit in the Premier League.

They beat the Cherries 3-0 when the teams met at the Emirates Stadium on 9th September 2017, with goals from Danny Welbeck (2) and Alexandre Lacazette.

Key Men

AFC Bournemouth

The experienced Asmir Begovic is Bournemouth’s last line of defence and has established himself as No 1 since joining from Chelsea.

Nathan Ake has developed as a key part of the Cherries defence since his club record transfer from Chelsea in Summer 2017.

In the absence of Jermain Defoe, the Cherries main goal and attacking threat will come from Callum Wilson.

Arsenal

Alexandre Lacazette is on his longest run of league games without a goal (7 matches) since May 2013.

Danny Welbeck scored twice as the Gunners won 3-0 in September’s reverse fixture.

Petr Cech can become the first goalkeeper to keep 200 Premier League clean sheets. He has 162 for Chelsea and 37 for Arsenal.

The Managers

Arsene Wenger and Eddie Howe are the Premier League’s two current longest-serving managers.

Eddie Howe

This is what Howe had to say at his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“Last season’s meeting was an incredible one to be part of. We showed two sides, our quality for 60-70 minutes and then theirs for the last 20.

“Hopefully this year, we’re due a performance and then the result comes with it. But it’s never easy, we’re going to need to bring our A-game that’s for sure. Hopefully we’ve built a bit of momentum in recent games, being unbeaten in four.

“I think we need to take some of the positives we’ve gathered in recent weeks and launch that at Arsenal.

“In our first season in the Premier League, we got severe lessons in certain games and it was met with applause for just being there and participating in the game.

“In the second season, the demands grew and in the third season, they have grown again.

“That’s the big change and from this side, we have to try to manage people’s expectations and get everyone to unite behind the team, and go back to basics where every point is a point gained.

“Every win should be cherished because we are not going to be given anything at this level, it has to be earned.

“We have to fight tooth and nail to stay in the division.”

“The bigger the challenge, the bigger the response you get from me internally. That’s how I’ve always faced everything and adversity can be a real asset for you, it can be galvanising.

“That has always been my mindset in difficult moments but that’s where you really have to grow and show your strength.”

Arsene Wenger

This is what Wenger had to say at his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“There’s a massive importance for these kinds of games, of course. We have been distracted a little bit by the cups, but now we have to come back to the Premier League. It’s a very, very big game.

“Last year was a spectacular game, when it finished 3-3. They are a team who have a bit more difficulty this season but down there they can make it difficult for anybody

on his memories of the 3-3 at Bournemouth last season: “Well the nightmare, after the relief and then the frustration, because we could have won the game in the end. Basically what can happen in the story of a game is that you can go through all kind of states of mind. We showed character again in this kind of game. We had a slow start and they were absolutely storming out. They were full of confidence at the time and they were difficult for everybody. I think they beat Liverpool last year as well. Overall they had a good home record.”

on how much not being on the touchline at Bournemouth will affect him: “I would prefer to be in the dugout of course, but I have to respect my ban and fortunately it’s the last game. I must say, the second game was not too bad, because I was in a fantastic position in the media area. You’re quite spoiled.

on where he will be sitting on Sunday: “I hope I will be with you (the media), because I know I will be in a good seat!”

Team News

AFC Bournemouth

The Cherries have no new injuries.

Joshua King and Junior Stanislas could both be in line for a return today after hamstring injuries.

Jermain Defoe remains out with an ankle injury.

Tyrone Mings is a long-term absentee with a back problem.

Arsenal

Aaron Ramsey returns to the squad for today’s match after a hamstring injury.

Mesut Ozil will have a late test on a swollen knee.

Jack Wilshere has recovered from an ankle knock picked up against Chelsea in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

Laurent Koscielny (Achilles), Sead Kolasinac (ankle) and Nacho Montreal (ankle) should be fit to return next week.

Olivier Giroud (hamstring) is still two weeks away from a return.

Match Officials

Referee: Kevin Friend
Assistants: Harry Lennard, Matthew Wilkes
Fourth official: Lee Probert

Friend has taken charge of 11 Premier League games to date this season, handing out 26 yellow cards and awarding six penalties. However, the 46-year-old is yet to award a penalty in English football’s top flight this season.

Prediction

Arsenal to win 2-1.