Date: 26 December 2019
A score draw against a so-called ‘top six’ side is not a bad result. And the improvements in every department since last Saturday were most encouraging.
The line-up contained some surprises: Simpson was filling in at left back, because Rico was suspended. Steve Cook was back, and was captain for the day. Callum Wilson was back in the starting line-up with Fraser (unusually, on the right) and King either side of him, in a system that could oscillate between 4-1-4-1 and 4-1-2-3. The first half was somewhat end-to-end, and fairly evenly balanced, I thought, between the two sides, in turns of both possession and scoring opportunities. We were defending quite well and forcing Arsenal to shoot from distance. And on 35 minutes Dan Gosling, who was already having a good game, got the goal he so deserved – from a position close to the near post but at the furthest end of the pitch from where I was sitting. Towards the end of the half rain started to come on, but it was nowhere near as bad as last Saturday.
No substitutions were made at halftime, and early in the second half Joshua King managed a brilliant – fast – break down the left wing. But he couldn’t hold the ball up long enough for any other Bournemouth player to come level with him, so was forced to shoot into the side netting. Shortly after this Fraser won a corner, but took it short so nothing came of it. And then King got another speedy break down the left flank. This time an Arsenal player brought him down and we won a free kick, but nothing came of this either. And when we got a throw-in in a position that would have suited Steve Cook, Stacey took it – and it was very poor indeed. Our best chance during this part of the game was therefore when a Lerma pass found Callum Wilson, who turned and shot – on target, but such a weak shot that it was easy for the Arsenal goalie to save.
Arsenal equalised in the 62nd minute (so both today’s goals were at the far end of the ground from me) when a cross was deflected to Aubameyang who was in space at the far post and could hardly miss. 1-1.
We made a couple of substitutions: Harry Wilson for King and Billing for Gosling, both slightly surprising. And late on Callum Wilson got the ball in the net. The linesman immediately gave it offside, and it almost certainly was, but we remained hopeful until the VAR decision confirmed the call. I guess such checks are standard these days.
So the score remained 1-1, but to be honest this was a fair reflection of the game – and every point counts in our struggle against relegation.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Stacey (7), S Cook (7), Mepham (7), Simpson (6);
L Cook (7), Gosling (8);
Fraser (7), C Wilson (7), King (7)
Stacey, S Cook, Mepham, Simpson;
Billing, L Cook;
H Wilson, C Wilson, Fraser