By Danny Lewis (@DannyLewis_95)
AFC Bournemouth came into this game without Jack Wilshere and Benik Afobe, as Wilshere is unable to play against his parent club and the latter didn’t get international clearance from DR Congo to play in the game. Arsenal were without Mesut Ozil and Mohamed Elneny, with the latter going to the African Cup of Nations. Both teams came into this full of confidence after picking up wins in their last game.
The two teams came out of the blocks quickly looking to get a foothold on the game, but it was the home side who took the lead early on. After some sustained pressure from Arsenal, Junior Stanislas managed to get on the ball. He then played a brilliant cross field pass to Charlie Daniels, who took the ball down into his path, went past Hector Bellerin and placed the ball past Petr Cech to put the Cherries into the lead in the 16th minute.
It wasn’t long before AFC Bournemouth made it 2-0, as just four minutes later Ryan Fraser was brought down by Granit Xhaka in the box to hand the home side a penalty. Callum Wilson sent the ball down the middle and Cech dived to his left, leaving the ball to roll in, making it 2-0 to AFC Bournemouth.
Both sides had chances to score in the remainder of the half but neither side managed to get the ball in the back of the net. However, Francis Coquelin was forced off due to an injury and replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey both got bookings trying to contain the home side. Steve Cook also picked up a booking for a challenge on Alexis Sanchez.
The first half came to an end with AFC Bournemouth deservedly 2-0 up. It was a brilliant half from them, but Arsenal would have been very disappointed by how easily their defence was broken down.
When the second half began it didn’t take long for the Cherries to start causing Arsenal problems again. In the 56th minute it looked like they had got their third goal of the game when Harry Arter’s shot went in off of Wilson, but the referee disallowed it for handball.
However, just two minutes later Ryan Fraser got the goal that made it 3-0 to Bournemouth. He matched Bellerin in a footrace to the ball and then outmuscled the Arsenal right back, sending him to the floor. The Scotsman then cut inside and placed the ball through Cech’s legs, showing plenty of composure.
AFC Bournemouth looked in full control of the game at this point, but if anyone thought that Arsenal were completely out of it they were wrong. In the 70th minute Oxlade-Chamberlain crossed the ball into the box, Olivier Giroud flicked it towards the back post and Sanchez produced a diving header that powered the ball past Artur Boruc to get the score back to 3-1.
Just five minutes later Arsenal had a second. Giroud flicked the ball towards Lucas Perez, who swivelled on the spot and sent a magnificent volley into the far corner to bring the score back to 3-2.
Following on from that AFC Bournemouth were put under relentless pressure by the Gunners. Everyone was having to put in a defensive shift, so it really didn’t help their cause when Simon Francis was given a red card in the 83rd minute for a challenge on Ramsey. It was deemed that it was a dangerous tackle, but the AFC Bournemouth fans really weren’t convinced, as it appeared that Francis won the ball.
Brad Smith was brought on for Wilson to help the home side soak up the pressure, but in the end they just couldn’t hold out. Arsenal got the equaliser in the 92nd minute through Olivier Giroud, who had already assisted the first two goals. The goal came when Xhaka clipped the ball into the box and the French forward got his head on it, guiding the ball just inside the post, out of Boruc’s reach.
This dramatic finish was one of the last bits of play in the match and the game ended soon after, with the score at 3-3. It was a thrilling game, but after being 3-0 up with just 20 minutes left, AFC Bournemouth would have expected to come away with the three points.
After the game Arsene Wenger praised the mental strength of his side: “70 minutes in we were 3-0 down, so it was a mental test and we succeeded, because we have great resilience in the team and great mental strength and that came out. I think in the end we were even frustrated not to win the game.”
Eddie Howe was upbeat after the game, choosing to focus on the positives for his side: “I don’t want to be negative. I don’t want to sit here and say anything other than that I was really pleased and proud of the players. The effort they gave today, I thought was exceptional and I think you have to praise Arsenal for the way they came back into the game, rather than be critical of the team.”
AFC Bournemouth remain 9th in the league and Arsenal stay 4th after this result. The teams have an FA Cup tie coming up next, with the Cherries away at Millwall and the Gunners travelling to Preston North End.
AFC Bournemouth: Daniels (16), C. Wilson (21 pen), Fraser (58)
Arsenal: Sanchez (70), Perez (75), Giroud (90+2)
AFC Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Daniels; Gosling, Arter; Stanislas, King (Surman 63), Fraser (A. Smith 67), C. Wilson (B. Smith 90)
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny (Gabriel 63), Monreal; Coquelin (Oxlade-Chamberlain 28), Xhaka; Iwobi (Perez 63), Ramsey, Sanchez; Giroud
MAN OF THE MATCH
The winger was involved in both the second and third Bournemouth goals, by winning the penalty for the second and scoring the third. It was telling that it was when he came off that Arsenal were able to pin Bournemouth back and apply the extra bit of pressure that eventually got them back into the game.