Unai Emery’s Arsenal have the difficult task of taking the three points against an AFC Bournemouth team that has experienced a huge improvement in the past few years and has one of the youngest, most prospective and motivated managers in the modern football.
Being only four points apart in the table (Arsenal fifth and Bournemouth sixth) both teams have a lot to prove. The Arsenal that it could get back in the top four and the Cherries that they can keep growing and stay in top 10 and why not, dream for a place in Europe?
Eddie Howe’s football intelligence should not be underestimated as the young manager started his managerial job with nothing and now the Cherries are sitting above Manchester United. This is a result of a huge determination and a right vision. A result of taking the right decisions at the right time.
He is a perfectionist and Emery should be aware that probably every detail of his work is already explored from a special team of video analysts. The Bournemouth players have already put an enormous effort in training, and this is not going to be an easy game.
But what are the teams’ tactical approaches and what should they be aware of?
It all depends on what formation Unai Emery is about to choose, but expect him to stick to his favourite 4-2-3-1, although a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 one could be more successful against the Cherries.
The team needs to build up from the back. But for that purpose, they might need to change the formation in possession. With some support from, let’s say Torreira, the centre duo would have a huge role in sending the ball through the next line. This way, Xhaka and the full-backs would have the freedom to join the wingers and help with the pressing while trying to keep the possession of the ball.
If Xhaka and the winger (Iwobi in the best case scenario) try to exploit their opponents on their right side, this would create more space for Bellerin to operate in their left area where he could use his speed and take advantage of the gaps left.
Another way to create some open space is using the frontline to pin the defensive line back so when Torreira, Xhaka or Bellerin joins, the defenders could step up to mark their opponent and leave a gap that some of the forwards can exploit.
When out of possession, the defensive line should be highly positioned, so if Bournemouth’s players try to play out from the back, the Gunners could apply high press and not allow their opponents to operate between the lines. The full-backs should be ready to press Bournemouth’s full-backs, while the centre duo, supported by Torreira, could protect the central area and make sure Callum Wilson and David Brooks won’t be able to combine.
Key players: Iwobi, Torreira
They both have the needed confidence on the ball. Torreira’s contribution would be crucial to the whole team’s performance as a lot of the balls would go through him. He is making the connection between the lines and if he manages to do it successfully enough (as he usually does), it will be harder for Bournemouth’s frontline to receive the ball and counter-attack. Torreira averages 9.23 passes to the final third per game with 83% of them being accurate. And 95,2% accuracy when it comes to back passes. His ball control and calmness would play a huge part against the Cherries.
Iwobi could bring more creativity and take advantage of the individual mistakes of the out-of-form Jordon Ibe (Junior Stanislas is doubtful as he picked up an injury) and reach the edge of the box easily.
As the Londoners would try to keep a high percentage of the possession, the way to expose their weaknesses is by counter-attacks and early balls to the attacking line, preferably to Callum Wilson.
Eddie Howe is most likely to choose 4-4-1-1 structure out of possession that switches to 3-4-3 (3-4-2-1) in possession. They would even often rely only on the central defenders forming their defensive line when they had the ball. This way, Wilson will be supported by Fraser and Brooks, so when the team gets the ball, they can make a quick transition and use the spaces that Bellerin eventually left while going forward. The goalkeeper Begovic is going to have quite the same role as Bernd Leno and send the ball directly to the offensive line. Of course, if he is among the starting XI as he didn’t take part in Bosnia’s games due to a hand injury.
Bournemouth’s structure in possession switches to 3-4-3.
The team usually attempt through balls and it is exactly Callum Wilson who is good in providing the ball to his teammates. The Arsenal’s defenders should pay attention to his partnership with David Brooks as it could be pretty dangerous. The 21-year-old is also good in taking the set-pieces. Bournemouth’s players exchange quick passes and send it out wide, mostly to Ryan Fraser who could go deep and use his crossing to give the ball to one of the above-mentioned.
Key players: Fraser, Brooks, Wilson
As I already mentioned, the connectivity these three have is about to cause trouble. Fraser is one of the best performers for the club. He managed to do five progressive runs against Newcastle and send 7/10 accurate forward passes. Brooks could contribute with his 90% back pass accuracy too. Whilst Wilson could use his positioning and vision so he can receive the ball and create some opportunities.
The team makes interceptions so very often and makes a quick turnover. That is the split-second that the Gunners should be extra careful in. As you could see after making an interception in the marked area, Wilson received the ball, made a speedy run on the flank and sent it to Fraser. He then used his speed and outran his markers so he can reach the box and eventually shoot.
The Londoners need to tame the intensity and the energy of Bournemouth’s style of play as the players will surely put a lot of work on the training ground and implement the manager’s instructions carefully on the pitch. It is interesting to see what Emery’s approach to the game is going to be and whether he’s able to stop the Guardiola-like efforts of Eddie Howe.
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