The Premier League returns to action this weekend after the international break. I will be eternally grateful to Gareth Southgate for returning excitement to the England team. Our 2-1 smash and grab victory against Croatia secured top spot in our UEFA Nation’s League group. After years of apathy, Southgate has injected a new spirit and belief into the players and the fans. With a pipeline of youngsters like Reiss Nelson and Jadon Sancho coming through, and players like Raheem Sterling, John Stones and captain fantastic Harry Kane not even at their peak, I’m very enthusiastic about our chances at Euro 2020.
England secured their must win victory and now Unai Emery must do the same against Bournemouth on Sunday.
The south coast team have been in great form this season, sitting in sixth place and only losing one fixture at home. This game will not be easy. The 5’ 4” Scottish winger Ryan Fraser is having a dazzling season leading the assists table with six. Like Lucas Torreira, he is showing size doesn’t matter.
With no wins in three and a tough Christmas period on the horizon, we must secure the three points. The last thing you need when you are approaching a must win game is an away fixture against an in-form side. Hopefully the international break has given Emery the time to address the form and balance of the team. In addition to our lackluster first half displays, individual errors have crept back into our game, costing us points. Mustafi vs Crystal Palace, Leno vs Liverpool and Xhaka vs Wolves to name a few.
The silver lining is that we have remained unbeaten emphasizing the underlining resilience of this team under Unai Emery. In an interview with sky sports the pragmatic Spaniard spoke of the importance of balance between “defensive structure”, “technical quality” and “offensive freedom and how we lost it in recent years under Arsene Wenger. He is absolutely right, but it will take him a few transfer windows to obtain that elusive equilibrium. As we have seen at Man City, it isn’t the simple matter of what defensive personnel you have, it’s about your system. The champions have seven clean sheets, with Ederson only having to make 19 saves. Emery has steadied the ship but for us to kick on we are going to need a better system and that will require tough calls on things like
Aubameyang position as a winger, getting the best out of Mesut Ozil and whether Xhaka is top draw enough to lead our centre midfield.
Before that he needs to get the system and personnel right this weekend. The 442 used against Fulham may be the answer.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1 – 2 Arsenal (fingers crossed)
Come on Arsenal!!