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Preview: Arsenal vs B’mouth, team news, Xhaka to start + prediction
Arsenal will look to keep pace with the Premier League leaders when we welcome Bournemouth to the Emirates this afternoon.
Saturday saw the top three pull away with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea all winning leaving us five points off third and four off top so a win is most certainly needed against the Cherries today.
The good news is that fifth-placed Tottenham lost [at Chelsea] so not only is their unbeaten record gone but we can open up a four point gap from our north London rivals if we see-off Bournemouth this afternoon.
We warmed up for the game with a disappointing 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night which has left us facing another second-placed finish in the Champions League group stages and the prospect of facing Barcelona in the knockout stages once again.
Bournemouth will be a different proposition to PSG but Eddie Howe is a bright young manager who’s building a solid team on the south coast so we’ll need to be on form to get the three points today.
Santi Cazorla has once again been ruled out with an on-going Achilles injury that’s expected to keep him out for a few more weeks.
Hector Bellerin is also still out as he continues to nurse an ankle injury so he remains on the sidelines with Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck.
Lucas Perez returned to full first team training on Friday after recovering from an ankle injury but the striker isn’t ready to be in contention just yet.
The visitors will be without on-loan Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere as he’s not eligible to face his parent club so he’s out along with Brad Smith and Lewis Cook.
Goalkeeper Artur Boruc is a major doubt with a back injury while midfielder Andre Surnman is also struggling with a hamstring injury.
Arsene Wenger has suggested that he’s given Granit Xhaka time to adjust to Premier League football but I think it’s time the Swiss international is given his chance to establish himself. With Cazorla out, we badly miss a deep lying playmaker and Xhaka has all the attributes needed to fill the void.
No doubt Wenger will go with Francis Coquelin but I’d like to see Aaron Ramsey start alongside Xhaka in the middle of the park while I’d also like to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain given a run out on the wing with Alexis Sanchez restored up front.
Bournemouth: Federici, A. Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Gosling, Arter, Pugh, King, Stanislas, Wilson.
We haven’t been playing particularly well in recent weeks and we seem to have lost our fluidity in attack. Bournemouth are a decent side who are hard working and will no doubt cause us some problems. However, this is a game we simply have to win if we want to be considered title contenders and I think we’re due a performance, so I’m backing the boys to secure a comfortable 3-0 win. Arsenal 3-0 Bournemouth