Arse­nal close gap to top four

Aubameyang’s 10th goal of the sea­son wins close en­counter

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer -

At the end of a week in which Unai Emery stated his de­sire to lead Arse­nal back into the Cham­pi­ons League, hav­ing had it stated on his be­half by the club’s manag­ing direc­tor, Vi­nai Venkate­sham, came a re­sult that pushed them closer to­wards that ob­jec­tive at the first time of ask­ing.

Vic­tory over Bournemouth puts Arse­nal just one point be­hind Chelsea in fourth as well as ex­tends their un­beaten run to an im­pres­sive 17 games.

These re­main early days, of course, and much more will be know about Arse­nal’s abil­ity to not only get into the Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fy­ing places but stay there after their next two games – Sun­day’s visit of Tot­ten­ham fol­lowed by a trip to Old Traf­ford – but this was an un­doubt­edly en­cour­ag­ing af­ter­noon for Emery’s men.

They were not at their flu­ent best but showed char­ac­ter and de­ter­mi­na­tion against spir­ited and tal­ented hosts and hav­ing lost a lead right at the end of the first half, re­gained it mid­way through the se­cond-half thanks to Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang’s 10th goal of the sea­son in all com­pe­ti­tions.

For Bournemouth this was a third de­feat in row but Ed­die Howe and his play­ers can take en­cour­age­ment from how they per­formed here. Say­ing that, Jef­fer­son Lerma may be keen to for­get this en­counter in a hurry given the jaw-drop­ping own-goal he scored to give Arse­nal the first of their two leads on 30 min­utes. Joshua King some­what spared the Colom­bian mid­fielder’s blushes with his equal­is­ing goal on 46 min­utes, and Lerma him­self came close to scor­ing at the right end with a low, long-dis­tance drive on 84 min­utes that hit the post. But ul­ti­mately for those in red and black, it was not meant to be.

Tac­ti­cal sur­prise

Emery sprung a tac­ti­cal sur­prise prior to kick-off by de­ploy­ing a three-man de­fence for the first time in the league this sea­son. Me­sut Özil was also only among Arse­nal’s sub­sti­tutes, while Alexan­dre La­cazette was ab­sent al­to­gether hav­ing failed to re­cover from a mi­nor groin strain.

The switch from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-2-1 sug­gested Emery ex­pected Bournemouth to line up in a sim­i­lar for­ma­tion, yet that proved to not be the case. In­stead the hosts went old school – 4-4-2, with Cal­lum Wil­son and Ryan Fraser, who scored for Eng­land and Scot­land re­spec­tively dur­ing the in­ter­na­tional break, among the starters.

As was an­other player who caught the eye for his coun­try dur­ing the past fort­night – Wales’s David Brooks. It was Brooks who had the ball in the net after only eight min­utes fol­low­ing a neat one-two with Joshua King only for the goal to be ruled off­side by the as­sis­tant ref­eree on the near side.

Arse­nal were strug­gling to get into the game, look­ing dis­jointed and a lit­tle clue­less in their rarely used for­ma­tion. Slowly but surely, how­ever, the vis­i­tors took con­trol of pro­ceed­ings.

Alex Iwobi and Aubameyang both de­liv­ered shots on goal, fol­low­ing an ear­lier one from Lu­cas Tor­reira that hit the post, and then came the break­through.

Stretched

Tor­reira was again in­volved, play­ing a pass to Iwobi whose in turn moved the ball to­wards Sead Ko­lasinac as he drove into the left chan­nel of Bournemouth’s area. His sub­se­quent cross was head­ing to­wards the back post – un­til Lerma stretched out a leg in an at­tempt to block the de­liv­ery but in­stead man­aged to vol­ley the ball first time into the back of his own net from 15 yards out. It was a sen­sa­tional fin­ish by the player, yet only served to give Arse­nal the lead and make him look fool­ish.

The vis­i­tors main­tained con­trol and ap­peared on course for their first half-time lead of the sea­son. But then a minute into stop­page time, Iwobi lost the ball in­side Bournemouth’s area fol­low­ing a cor­ner and, from the sub­se­quent coun­ter­at­tack, King equalised with a curl­ing drive into the top cor­ner of the net.

Go­ing some­what against type, Emery did not change his for­ma­tion dur­ing the in­ter­val. The men in mint green came out again in a 3-4-2-1 for­ma­tion and, also again, ini­tially strug­gled to get to grips with the tempo of play. But there is un­doubted steel about Arse­nal these days. They did not buckle un­der the pres­sure and car­ried for­ward by the ex­cel­lent Tor­reira, be­gan to again im­pose them­selves on their op­po­nents.

Dom­i­nat­ing

The vis­i­tors were now dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory and on 67 min­utes re­gained the lead. Again Arse­nal’s goal came from Iwobi play­ing in Ko­lasinac but this time his sub­se­quent cross was di­verted past As­mir Be­govic by one of his team-mates in the shape of the slid­ing Aubameyang.

Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan and Ko­lasinac both had chances to make it 3-1 to Arse­nal while Ju­nior Stanis­las, on as a 72nd-minute sub­sti­tute, tested Bernd Leno with a close-range drive. Lerma then raised hopes fur­ther of a se­cond Bournemouth equaliser, and in stop­page time it ap­peared well and truly on after Shko­dran Mustafi gave away a free-kick on the edge of the area with a typ­i­cally reck­less chal­lenge on Wil­son. But Stanis­las hit the set piece well over.

– Guardian

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DAN MULLAN/GETTY IM­AGES

Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang scores Arse­nal’s win­ner against Bournemouth at the Vi­tal­ity Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

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