Arsenal welcome Bournemouth to the Emirates Stadium this afternoon knowing victory would see us climb into the top four of the Premier League table.
We currently sit sixth but a win today would move us level on points with Leicester and to within just a point of second placed Man City ahead of their game with Wolves so we have an opportunity to head into the international in decent shape.
Unai Emery has been criticised by some corners of the fan-base in recent weeks but we got a solid point at Man Utd last week and put in an excellent performance to beat Standard Liege on Thursday night so hopefully we can build some momentum with another win this afternoon.
However, Bournemouth won’t be an easy game as Eddie Howe has build a decent side on the south coast and they are just one point behind Arsenal in the table so we shouldn’t take anything for granted today.
Arsenal will continue to be without Alexandre Lacazette as the striker is still recovering from an ankle injury but otherwise the rest of the squad is in good health as we picked up no fresh injuries against Liege in midweek.
Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding all came through 90 minutes in the Europa League after recently recovering from injuries so our defence has been handed a major boost.
Mesut Ozil hasn’t been involved in our last two matches so it remains to be seen whether he’ll be recalled today but Emery is expected to bring Bernd Leno, Sokratis, David Luiz, Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Auabmeyang into the fold after they were rested on Thursday.
As for Bournemouth, they’ll have Ryan Fraser available again following illness but Adam Smith, Dan Gosling, Chris Mepham, David Brooks, Charlie Daniels and Junior Stanislas are all out.
I think Thursday’s game was the perfect example of how much better Arsenal look without the ponderous Xhaka in midfield. With Lucas Torreira holding and two of Guendouzi, Joe Willock and Dani Ceballos in front of him we look far more balanced, physical and energetic in the middle of the park so I hope the boss has the balls to leave our ‘captain’ on the bench. I’m not holding my breath though.
I hope Kieran Tierney and Holding keep their places in defence but I wouldn’t risk Bellerin again so soon after he played his first 90 minutes of the season. Gabriel Martinelli deserves to start ahead of Nicolas Pepe following his superb performance against Liege. This would be my line-up:
In reality, I expect Chambers, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka and Pepe to start instead of Maitland-Niles, Holding, Tierney, Torreira and Martinelli.
Bournemouth XI: Ramsdale, Stacey, S. Cook, Ake, Rico, H. Wilson, Billing, Lerma, King, C. Wilson, Solanke
We’ve been pretty inconsistent this season but with the injured players returning hopefully we start to pick up some form over the coming weeks. Arsenal have a good record against Bournemouth as we’ve won each of the last five games at the Emirates and we have a great home record in the league so I’m confident we’ll get the job done today.
Bournemouth are a decent side and our defence will no doubt gift them chances, especially if Luiz/Kolasinac play instead of Holding/Tierney, but Arsenal should have too much firepower for them. I’m backing the boys to win 3-1 this afternoon.
Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth