Staring XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Alexis, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Holding, Gabriel, Maitland-Niles, The Jeff, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas
Olivier Giroud scored a stoppage time equaliser for Arsenal as Arsene Wenger’s men bounced back from 3-0 down to salvage an unlikely point against Bournemouth.
Charlie Daniels’ left foot strike on 16 minutes and Callum Wilson’s penalty put the Cherries in a commanding position before half time. And they looked home and dry when Ryan Fraser scored a third before the hour mark.
The Gunners then mounted a stunning comeback. Alexis Sanchez and Lucas reduced the deficit and Michael Oliver sent off Simon Francis for a late challenge on Aaron Ramsey. As the clock ticking down, Giroud nodded home Granit Xhaka’s cross to maintain his fine scoring run.
Facing the Sky Sports cameras just before kick off, Eddie Howe said he was looking forward to taking on Arsenal under the lights of the Vitality Stadium. He sensed his players and crowd were up for the occasion and he wasn’t wrong.
The home side were dominant from the off, closing down the midfield with gusto and breaking with speed. Josh King and Junior Stanislas had efforts before the ten-minute mark and Petr Cech had to be quick off his line to prevent Callum Wilson from getting off a shot as he raced into the box.
It wasn’t much of a surprise when the home side took the lead on 16 minutes. A cross-field ball caught Hector Bellerin napping and Charlie Daniels, left untracked by an absent Aaron Ramsey, stole in at the back post, nicked the ball past the Spaniard and coolly finished low past Cech. It was pathetic and inexcusable defending and we were deservedly punished. (1-0)
Arsenal looked rattled and with Bournemouth’s next attack they won a penalty – the sixth we’ve conceded this season. Not for the first time, Granit Xhaka was the guilty man as he bundled over Ryan Fraser on the edge of the box. Michael Oliver had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and for the second time in five weeks Callum Wilson put Cech on his arse to score. (2-0)
To compound our problems, Wenger was forced into a substitution on 27 minutes as Francis Coquelin, holding his hamstring, limped off to be replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arsenal manufactured just two chances of note before the break. Ramsey spun and shot wide on 28 minutes and Iwobi, on his weaker left foot, scrambled an effort off target after a neat cutback by Chamberlain 12 minutes later. That aside, we were abject in the final third. Total shots on target in the opening 45 minutes? Zero.
Alexis and Giroud spent most of their time waving their arms in the air in disgust at the lack of quality service around them.
Bournemouth might have a had a third in first half stoppage time as Stanislas wipped a shot from the edge of the box just past Cech’s left post.
Arsenal buzzed with more energy in the opening stages of the second half but the pressure wasn’t to last. Giroud might have done better with a Chamberlain cross but couldn’t get enough purchase on his effort and Ramsey was denied by a last-ditch challenge after a tidy dribble into the box.
At the other end, Michael Oliver came to Arsenal’s rescue as he ruled out a Bournemouth third for a handball by Wilson who’d deflected in a shot from Harry Arter. The reprieve, coming on 55 minutes, was short-lived.
Within two minutes Ryan Fraser, the man who’d tormented Liverpool in a recent 4-3 win, beat Cech to score the Cherries’ third. There was a probably a foul on Bellerin in the build-up but it was all too easy for Scot as he bound towards goal and found the far corner through our keeper’s legs. (3-0)
Arsenal threw on Lucas for Iwobi and Koscielny, possibly injured, was replaced by Gabriel. Honestly, at this point it felt like we were throwing in the towel rather than throwing caution to the wind.
Eddie Howe’s players initially maintained the tempo, King tested Cech with a free-kick, but then they began to retreat. The Gunners who’d had no space all night, suddenly had room to play.
On 69 minutes Arsenal reduced the deficit courtesy of Alexis Sanchez’s close range header. The opportunity had been created by a Chamberlain cross which was flicked to the back post by Giroud. It was our first effort on target. (3-1)
Six minutes later Lucas grabbed his first Premier League goal of the season to make it 3-2. Giroud picked up his second assist of the game deftly lifting the ball over the defence for the Spaniard to spank home a Podolski-esque volley into the far post. Surely we couldn’t grab an equaliser?
Just to make things even more interesting, Bournemouth were reduced to ten men with eight minutes left as Simon Francis ploughed through Aaron Ramsey to earn a straight red.
With a slender lead, the home side sat deep as Arsenal pushed for another goal. Naturally, Artur Boruc began wasting time and quickly earned a caution.
The sight of six minutes of stoppage time was greeted by boos from the terraces, nervous about the constant pressure of the men in yellow. One minute into it, Arsenal had their equaliser. Xhaka curled in a delicious ball with his left foot and Giroud rose like a salmon to head the ball home. (3-3)
There was to be no further twist in the tale. In truth, we probably didn’t deserve all three points having been so poor for the first hour.
One point doesn’t massively help our title challenge, but perhaps the way we bounced back will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season. We’ll see.