Words cannot hope to express what Arsenal just did. The tension, the worry that had turned to despair, and then the explosion of joy. It hardly felt like real life. A match and a moment that feels plucked from the pages of a Hollywood script about the plucky team that defies all the odds. Arsenal went behind to Bournemouth 9 seconds into the match. They took the lead at 96:59 on the clock. There is a long way to go still in the Premier League, but man if that wasn’t a championship moment.
The Gunners were deserving victors on the afternoon. They dominated the game. But it was nearly a disappointing, perhaps title-losing afternoon for Arsenal. A fluke goal to open the match, a cheap foul and poor marking from Thomas Partey for another goal, all the penalty shouts not given, Eddie Nketiah out injured and his replacement Leandro Trossard forced off early, at home, against one of the worst teams in the Premier League. It had all the markings, didn’t it?
But this is a special bunch. The hero was an unlikely one: Reiss Nelson. The Hale End product replaced Emile Smith Rowe, who presumably was on a minutes count as he works back to fitness, early in the second half. He immediately assisted on Ben White’s equalizing goal. And of course, Nelson scored at the death to win the match. Just before the season restarted from the World Cup break, I wrote that if Arsenal were going to win the league, they were going to need unexpected contributions. And thank goodness Reiss Nelson stepped up today.
Nelson has played 85 minutes in the Premier League this season. He has 3 goals and 2 assists. You can’t help but be thrilled for him. Lifelong Gooner. Came through Hale End. Has had such a rough go of it, getting injured seemingly every time he started to get a bit of momentum and consistency. Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to basically not play for weeks and then do what he did. He just put in a substitute appearance that will go down in Arsenal history.
Nelson’s heroics will overshadow another critical performance for Arsenal, that of Aaron Ramsdale. He made a massive save at 1-0 down in the first half that could easily have made it 2-0 early on. He had one or two big saves in the second half, too. His heroics kept Arsenal in the match so that they could go and win it.
The Bourenmouth opener seconds into the match was a combination of Arsenal being horribly asleep at the wheel and bad luck. Pretty much every Arsenal defender could have marked or tackled better on the move. And it still took two fortunate deflections on the way across the box for it to wind up in the back of the Arsenal net.
Thomas Partey had two moments to forget on the Bournemouth second goal. He gave away a cheap foul, that was significantly embellished by the opposing attacker to be fair, and then lost his mark on the corner that came from the free kick he gave away. Not his finest moment. He scored a few minutes later off an Emile Smith Rowe headed assist to sorta make amends.
But none of that bad luck and mistakes matter because Arsenal did the thing. They came back from 2-0 down in the second half to claim all three points. The comeback win saves us all the bellyaching and angst at VAR, too. Arsenal had five or six penalty shouts not given, most of which were firmly in the “you’ve seen them given” category. And Bournemouth had at least one player offside on the kickoff on their opening goal, which was completely missed. I don’t even know whether VAR can review that, but the kickoff should have come back. It was a clear rules violation. Thank goodness.
Leandro Trossard being forced off with injury is bad news. Mikel Arteta said after the match that Trossard felt something in his groin. With Eddie Nketiah out with an ankle problem and Gabriel Jesus still working back from his knee surgery, Arsenal suddenly have an injury crisis at striker.
The Gunners have 12 more cup finals to go. If they win 11, they win the Premier League. On to the next. Let’s go.