Bournemouth fought back to beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium, easing their relegation fears.
After a dreary first-half devoid of goal-scoring chances, Héctor Bellerín gave Arsenal the lead when he squeezed a shot under Asmir Begović.
But less than 15-minutes later Bournemouth were level, when Callum Wilson beat Petr Cech to the ball to level the score from close-range.
And Jordon Ibe then won the game for the home side when he fired home to score his first ever goal for Bournemouth, which lifts Eddie Howe’s team up to 13th in the Premier League table.
Here are five things we learned.
Goalkeepers grab the headlines for the wrong reasons
Bellerín did superbly well for Arsenal’s opener – pouncing upon a sublime slide-rule pass from Alex Iwobi and haring away down the right flank – but his low shot from just inside the area should have been stopped by Asmir Begović. The keeper was well-placed to stop the shot but instead allowed the ball to squirm under his body and into the back of the net.
Petr Cech will also be disappointed with his performance. He sprinted off his line to intercept Ryan Fraser’s cross for Bournemouth’s equaliser, only to be beaten to the ball by Wilson. And he should have done better with Ibe’s goal too; like Begovic he was well positioned only to fail to get enough on the ball to keep it out.
Arsenal need to reinvest the Sanchez money … fast
It took a marauding Héctor Bellerín – and some atrocious Bournemouth defending – for Arsenal to break the deadlock against Bournemouth, a side languishing perilously close to the relegation places with one of the leakiest defences in the league.
Arsenal’s front three of Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi simply didn’t cut it for most of this game. Granted, Mesut Özil missed out because of a knee injury, but shorn of Alexis Sanchez Arsenal’s front-line simply does not look as intimidating as it did before. Selling Sanchez for £30m is smart business – in so far as allowing your best player to leave for a direct rival because he’s in the final six months of his contract can be considered ‘smart business’ – but the money needs to be reinvested immediately.
With Tottenham and Liverpool both in good form and with Chelsea five-points ahead, Arsenal face a fight on their hands if they want to make an immediate return to the Champions League. Especially if they continue to drop points against teams in the bottom half of the table. Waiting until the summer to sign a replacement simply isn’t an option.
Ibe finally adds end product
Bournemouth’s club-record signing made a slow start to life at the club when he moved from Liverpool in the summer of 2016, somewhat infamously failing to contribute a single goal or assist in his first 25-appearances for the club during the 2016/17 season. A dismal return for a £15m player.
But his form has picked up in recent weeks and he has been particularly influential over the festive period, weighing in with a vital assist as Bournemouth came from behind to snatch a vital point against Brighton last time out, and winning the match for his team here.
His first goal of the season also saw him put to bed an unfortunate statistic. Prior to his winner, no player in the Premier League had taken more shots on goal (10) without hitting the back of the net. Bournemouth fans will hope this goal gives him the confidence to continue improving.
Wilshere’s form shames Arsenal
Jack Wilshere has been superb since Arsene Wenger handed him his first Premier League start of the season against West Ham and, once again, he was the best player on the pitch for the club today. Energetic, creative and so comfortable in possession, Wilshere kept things ticking over and played with a teeth-gritted tenacity often lacking from Arsenal’s play this season.
But really, what does his run of form say about off-the-field matters at Arsenal? Wilshere isn’t simply a man in form, he is an Arsenal supporter, academy graduate and dressing room leader, too. And in an era when Arsenal supporters have often struggled to connect with the club, he has even taken on something of a talismanic quality.
And yet, despite that, Arsenal have been happy for his contract to run down to its final months. “There's not a decision to make in January,” he recently confessed, sticking firmly to the party line. “I've still got six months left of my contract, I'm an Arsenal player and I'm enjoying playing week in, week out.” He deserves better.
Bournemouth must use this result as a springboard
70-minutes into this match, Bournemouth were 17th in the table, just one point above the relegation places. But now they find themselves sitting pretty in 13th, closer to a place in the top-half of the table than the bottom three.
The bottom half of the Premier League table is extraordinarily congested and, as the likes of Everton, West Ham and Crystal Palace have shown, any team able to put together an encouraging run will find themselves rapidly pulling away from danger.
Bournemouth have plenty of winnable fixtures on the horizon, with games against West Ham, Chelsea, Stoke, Huddersfield and Newcastle next up. If they can maintain the momentum they will have gained from this win, they can take a giant step towards safety.
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