The Gunners are in the midst of the most uninspiring eight-match unbeaten run in the history of football. Arsenal beat Bournemouth 1-0 today to move to third in the table, one point off Manchester City for second, and yet I’d bet precious few people feel good about how the side is playing or the way the club is trending.
Arsenal played well for the first 20 minutes of the match. They pressed the attack, controlled the play, and were on the front foot. David Luiz’s headed goal from a Nicolas Pépé corner had me hopeful the Gunners would never play another short corner (alas). It felt as if maybe, finally the club was not going to sink to the level of their Premier League competition and were going to boss a match from start to finish.
It wasn’t to be. Bournemouth settled down and were the better team in the second half. Arsenal attempted a paltry four shots in the half, none of which were on target. Bournemouth managed seven, two of which were on target. The Cherries also generated two gilt-edged chances that but for fantastic defending from Calum Chambers on one and Matteo Guendouzi on the other, probably would have earned the visitors at least a point.
Chambers and Guendouzi were the two best players on the pitch for Arsenal today. With Hector Bellerin retaking his starting spot at right back after the international break, it would be a shame if Chambers was relegated purely to substitute duty. He has played too well. I’d love to see him at centerback or for Unai Emery to give him a shot at holding midfield. There’s not much to say about Guendouzi that hasn’t already been said this season. He’s playing energetic, strong, more disciplined football.
But Arsenal shouldn’t need two moments of scintillating defense to preserve the win against Bournemouth at home. Yes, Bournemouth are punching above their weight so far this season, but they are not nearly as good on the road. The Gunners should be two or three up and comfortable, especially given how poorly the Cherries started the match.
Today’s match was a microcosm of the season (and Unai Emery’s tenure, really) so far. The results are (mostly) there but the performance and underlying numbers are concerning. Arsenal sit third in the table, but they’ve got a goal difference of two and a negative expected goal difference. This eight-match unbeaten run is starting to feel like the 22-match unbeaten run last year, and we all know what happened after Southampton snapped that streak.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that Arsenal are winning. I want the club to do well. It’s great that they are in third and, as of today, starting to take advantage of their competitors’ stumbles. I’m just worried that it’s smoke and mirrors. We’ll have to wait until after the international break to find out if I’m right.