Preview by Numbers: Bournemouth v. Arsenal

Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
Sunday, February 7
8:30 a.m. EST, 13:30 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Kevin Friend
    • Assistants: David Bryan and Peter Kirkup
    • 4th Official: Neil Swarbrick
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 0 Bournemouth
  • This Match, Last Time: First meeting
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 2 Arsenal wins
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-D-D-L-D
  • Bournemouth's League Form: L-D-L-W-D-W
Over time, I have come to learn that there are two types of Arsenal fans: wild optimists and wild pessimists. There is very little grey area when it comes to supporting this football club, even when the reality lies somewhere in the middle. And while people in the grey area certainly do exist, they're never as loud as the ones on either side of the spectrum. That tends to be true across much of the political spectrum as well, but I digress.

Arsenal Twitter, which occasionally resembles one of the nine circles of Hell (Anger? It's anger, isn't it?), seems to be under the impression that Arsenal are out of the title race, despite the fact that they are five points out of first, still have the opportunity to play the three teams ahead of them in the table, and have 14 games to play in the season. If you think a five point gap is insurmountable with 42 points remaining on the table, there's a problem there.

Let's not be too optimistic, either; Arsenal's form right now is legitimately concerning, so I don't want you to think that I'm all sunshine and lollipops here. Arsenal might only need to make up five points over the next 42 available, but they have only won three of the last 12 possible and they haven't scored a goal in league play since Thatcher was in power, I think.

After this, Arsenal host Leicester in a match that will do much more to decide the title race than a draw with Southampton, then it's a cup tie with Hull, Barcelona at the Emirates, United at Old Trafford, a midweek home game against Swansea, and a trip to the Lane to face Spurs. Things aren't exactly getting easier for Arsenal, so they might as well get back on track now!

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Rosicky (thigh,) Cazorla (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Welbeck (match fitness)

Okay, I don't believe anything has changed regarding Arsenal's injury list since the midweek fixture, so I'm at a loss for things to say in this section. I suppose we could talk about rotation.

After serving his one match ban against Burnley, Per Mertesacker returned only to the bench on Tuesday, as Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel started at center back. It's starting to look like Kos is in desperate need of a break, in my opinion, but it's not like Arsene Wenger is known for giving his center backs that much of a breather.

Speaking of breathers, I would expect Francis Coquelin to come back into the squad after he was held out of Tuesday's match; he would have played two matches in four days if he had been picked to start against the Saints. It'll be Mathieu Flamini almost certainly dropping in that place.

The only other question is whether Theo Walcott returns to the XI after coming off the bench on Tuesday to do absolutely nothing. I've got a feeling Theo starts for Joel Campbell, even though I wouldn't be too happy with that.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Alexis, Walcott, Ozil, Giroud.

Bournemouth Squad News

Out: Gradel (knee,) Wilson (knee,) Mings (knee)
Doubts: Stanislas (knee,) Rantie (muscular)

Bournemouth have a pretty astonishing four players in danger of missing this one through knee ligament injuries. Three are out long-term, as Max-Alain Gradel is out until March, Callum Wilson is out until April, and Tyrone Mings, the club's record signing at the time, is out until September after he was injured just six minutes into his Bournemouth debut.

The other knee injury is an MCL sprain for Junior Stanislas, who is listed as a doubt by some sources. The other doubt is Tokelo Rantie, who might miss out with a muscular injury of some sort; sources are not clear about which of the human body's 640 to 850 muscles he has injured.

I mentioned earlier that Tyrone Mings was the club's record signing at the time back when that deal was finalized in the summer window. They have since broken that record on the purchase of Arsenal academy graduate Benik Afobe, whom they signed from Wolves for £10 million. You can bet that he'll be fired up to score against his old club; Afobe never made an appearance for Arsenal's first team.

Predicted XI: Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Ritchie, Pugh, Gosling, Arter, Afobe.

Current Form

So, it's four now. Four in the league without a win. Draw, draw, loss, draw. No goals scored in the last three, either. Worrying, to say the least.

This is Arsenal's longest sequence without a win in the league since the end of the 2013/14 season, as they blew their chances in that title race with the 6-0 loss to Chelsea, draws against Swansea and City, and a 3-0 loss to Everton. They bounced back from that to win their final five, rebounding from a fifth place scare to finish fourth, as per usual. As for the last time Arsenal went winless in five league games? You'd have to go back seven years to a string of five straight draws in January and February of 2009. That came in the middle of a string where they were unbeaten in 21 though, so it's not really the same.

The fact that Arsenal have gone three without scoring is perhaps the most worrying feature of their current form. The last time Arsenal went this long without scoring in the league was... well, that same run of draws I just spoke about; the first draw in the sequence was 1-1 with Everton (in which Arsenal needed a late equalizer from Robin van Persie.) That was followed by 0-0 draws against West Ham, Spurs, Sunderland, and Fulham before Arsenal broke the stretch with a 3-1 win at West Brom. It was Nicklas Bendtner who broke the streak, FYI. Much like this current run, that stretch was not a winless streak across all competitions, as the Gunners beat Cardiff in the FA Cup and won the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie against Roma during that span.

As for Bournemouth, they are 15th in the Premier League, but are seven points clear of relegation. They have advanced to the last 16 of the FA Cup with victories over Birmingham City and Portsmouth, earning them a home game against Everton in the next round (perhaps we'll see a reprisal of that 3-3 draw...) After going winless in four over the holiday period in the league, the Cherries are unbeaten in their last three, beating Norwich 3-0, drawing Sunderland 1-1, and beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park 2-1.

Match Facts

As this is Bournemouth's first year in the top flight, the reverse of this fixture, played back on December 28, is the only historical league meeting between the two clubs. Arsenal won the match 2-0, with goals from Gabriel and Mesut Ozil.

The clubs have only met once before this season, in the third round of the 1987/88 League Cup; Arsenal, the League Cup holders at the time, ran out 3-0 winners. They would go all the way to the final for the second consecutive year, where they lost to Luton Town, who finished 9th in the top flight that year.

Both prior meetings between these two clubs have been played in North London; this is Arsenal's first ever trip to Bournemouth.

The Referee

The referee is Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend. Arsenal have seen Friend twice this year; both were on the road and both were clean sheet victories. In late October, Friend was in the middle for Arsenal's 3-0 win over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, then in mid-December, he was the referee for Arsenal's 2-0 win at Aston Villa.

Bournemouth are unbeaten with Friend this season as well, beating Sunderland 2-0 in September, in which they scored both goals within the first nine minutes. He was also the man in the middle for Bournemouth's bonkers 3-3 draw with Everton in November.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester City v. Leicester City; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Norwich City; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Sunderland; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. West Bromwich Albion; St. James's Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Everton; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Crystal Palace; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Watford; White Hart Lane, London
  • Saturday (late): Southampton v. West Ham United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (late): Chelsea v. Manchester United; Stamford Bridge, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is beyond human comprehension. You can follow him on Twitter @žờŗŕŏĉẫţ.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Southampton

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, February 2
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Lee Mason
    • Assistants: Andrew Halliday and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Craig Pawson
  • Reverse Fixture: Southampton 4 - 0 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 0 Southampton
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 45 Arsenal wins, 19 Southampton wins, 24 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-W-D-D-L
  • Southampton's League Form: W-L-L-W-W-W
Quick turnaround this week, so I can only put together an abbreviated preview. Deal with it?

Arsenal are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup where they will have their annual cup tie with Hull, so that's nice. But, the fixture congestion ramps up as we get February underway and Arsenal are sitting third in the Premier League. They haven't won a league game in exactly one month and they'll be facing a mid-table Southampton side that gave them their worst loss in two years back on Boxing Day. The Saints have won three straight in the league to climb up to 8th.

If Arsenal don't get back to winning ways soon, they're going to find themselves out of the most open title race in years pretty quick and that would be a massive disappointment.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Rosicky (thigh,) Cazorla (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Welbeck (match fitness)

There's bad news again for Tomas Rosicky as the Czech international picked up a thigh injury in his cameo on Saturday which will see him out for another six weeks. Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere has reportedly suffered a setback, but Arsene Wenger has denied that. Wenger has said it'll be four weeks before Jack's return.

Danny Welbeck is back in full training but lacks match fitness; he'll need a run-out or two for the Under-21 side before he gets back into the first team.

Players who were rested against Burnley should come back into the side here; I would expect Francis Coquelin to get a breather as well. The Coq made it through Saturday's match unscathed, but two games in four days is a bit much for a player coming back from a two month layoff. Alexis Sanchez, on the other hand, should get his first league start in two months. Personally, I hope Theo Walcott drops for him, but that's just me (and probably quite a few others out there.)

Per Mertesacker will return from his one match suspension.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Campbell, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.

Southampton Squad News

Out: Rodriguez (foot,) Gardos (knee,) Davis (knock)
Doubts: Pelle (knee)

Southampton have won three straight and have kept clean sheets in all three. If you're looking for a specific reason why they've turned it around, look no farther than between the poles. Fraser Forster has returned from the finger injury which had kept him out all season to this point and he's returned to kick ass and take names. What perfect timing for Arsenal to play them, then...

At the forward position, Jay Rodriguez remains out with a foot injury and Graziano Pelle is a 50/50 doubt with a knee problem. It could mean a start for Charlie Austin, purchased this transfer window from Queens Park Rangers. Austin has made an immediate impact with the Saints, scoring the winner at Old Trafford last weekend.

Predicted XI: Forster, Soares, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Clasie, Targett, Mane, Tadic, Austin.

Current Form

While some may think that Arsenal's progression in the FA Cup could spell problems for their league title bid (thanks to fixture congestion,) I argued last weekend that a loss or draw to Burnley would have psychologically been worse for the Gunners. That's because, as I noted in the intro, Arsenal have not won a league game in a month. After the win over Newcastle and victory over Sunderland in the FA Cup, Arsenal have drawn 3-3 with Liverpool, drawn 0-0 with Stoke, and lost 1-0 to Chelsea. Regardless of what the fixture congestion might end up looking like in spring, it's hard to imagine Arsenal coming into this match with confidence if they had pushed that winless streak across all competitions to four. As it stands, Arsenal are still okay: they're into the last 16 of both the FA Cup and the Champions League (for now,) and they are still within striking distance of first place in the Premier League with 15 matches to play.

As for Southampton, they have been massively inconsistent all year. Their 4-0 win over Arsenal on Boxing Day was the club's only win over a 10 match span, from November 21 to January 9, when they were eliminated from the FA Cup by Crystal Palace. Now, with just the league to focus on, the Saints have won three on the bounce, and they've kept clean sheets in all of them: 2-0 over Watford, 3-0 over West Brom, and most importantly, 1-0 over Manchester United at Old Trafford. Their elimination in the cup means this is their first game in 10 days, while it's Arsenal's second game in four.

Match Facts

Arsenal have struggled against Southampton in the past couple of seasons, though the Saints have not won at Arsenal in the league since November 21, 1987. Earlier this season, Southampton pummeled Arsenal 4-0 at St. Mary's on Boxing Day. Cuco Martina scored the prettiest goal he'll probably ever score in his life to give the home side a 1-0 lead on 19 minutes before Shane Long took over in the second half. Long scored Southampton's second, arguably fouling Laurent Koscielny in the build-up, but Jose Fonte's free header from a corner on 69 minutes put the match to rest. Shane Long added a fourth in the 94th minute just to really throw salt in the wound.

Arsenal did win this fixture last season by a 1-0 scoreline, with Alexis Sanchez finally putting in the winning goal on 89 minutes. Arsenal had controlled the match, but Fraser Forster made seven saves.

Arsenal have won all three league meetings with Southampton at the Emirates since the Saints won promotion in 2012, though Southampton did win 2-1 in the third round of the League Cup last season.

The Referee

The referee is Lancashire-based Lee Mason. Arsenal have two wins from two matches with Mason in the middle this season, beating both Crystal Palace and Everton by 2-1 scorelines. The Gunners are now unbeaten in their last 15 matches with Mason in the middle, dating back to a 3-2 loss at Wigan in April of 2010 (in which they, and by they I specifically mean Lukasz Fabianski, blew a 2-0 lead.)

Southampton, on the other hand, have two losses from two matches with Mason in the middle this season, losing 1-0 to Stoke in November and 2-1 to Crystal Palace in the third round of the FA Cup a month ago. Both of those Southampton losses came at St. Mary's. Dating back to last year, Southampton have lost three straight with Mason in the middle; their last win with Mason as the referee was over Stoke in last year's League Cup, 3-2 at the Britannia.

Around the League
  • Tuesday: Crystal Palace v. Bournemouth; Selhurst Park, London
  • Tuesday: Leicester City v. Liverpool; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Tuesday: Manchester United v. Stoke City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Tuesday: Norwich City v. Tottenham Hotspur; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Tuesday: Sunderland v. Manchester City; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Tuesday: West Bromwich Albion v. Swansea City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Tuesday: West Ham United v. Aston Villa; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Wednesday: Everton v. Newcastle United; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Wednesday: Watford v. Chelsea; Vicarage Road, Watford
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and made all the pictures disappear. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to vehemently complain.