Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Bournemouth

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, November 27
9:15 a.m. EST, 14:15 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Adrian Holmes and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Graham Scott
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 0 Bournemouth
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 3 Arsenal wins
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-D-W-D-D
  • Bournemouth's League Form: D-W-D-L-L-W
A few years ago, I had an idea for a novel that involved a Premier League team going through a season unbeaten, except this team would do so by drawing all 38 matches. The story would delve into the psychological ramifications of never being able to win or lose and, eventually, being relegated Invincibles. The idea basically falls apart, from that psychological standpoint, when you consider that English clubs have to win or lose in cup ties, so it doesn't entirely work out.

So here we are, as Arsenal have stumbled their way into an 18-match unbeaten run that is starting to feel like anything but. Since Santi Cazorla's injury, Arsenal have three wins and four draws. Wednesday's 2-2 draw with PSG has given the French club the advantage for top of the group with one game to play. Arsenal haven't lost since opening day in the league, but they're still sitting only in fourth. Then again, Spurs are unbeaten in the league and they're fifth, so there's always that.

It's not easy to keep winning when you combine Santi's injury with the strength of their November schedule: Spurs, United, and PSG aren't exactly easy fixtures to play consecutively. But I think there's this psychological component to an unbeaten run that can make it harder to play free-flowing football. Not that I'm saying Arsenal should just lose to get rid of the unbeaten run, of course; I would be perfectly content for Arsenal to win every single game they ever play, from now through the rest of eternity.

Anyway, Arsenal will host Bournemouth this weekend as they look for their first win since November 1. After this, Arsenal play Southampton in the League Cup midweek, West Ham at the Olympic Stadium next weekend, then travel to Basel for matchday six the next midweek, then host Stoke, then have a midweek league fixture against Everton, and THEN go to Manchester City. Then, a week off. Then, the busy (!) holiday period.

No rest for the weary, so Arsenal had better remember how to win games fast.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Bellerín (ankle,) Cazorla (Achilles,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Pérez (ankle)

Friday morning previews after Wednesday night games are always the most difficult, because the team news isn't usually available yet. So, by the time you're reading this, you probably know more about who's hurt and who's not than I do. Hello from the past!

All things being equal, I'll make some guesses here. After his unfortunate deflection on PSG's equalizer, I think you need to throw Alex Iwobi straight back into the mix to help him get his groove back. The same question, however, should be posed about Aaron Ramsey, who is really struggling for form, but can only regain form by playing. So, there's a catch-22 there.

I would start Olivier Giroud here and get a rest for Alexis, but we all know how the Chilean machine never stops. I would start Granit Xhaka too, but I clearly don't seem to agree with Wenger on this, for some reason.

Predicted XI: Čech, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Walcott, Iwobi, Özil, Giroud.

Bournemouth Squad News

Out: Wilshere (loan terms,) Cook (ankle)
Doubts: Boruc (back,) Ibe (illness,) Surman (hamstring)

Jack Wilshere has started eight consecutive Bournemouth matches and played all 90 minutes in each of the last four, so hopefully he's found a way to keep himself healthier this season than in years past; of course, he'll be unavailable Sunday due to the terms of the loan agreement between the clubs.

Elsewhere in the squad, 19-year-old midfielder Lewis Cook is one month into a three-month ankle injury and is expected to return in January, because that's how the calendar works. Goalkeeper Artur Boruc is 50/50 with a lower back injury. Jordon Ibe, purchased from Liverpool for a club record £15 million this summer, is a slight doubt through illness. Andrew Surman is a doubt with a hamstring injury.

Predicted XI: Federici, Francis, Cook, Smith, Daniels, Gosling, Arter, King, Stanislas, Pugh, Wilson.

Current Form

As mentioned at the intro, Arsenal have extended their unbeaten run across all competitions to 18 matches, but at this point, they have now also gone three matches without a win. It's still Arsenal's longest unbeaten run in nine years, but now it's also their longest winless run since March! To be honest, there's not much more I have to say about this subject anymore.

Bournemouth are currently hovering in 10th place in the Premier League table, but they're only five points ahead of 18th place Hull City in the drop zone. Prior to the international break, Bournemouth suffered a 2-1 loss to Sunderland at home, giving the Black Cats their first victory of the season. They rebounded at the weekend, beating Stoke 1-0 at the Britannia. They picked up a draw against Spurs at home a few weeks ago, which is something they have in common with us, I suppose. They've also beaten Everton this season and hung six on Hull. All combined, that's a pretty mid-table run of results there, isn't it?

Match Facts

Arsenal have only played Bournemouth on three previous occasions, as last year was Bournemouth's first ever season in the top flight. Arsenal won both matches by 2-0 scorelines, winning in December at the Emirates through goals from Gabriel and Mesut Özil, and in February at the Vitality Stadium through goals from Özil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 88 seconds apart.

The other meeting between the clubs came 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.

The Referee

The referee is Cheshire-based Mike Jones. This will be the first match Jones has worked for either of these sides this season.

Arsenal won three of the four matches that Jones worked for them last season, including a 3-0 win at Watford, a 4-0 win over Hull City in an FA Cup replay, and a 1-0 win over Norwich late in the season at the Emirates. The other match, however, was the 3-3 draw at Anfield in January. Arsenal's last loss with Jones in the middle came in 2014 at Stoke City, which the Potters won 1-0 on a borderline penalty for a Laurent Koscielny handball.

For Bournemouth, Jones worked two losses against Liverpool, one in the League Cup and the other in their home league fixture in April. He also worked an FA Cup win over Birmingham City, a league win over Crystal Palace, and their 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December, which I believe was the next-to-last nail in José Mourinho's coffin at Chelsea.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Burnley v. Manchester City; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Hull City v. West Bromwich Albion; KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Middlesbrough; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Sunderland; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Crystal Palace; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (very early): Watford v. Stoke City; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Sunday (late): Manchester United v. West Ham United; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (late): Southampton v. Everton; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat  for hot air.