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Familiar faults for Arsenal despite 1-0 win

Arsenal 1-0 Bournemouth
by Harry Corton
at Ashburton Grove

IT USED to be such an iconic scoreline in the 1980s and ’90s that it became a running joke among fans. But the manner in which Arsenal nicked their narrow 1-0 win over Bournemouth yesterday — propelling the north Londoners up to third in the Premier League table and one point behind champions Manchester City — was by no means “vintage” Arsenal.

Centre back David Luiz’s first goal for the Gunners since his summer transfer from Chelsea was the only difference between the sides in a largely uninspiring affair at Ashburton Grove, but even that couldn’t mask a distinctly below-par performance.

Although quick to acknowledge his side’s lack of quality, manager Unai Emery could at least breathe a sigh of relief after his defence — much-maligned recently for a catalogue of costly individual errors — managed their first clean sheet in the league since the season’s opening weekend.

The hosts started the game on the front foot with numerous individuals impressing, in particular Pepe down the right and academy graduate Bukayo Saka on the left in support of the more advanced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

They were ahead inside 10 minutes courtesy of a well-crafted corner. David Luiz stole a march on Callum Wilson at the near post to glance Pepe’s in-swinger just inside the upright.

Bournemouth offered very little in response, not mustering a single shot on target in the entire opening 45 minutes and Arsenal wouldn’t have been blamed for thinking they might even increase their lead.

But that never happened. And when the Cherries came out after the interval with a renewed sense of purpose and energy, familiar cracks began to appear in the Gunners’ defence.

As the south coast side probed, it now seemed the hosts too had forgotten where the goal was — not managing a single shot on goal in the second period. 

Within five minutes after the restart, Wilson had squandered two big opportunities for the Cherries to equalise. The England striker would have been expected to score at least the clearer chance of the two. After rounding keeper Bernd Leno he was perturbed from shooting himself by the tight angle and instead elected to try to pick out a teammate in the middle. Callum Chambers was well placed to make a crucial intervention and clear the danger.

It wasn’t an isolated spell of pressure from the visitors, who continued to throw men forward and refused to allow Arsenal to relax as they searched for a way back into the game. The nervy five minutes of stoppage time home fans were forced to endure won’t do Emery’s popularity within certain circles much good.

But their league position and notable individual performances, especially from the young contingent such as Chambers and Matteo Guendouzi, should be enough to bolster confidence within the squad and put them in good stead against Sheffield United after the international break.

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