Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side travel to Bournemouth in the Premier League on Sunday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
It’s not long since Arsenal last met Bournemouth, a 2-0 victory in the Gunners’ final game of 2015, but the Cherries have boosted their squad with a crucial signing since then - and someone who might be familiar to Arsenal fans.
"The centre backs, Simon Francis and Steve Cook, are not particularly commanding in the air, and Arsenal should seek to maximise dead-ball situations"
Benik Afobe, who came through the ranks at Arsenal before being sold to Wolves last January, was signed for £10 million and has proved an instant hit, scoring three goals in four matches.
He’s a proper penalty-box poacher who thrives on crosses, but also makes good runs in behind the defence - which might suit Bournemouth if they replicate the reactive approach they used in victories over Chelsea and Manchester United.
The signing of Afobe solves Bournemouth’s major issue - the lack of a reliable striker, after Callum Wilson suffered a serious knee injury that ruled him out for most of the campaign.
At the Emirates in December, it was notable that Bournemouth tended to shoot from range rather than working the ball into the box, but Afobe’s arrival has changed that.
Otherwise, this is an impressive Bournemouth outfit that keeps a compact shape defensively and moves the ball quickly through central midfield.
Andrew Surman plays the holding role, with Harry Arter and Dan Gosling looking to break forward with quick one-twos to bypass opponents. Eddie Howe’s side usually command possession at home, averaging 52 per cent of the ball at Dean Court, although they’re likely to play more defensively on Sunday.
Both full backs, Adam Smith and Charlie Daniels, are good technical players capable of springing forward into attack dangerously. In turn, that allows left-footed right winger Matt Ritchie and right-footed left winger Marc Pugh inside to shoot.
Bournemouth’s weakness, however, was clear in the reverse meeting. Arsenal took the lead through a Gabriel header from a corner, and could have had plenty more goals from set-pieces.
The centre backs, Simon Francis and Steve Cook, are not particularly commanding in the air, and Arsenal should seek to maximise dead-ball situations.
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