Date: 27 February 2019
After the heady excitement of my last game (home to Chelsea) it was back down to earth with a bang tonight.
Just the sight of Arsenal’s stadium, beautifully illuminated on a dark night and with a capacity crowd inside, was a reminder that Bournemouth with their tinpot ground don’t really belong in this league. Then a glimpse at the team line-ups revealed that Arsenal had star players like Lacazette and Ramsey on the bench while we had second-teamers starting! (Injuries to Solanke, Wilson, Brooks, Stanislas, L Cook, S Cook and Francis – plus a suspension for Lerma – obviously didn’t help!) And then as our squad came onto the pitch in their insipid minty green strip with white shorts, they didn’t even look like viable opposition for the smartly-attired star-studded home team.
So we expected to struggle to get anything from this game. But even the greatest pessimists didn’t imagine we’d be a goal behind (an unmarked Ozil capitalising on the huge amount of space our defenders had gifted him) with not much more than three minutes on the clock. And before the half–hour mark the home side were 2-0 up, because a foolish cross from Smith had enabled a one-two between Ozil and Mkhitaryan, the latter scoring.
Incredibly we got one back. A rare error by an Arsenal defender enabled Gosling to cross to Mousset, who had no difficulty finding the bottom right hand corner of the net. I suppose scoring any goal is good for Mousset’s confidence – but to be honest this one was impossible to miss. The main effect, however, was that the rest of our squad now suddenly came alive, started passing well and keeping possession well, and enjoyed a purple patch up to half time that suggested we might yet get something out of this match.
The half time penalty competition between the two sets of supporters was much more entertaining than anything we’re used to at Dean Court – especially when Cherry Bear was given responsibility not only for defending the goal but for taking a penalty himself. And the Bournemouth team won! But it was the only thing Bournemouth would win this evening. Poised just one goal behind Arsenal we really needed to defend well at the start of the second half and bide our time – NOT give away another goal almost immediately! Well, both Ozil and Mkhitaryan were involved again, in this third Arsenal goal, though it was Koscielny who actually scored it, having got behind our defence. Only now, at 3-1, did Eddie change the system and beef up the defence (Daniels becoming a third centre-back; Clyne and Rico becoming wingbacks; and Fraser moving into the ‘hole’ behind the strikers). But soon after this Aubameyang got round Boruc to score Arsenal’s fourth; then a further Arsenal shot hit the side netting; and to add insult to injury Lacazette came on at 4-1 (if there was ever an occasion to rest him you’d think tonight would be it!) and put a free kick over Bournemouth’s wall to make it five.
It’s hard to think of many positives to be taken from this game – especially the second half – though Gosling did once hit the crossbar with a shot and King had a shot from distance tipped over the bar by the Arsenal keeper. But for me the highlight was seeing Surridge’s ten minute cameo appearance. He looks like a centre forward should look, taller than everyone around him, and he spearheaded our attack from the minute he came on, always getting into good positions and – whenever he didn’t have sight of goal himself – being very accurate in his passing. Definitely a player I’d like to see more of.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Clyne (6), Mepham (6), Aké (7), Smith (5);
Ibe (5), Gosling (5), Surman (5), Fraser (5);
Mousset (6), King (6)
Mepham, Aké, Daniels;
Clyne, Gosling, Surman, Rico;
Mousset, Surridge, King