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Arsenal v. Bournemouth preview: the beginning

In Mikel we trust.

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Arsenal Training Session Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

It’s been nearly a week since Mikel Arteta was hired at Arsenal. His coaching staff is in place. He has had a few training sessions with the side. All that remains is for him to make his debut on the sidelines. When he steps into the technical area tomorrow at Bournemouth, he will become the youngest Arsenal manager since 1976.

The Gunners come into tomorrow’s match in unfamiliar territory; they’re in the bottom half of the table on Boxing Day for the first time since the 1983-84 season. Arsenal are nine points behind Chelsea for fourth and five points back of Sheffield United for fifth. The Cherries are in 14th and have dropped six of their last seven in the league, but that one win came against Chelsea — the hosts have got some quality in their side.

Bournemouth will be without left-back Diego Rico (yellow card accumulation) and center-back Nathan Ake (hamstring). Adam Smith, Harry Wilson, Arnaut Danjuma, Charlie Daniels, Lloyd Kelly, and David Brooks are all long-term absentees for the Cherries. Winger Ryan Fraser (knock) and defender Simon Francis (head) face match-day fitness tests to determine their availability.

Calum Chambers (yellow card accumulation) will miss out for Arsenal tomorrow, along with defenders Rob Holding (knee), Sead Kolasinac (ankle), and Kieran Tierney (shoulder). Gabriel Martinelli (hamstring) is a doubt. Hector Bellerin is available, and Sokratis served his accumulation suspension last match.

I wouldn’t expect massive changes to the formation and tactics in Arteta’s first match; there hasn’t been enough training time for him to implement his ideas. Regardless, Arsenal should be able to manage a result against Bournemouth. And even if they don’t, I’m finally confident the club is headed in the right direction with Arteta at the helm. It feels nice to be able to write that.

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Bournemouth
WHERE: Vitality Stadium
WHEN: Thursday, December 26th 7 AM PT | 10 AM ET | 3 PM BT
US TV: Not broadcast. Streaming on NBC Sports Gold ($$$).

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