We are back in Premier League action against Bournemouth on Tuesday, and ahead of the game Rob Kelly discussed the match with Arsene Wenger.
“We just have to hang on, try to win our next game and hope that at some stage the results turn in our favour. That’s the only thing we can do.” - Arsene Wenger
While Olivier Giroud’s sensational scorpion kick may still be sparking debate as to where it ranks among our best-ever goals, Arsene Wenger does not have time to consider it further detail.
While the Arsenal manager was as bewitched by the technical skill involved as the rest of us (“It was surprising, exceptional, efficient and beautiful,” he said after the game), the fixture schedule does not allow him to admire it any more than that.
OP = Outfield PlayersGK = Goal Keepers
Kick off at the Vitality Stadium against Bournemouth comes just 50 hours after the final whistle blew against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day, and with Chelsea straining at the leash to get away at the top of the table, the pressure is on.
The Gunners cannot afford to drop points if they are to stay in touch, but Wenger knows that he will have to change a winning team if they are to claim the three points they crave on the south coast.
“What’s happening in this league is that at the moment all the big teams win against the smaller teams,” the manager said. “That was not always the case, but since November it is like that.
“So the only moment where the teams drop points at the moment is when they play against each other, but that can change again so right now Chelsea win every single game.
|Arsenal: Ozil (ill – doubt), Welbeck (knee), Mertesacker (knee), Walcott (calf-doubt), Cazorla (ankle), Gibbs (knee – doubt), Debuchy (hamstring)Bournemouth: Pugh (hamstring), Cook (ankle)|
“They are comfortable up front so we have just to hang on and try to win our next game and hope that at some stage the results turn in our favour.
“Yes [there is extra pressure on the team at Bournemouth], but in 20 years it is the most uneven Christmas period I have seen on the fixture front. The difference of rest periods compared to the other teams is unbelievable.
“Every game is so difficult in this Premier League that we go now into a game in 48 hours with a big handicap on the fixtures. I have to try to find some fresh legs, so let’s just focus on Bournemouth and try to get a good result there.”
ONE TO WATCH
There is no doubt that Giroud is the man of the moment, and all eyes will be on him when he runs out at the Vitality Stadium on Tuesday night.
Beyond the technical brilliance of his New Year’s Day strike, what should not be forgotten is the France international’s ability to score key goals at crucial times.
Giroud is scoring at a rate of one every 69.8 minutes in the Premier League, the best of any player in the division, and has eight goals in his last six Arsenal starts.
Not only that, but when you look at the goals that he has scored, you see just how important they have been, from the volley to give us some breathing space at Sunderland after the hosts had pulled one back, to his last-gasp equaliser at Manchester United.
Now, in the space of a week, he has scored an 87th-minute Boxing Day winner against West Brom, before hooking in the scorpion-kick strike that will surely come to define his career.
Wenger is delighted for Giroud, a player for whom he has complete respect due to his uncomplaining attitude when left out of the team during the opening months of the season.
“I think he has improved his link up play since he has arrived and in front of goal as well,” the manager said. "He is a top striker, and a top-quality man as well, so I am very pleased that he can compete for us.
“It also shows you how quickly things can change because two months ago everyone said, ‘Giroud doesn’t play’, then against Crystal Palace he is a hero.
“When it didn’t go well for him, he worked and that is something that I rate. Our job is to be ready for a chance, and he worked hard when he didn’t play and now he gets rewarded, and that is right.”
For all the talk about what is happening at the top and the bottom of the Premier League, the scale of Bournemouth achievement has slipped somewhat under the radar.
Almost nine years ago, the club were forced into administration and perilously close to going out of business altogether. Fast forward to 2017 and they are not only a Premier League club, but one which is admired across the league for the way they conduct themselves both on and off the field.
Eddie Howe is rightly praised for having done an exceptional job with the Cherries, and the fact they are now seen as an established top-flight club is not something that should be undersold.
Equally impressive is the style of football that Bournemouth play, and their record at the Vitality Stadium this season – P9 W5 D1 L3 – highlights the danger they will pose to the Gunners.
“They play very good football, they have done an exceptional job at the club and they look now to be a regular team in the Premier League,” Wenger said.
“The only good news for us is that Jack Wilshere will not play [due to the terms of his loan deal].
"But overall we know it will be a very difficult game and we will need a top performance to come out with a positive result.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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