Bournemouth Away - Sunday 15:30 @ Brazenhead in Fourways, Leaping Frog Centre

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Bournemouth. Not too far from Southampton for those that don’t know. You get Portsmouth to the east of Southampton and Bournemouth to the west. And they’re a team not to be taken lightly. They’re one of the three promoted teams this season and they’re 5 points better off than Norwich and 5 points worse off than Watford. They were the Championship champions last year, pipping Watford by a point and they’ve had some pretty impressive results this season, beating both Man Utd and Chelsea. Their away form looks better than their home form with a win ration of 3:4. We have already played the reverse fixture on 28th December which we won quite comfortably so now it’s time to go down to the south coast and do the same.

I said it in my last mail that now’s the time that Arsene needs to get his first team sorted and playing regularly. That didn’t seem to happen against Southampton though as we started with the Ramsey/Flamini axis which has only ever been a ‘fill in’ solution whilst Coquelin has been unavailable and now with Elneny being part of the squad, it should never happen again. Why it happened in the Southampton match I presume was because of Coquelin not being 100% fit having had his first game since 21st November against Burnley three days previously. I’m unsure about why Elneny did not feature, maybe because this was a high pressure game and he still needs to be introduced to this level with a certain amount of caution. Apart from this central defensive midfield position, I think Arsene did try to put out his first team. We had Gabriel in for Mertsesacker and it’s a hard call between these two. Mertesacker has the experience but is reminiscent of our donkeys in the past – notably Adams, but also Senderos comes to mind. His height is also very reassuring for those set pieces we need to defend but his pace is often a problem. Gabriel is the opposite, relatively inexperienced in the Premier League but much quicker over the ground. My feeling is that Wenger is looking to have Gabriel as his number one choice and is slowly affecting this change.

The other notable absentee to the first XI was Walcott. Again in my last mail I referred to his lack of goals and general form and Wenger preferred Joel Campbell this time round. Campbell is tireless and adds that extra cover in defence which is critical for Arsenal these days, but he’s still not the finished article. So for this weekend I can see very few changes, with only Coquelin coming in for Flamini who may be replaced by Elneny on the bench. I think he will persevere with Gabriel at the back although he and Koscielny need to get to grips with each other’s game as currently they are causing a lot of anxious moments.

So, with only one change, how can we expect to improve on Tuesday’s performance? I think the main improvement will be that Ramsey will not have to cover for Coquelin as much as he did for Flamini. The Southampton match would have been a disaster if we had lost and I felt that Ramsey was restricted in the knowledge that he had Flamini as his midfield partner. With Ramsey now given more ‘roamability’, opportunities will increase and instead of Flamini being stuck in awkward attacking positions we’re more likely to see the more complete and effective Ramsey in those positions. Also, Tuesday was just one of those days for the team and as Arsene says, goal scoring seems to come in cycles. Both Ozil and Alexis had opportunities which they were unable to put away and also Fraser Forster was in excellent form. Hopefully this won’t happen again against Bournemouth and Boruc will have butter all over those fingers.

It’s been three consecutive matches in the Premier League where we have not scored, the last two being home games. Playing away tends to give us more opportunity to score and currently we have scored 5 more goals away than we have at home in the same number of games – interestingly enough only Leicester and Man Utd of the top seven clubs also have scored more away from home. The more astounding statistic is that our total of 37 goals scored is bettered by 5 other clubs and that it is only 6 goals better than Man Utd. Our goals against is somewhat better, being 22, which is the third best in the league. However, we have only played one of the other top 5 clubs away. You can slice and dice this information as you will and it’s hard to justify why our stats look so poor. The bottom line is that we need to start scoring more goals. By doing this we will win more games. I know it sounds simple but I think this last game against Southampton is a classic example of this analysis. We should have scored at least one goal. If we had, we would be two points better off and we would have been one place higher in the league – hmmm, think I should become a football manager!!

So, the game is on this Sunday at 3:30pm. There is only one game after ours, being the Chavs/ Rent boys/ whatever you care to call them against MFU so we should know exactly where we sit and what the very least we need to do. On Saturday, the Spuds play Watford and there’s a top of the table clash between Citeh and Leicester which will afford us the opportunity to make some catch up! The Brazenhead will be open for business as usual, so why don’t y’all c’mon down to the club and have yourselves some fun.