Date: 9 September 2017
I don’t suppose anyone expected us to do anything other than lose this game – but the manner of defeat, with none of the players (apart from Mousset, later on) seeming ‘up’ for this match, and the dullest performance you’ll ever see from a Bournemouth side, was of greater concern.
As has happened before, the highlight of the day was the wonderful beer and food in the Exiles-nominated pub. But from the time of our arrival at the ground (approximately 2:30) it was all downhill. In the old days a turnstile operator would have seen we had valid tickets and let us through, but in these days of barcode checks our tickets were evidently “blocked” – requiring a lengthy journey in the opposite direction of the crowds, around the stadium, down the steps and along to the box office. They stated that although our tickets were valid, AFC Bournemouth Ticket Office hadn’t passed the necessary monies to Arsenal Ticket Office – so they’d let us in, if we paid again! So, having now paid £52 for the dubious ‘privilege’ of watching this match, I returned to the turnstile, got in, but had already missed the first five minutes. A steward now advised us that the seat numbers on our tickets didn’t exist (!), but allowed us to stand in the disabled section!
We were just in time to see Arsenal’s first goal (Welbeck knocking a ball from his left into the net with his shoulder), before really taking in what our own team line-up was. We’d retained the back three from the Manchester City game (good!) but dropped Surman from midfield and replaced him with Fraser, so it was more of a 5-2-3 system. Afobe wasn’t even on the bench.
Our play, though, was dull. None of the “playing from the back with pace in attack” that we used to sing about. In the absence of Surman, Arter was playing in a Surmanesque style: passing occasionally sideways but generally backwards. Ake was poor (until the final half hour when he moved forward slightly, in front of the other two centre backs). Begovic kept us in the game with world-class saves from time to time; and notably from Xhaka, Ozil and Lacazette in the first half. But before the half was up Arsenal were even further in the lead, an Ake error gifting Lacazette an easy shot from the edge of the area. And just when we thought things could get no worse, Fraser got injured and had to be replaced by Ibe, who can evidently only play on the right flank, so King moved to the left.
Early in the second half Defoe had two golden opportunities to score close together, which at least showed that he’s getting into the right positions. He headed against the post and then put the rebound wide. But otherwise things were much the same as the first half, the half time substitution of Francis for Mings having made little or no difference. And on fifty minutes Ramsey passed to Welbeck who slotted the ball calmly into the far corner of the net for 3-0. Game over. Later, Defoe was replaced by Mousset – who fought for every ball and adopted a ‘shoot on sight’ policy, resulting in ironic cheers from the away fans – but it was too little too late. It shows what a dreadful day it was that we lost 0-3 but my ‘man of the match’ was still the goalie!
The journey home capped a poor day when South Western Railway appeared to be running hardly any trains at all, and for a while every single train on the board at Clapham Junction was shown as ‘delayed’. By the time I got home that wonderful lunch seemed a lifetime ago, and I found myself agreeing with those Arsenal fans who’d been confidently singing that we’re “going down” this year…
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
A Smith (6), S Cook (6), Ake (5), Mings (6), Daniels (7);
Arter (4), Gosling (5);
King (6), Defoe (6), Fraser (6)
A Smith, Francis, S Cook, Ake, Daniels;
Ibe, Mousset, King.