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Arsenal vs Bournemouth preview: Forward March

The Gunners welcome the Cherries to London as the hosts hit the meat of their schedule

Arsenal FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Wednesday’s emphatic win over Everton was glorious. Arsenal ran rampant over the visitors, and the Gunners shook off the Sean Dyche boogeyman and exacted some very gratifying revenge. It was about as perfect a match as you could ask for ahead of another dense fixture list. The attack lit the net ablaze. The defense pitched another shutout. The Emirates boiled over with jubilance as Arsenal steamrolled the opposition with the calm assuredness of a team vying for a title.

If Wednesday was a test of Arsenal’s mettle, Saturday looks to be a test of their focus, as 19th placed Bournemouth come to the Emirates. With a trip to Portugal for a midweek Europa League match next week followed by a trip to tricky Fulham, Mikel Arteta’s side has a lot to prepare and play for. But first, they need to get past a potential pesky Cherries.

Bournemouth are fresh off a battering at home at the hands of 2nd place Manchester City, who made easy work of the hosts last Saturday in a 4-1 affair that could have easily been 6 or more if the visitors really wanted to pour it on. The loss was one of many for the recently-promoted side, whose -26 goal differential and 41 goals allowed, both worst in the league, have been the weighty anchors keeping them from climbing out of the league’s basement.

As if things couldn’t get any worse for a beleaguered Bournemouth, they barely get a chance to lick their wounds before traveling to face a red-hot Arsenal who are eager to tighten their grip on the top spot of the league.

Ever since Mikel Arteta’s decision to play Leandro Trossard in the middle in place of Eddie Nketiah against Leicester, Arsenal’s attack has returned to their pre-World Cup form. Trossard’s new role and Gabriel Martinelli’s return to his goal scoring form are not coincidental. The January signing’s versatility has unlocked the offense in ways that haven’t been seen since Gabriel Jesus’ injury during the World Cup, and the two seem to have already developed a solid chemistry with one another. While Eddie has his merits and qualities that make him valuable, he doesn’t play with the positional fluidity of Trossard, which made all of the difference against Leicester and Everton.

On top of that, the return of Emile Smith Rowe gives Arsenal another versatile weapon to slot into the side. His return on Wednesday was a breath of fresh air, not only because he is a proper Hale End lad who we all love dearly, but because the upcoming slate of matches will test the depth of Arsenal’s roster. With his return, the ascendancy of Trossard, and the resolute play of Jorginho, the Gunners have true depth for the first time in a long, long time.

For more on this match, check out Nathan’s interview with Last Word on Football and his lineup and match predictions post.

This match doesn’t have the same weight as the upcoming ones, but there is no reason the Gunners won’t take this one seriously. With only five points separating Arsenal and Man City, every win matters. Bournemouth are in a relegation battle and desperate for points, so they can’t afford to play conservatively. They will throw everything they have at Arsenal in hopes of landing an early blow before retreating. If Arsenal play the way they did against Everton, though, they should get similar results.

13 matches remain in the season. 12 wins guarantee a title. With any luck, Saturday will get the Gunners one step and three points closer to that goal.

WHAT: Arsenal vs Bournemouth
WHEN: Saturday, March 4th, 10:00am EST/7:00am PST/3:00pm BST
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming on Peacock.

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