By Tony Attwood
To the best of my knowledge Arsenal have only played Bournemouth twice before. The first was on 26 October 1965 and we won 6-2 at Dean Court.
The Arsenal team was
Burns, Howe, Storey, McLintock, Neill, Simpson, Armstrong, Baldwin, Baker, Sammels, Eastham.
Howe, Baker and Eastham scored, and then John Radford came on and got a hattrick, and I was there with a few mates. You’ll note that two future managers of the club were playing that night.
Living in and around Poole in Dorset (my family having inexcusably moved from north London) my fellow sixth formers and I were supposed to be at performance of Winters Tale (that’s yer actual Shakespeare), but bunked off to watch the game. It possibly explains why although I managed to pass A Level English I didn’t exactly do so with flying colours. Mind you my English teacher did write in my end of term report “What this boy does to the English language should be a criminal offence”, which possibly explains why I went on to become a professional writer with a degree in psychology.
Or maybe not.
The crowd for the game isn’t recorded and I can’t find the programme, and have no knowledge of why we played the game – I imagine it was a benefit game for a Bournemouth player – but it was one of eight friendly games played by Arsenal during the league season.
The reason for this activity was undoubtedly financial. Arsenal had finished the previous season in 13th, and this season sank even lower to 14th and the crowds were sinking along with the team, often failing to pass the 30,000 mark. Indeed on March 5 the Arsenal crowd is reported as 21,881. One month later on April 5 it was 8,738 for the game against WBA, and one month after that on May 5 it was 4,554 to the third consecutive 0-3 defeat. (Mind you there was a game on TV at the same time for that match). (Also last time I mentioned that game more than 4554 people wrote in to say they were there, so maybe the figure is wrong).
The game against Bournemouth came in the midst of an awful run for Arsenal – the previous two games were a 3-5 defeat to Blackpool, and a 2-2 draw with Blackburn. The next game was a 1-3 defeat to Leicester. Arsenal ended the season, as I say, in 14th, having gone out of the FA Cup in the third round. Manager Billy Wright went out the door for the last time soon after the final game of the season, and in came Bertie Mee.
The other match against Bournemouth was on October 27 1987 and we won 3-0 in the league cup in front of 26,050. Mind you that was the year we played Luton in the final, and lost.
Bringing things up to date, there is a persistent rumour that we are going to sign the Basel and Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny. He is 23-years-old, has played 91 times for Basel and is expected to sign as the January transfer window opens, according to those who make up such things.
SkySports tell us
Elneny is a deep-lying central midfielder who stands at 5ft 11in. He has the energy and pace to get up and down the pitch and he is as comfortable attacking as he is defending.
The 23-year-old has become known for his impressive range of passing at Basel and he also likes to shoot from distance, with a number of his recent goals coming from outside the box. Elneny is one of Basel’s favoured set-piece takers, and as well as being technically accomplished, he is physically strong and tough in the tackle.
Mind you, you have to be careful with these reporter johnnies. Here’s what the Independent says this morning: “Arsène Wenger’s men must be suffering from a depressing sense of déjà vu. Their whole campaign has been a tale of dismal defeat following encouraging victory.”
The whole campaign? The one in which we have lost four league games?
Mr W replied, “We are used to being questioned and it’s normal when you lose. Overall, we are strong enough to deal with that, respond and show on Monday we can get over that kind of result. We are in a job where we have to respond to disappointments. Bournemouth have been very good since the start of the season, but I trust my players to respond in a very strong way.”
What the media are talking up is the possibility of changes in the line up, saying that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calum Chambers, Alex Iwobi and Gabriel Paulista could all come in. I’m not so sure since wholesale changes is not normally Arsène Wenger’s way.
There is also talk of dropping Theo, but although he didn’t actually make much happen at all against Southampton, my recollection is that he often has a problem playing for his ex-team, and if it were me (which of course it isn’t) I’d keep him in.
The funny thing about that game is that we had around 65% possession, and lost. In games against Man C and Man U in the last year or so we’ve had a minority of possession and won. That’s all that needs sorting out.
AFC Bournemouth (as they are now called, rather than Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic, although they still play in Boscombe at Dean Court) are unbeaten in six matches having beaten Chelsea and Manchester Untidy as well as the fast declining West Ham.
On the bright side we are unbeaten in seven home matches since that defeat to WHU who were then being tipped for the Champions League and had the aim to become the new Tottenham. We’ve gone 21 games without defeat against promoted sides.
But we only score 42% of our goals at home – which has caused the journalists to go to Wikipedia in utter panic to find out what “%” means. If you meet a journo please don’t tell. It spoils the fun.
Here’s another. We haven’t lost the last league game of the year since 2006 which was a long time ago.
But countering all this Bournemouth are unbeaten in six league games, and have taken seven points from nine away. And they have actually won five of their last five games in London.
Here’s the team I’d pick. I’ve told Mr W but he doesn’t always listen.
Bellerin Mert Kos Monreal
Oxlade Chamberlain Ozil Theo
On the beach, glad that they are not playing for a northern team (as most of the north of England is under water because the government took all the flood defence budget and paid it to their advisers and they don’t have a single engineer in the cabinet, not that I am politically biased, not in the slightest, absolutely not), we might have
Gibbs, Ospina, Chambers, Gabriel, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide, Campbell.
Or not as the case might be.
According to Who Scored, Bournemouth have but one strength, which is defined as “creating chances through individual skill”.
Arsenal’s strengths are attacking down the wings, creating chances using through balls, (that would be Ozil then), defending set pieces, creating long shot opportunities, creating scoring chances and counter attacks. Which is pretty much most of it.
Their betting lists have 3-0 as the most likely outcome, followed by 2-0, followed by 3-1.
These days Who Scored also do a list of weaknesses of the teams, and Bournemouth have one “weak” element of “avoiding individual errors” and two “very weak” areas, which are “protecting the lead” and “defending against skillful players.”
I think we might have one or two of those “skillful players”. But that explains how they beat Chelsea.
So there we have it. I am about to leave in order to meet Blacksheep at the Swimmer, as per usual, and then on to the game.
I do hope our team play jolly well.
A couple more anniversaries
- 28 December 2008: Arsenal 1 Portsmouth 0. A poor game but the unbeaten run went on, and on (until May). This was also the first of 8 consecutive home games without conceding a goal. Gallas scored to start Arsenal’s run of three consecutive wins.
- 28 December 2014: Francis Coquelin started his first match for Arsenal in 23 months. It ended West Ham 1 Arsenal 2 and Coquelin kept his place thereafter, with negotiations being opened to give him a long-term contract at Arsenal. Cazorla and Welbeck scored.
All today’s anniversaries, as usual, are on the home page.
You might also like the 12th instalment of Arsenal in the 70s Part 12: Jan to June 74. Farewell Bob, hello Liam.