Mikel Arteta’s first game in charge of Arsenal ended all square as Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth held the Gunners to a 1-1 draw on Boxing Day.
The game started in rip-roaring fashion with both teams having good chances to score inside the opening 15 minutes. Ryan Fraser, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were among those who missed opportunities to put their side ahead in an end-to-end game.
The inevitable opening goal of the contest eventually went to Bournemouth, with Dan Gosling sweeping in Jack Stacey’s cut-back to give the Cherries the lead just after the half hour mark. After the break Arsenal came out all guns blazing with Aubameyang firing just over with minutes played in the second half.
The Gunners continued to dominate proceedings and Bournemouth were made to pay for retreating deep into their own half when the Gabonese striker finally got his goal, after a deflected Reiss Nelson shot found its way to his feet.
After the equaliser the game ebbed and flowed fairly evenly with chances few and far between, though Bournemouth did have the ball in the back of the net with ten minutes to play – only for VAR to rule out Callum Wilson’s goal for offside.
Here’s 90min’s breakdown of Arteta’s first game as a manager…
Key Talking Point
Ravaged by injuries like they have been for the majority of the season, Eddie Howe was again forced to field a slightly unorthodox side against the Gunners. Jack Simpson was brought in for his second league appearance of the season, while Steve Cook returned to the heart of the Cherries defence after a hand injury.
Despite these alterations, Bournemouth were organised and aggressive in their press and they were rewarded for this persistence when they managed to steal the ball of the Gunners in the final third and quickly create the opening goal of the game. It was quite the improvement from their previous home fixture – a 1-0 defeat against Burnley in which they failed to register a single shot on target.
After their goal, the Cherries sat in a deep block and looked content with attempting to soak up Arsenal’s pressure. This strategy would prove to be an error, with Bournemouth’s passive defending allowing Arsenal to dominate possession and grow in confidence – eventually resulting in Aubameyang’s equaliser.
The Cherries will rue their decision to drop deeper and Howe’s side always appear more dangerous pressing higher up the pitch.
Starting XI: Ramsdale (7); Stacey (8*), S Cook (6), Mepham (7), Simpson (7), Fraser (6); L Cook (6), Lerma (6), Gosling (7); C Wilson (7), King (7)
Substitutes: Billing (6), H Wilson (6)
Playing in a backline that included the likes of Steve Cook, who had only just returned from injury, and Jack Simpson, who was making just his second appearance of the year, Stacey still managed to put in an accomplished performance.
Providing an inch-perfect assist for the game’s opening goal, the 23-year-old also performed his defensive duties well, making up for Fraser’s defensive shortcomings down the right-hand side.
Key Talking Point
So, it begins – the Mikel Arteta era at Arsenal. Going into his managerial debut there was plenty of speculations over what the Gunners would play like under the Spaniard and Arteta responded emphatically by selecting an extremely attacking line up.
The influence of Pep Guardiola was clear. By fielding Maitland-Niles and Saka at full-back and Aubameyang and Nelson as wide forwards, Arteta was hoping to create Guardiola-esque overloads in wide areas and it was a plan that worked fairly well in first half, with Ryan Fraser in particular struggling to cope with the barrage of attacks flowing down Bournemouth’s left wing.
For all of the refreshing positivity created by Arteta’s tactical alterations, the first goal of the game revealed that some familiar problems that have haunted Arsenal all season still need to be addressed.
Starting XI: Leno (7), Maitland-Niles (6), Sokratis (7), Luiz (6), Saka (6); Xhaka (6), Torreira (8*), Ozil (7); Nelson (6), Lacazette (6), Aubameyang (7)
Substitutes: Pepe (6), Mustafi (6), Willock (6)
Deployed at the base of the midfield, Lucas Torreira was key in everything the Gunners did this afternoon.
Industrious and anticipating passes well, the Uruguayan broke up Bournemouth’s counter-attacks regularly and allowed Arsenal to dominate possession.
Arteta should continue to deploy Torreira in this role going forward as it makes his side look so much more comfortable in both attack and defence.
Arsenal doing a lot of 2v1 in defense. A lot of help done by Torreira where he excels. Great to see
— Spanish Gooner (@elspanishgooner) December 26, 2019
Arsenal fans, Lucas Torreira is playing at the base of midfield.
We repeat: Lucas Torreira is playing at the base of midfield.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 26, 2019
The festive fixtures keep coming for both of these sides in what is also a busy period of Premier League action. Bournemouth have a south coast derby to contend with on Saturday when they make the short trip to Brighton.
Arsenal on the other hand have one more day’s rest, as they take on Chelsea in an all-London derby on 29 December.
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