Report from Dan Davis (@dan_davis20) at Vitality Stadium
AFC Bournemouth fell to their third league defeat in a row as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close range finish secured a 2-1 victory for Arsenal at Vitality Stadium.
Unai Emery’s visitors extended their unbeaten streak to 17 games in the process, but were forced to battle hard on the south coast.
Arsenal had taken the lead in fortuitous circumstances, as Jefferson Lerma inadvertently sliced Saed Kolasinac’s delivery beyond Asmir Begovic on the half hour mark. But on the stroke of half-time, Josh King spectacularly levelled the score upon his return to action, steering a sumptuous strike into the far corner.
However, Aubameyang’s tidy finish on 67 minutes, following incisive play down the left channel from the Gunners, consigned Cherries to a third league defeat in a row and prolonged the visitors’ flying start to the campaign.
Manager Eddie Howe made three changes to the outfit that had fallen to defeat at St James’ Park before the international break. Full back Adam Smith’s lengthy injury setback saw Charlie Daniels return to the side, whilst Dan Gosling and King were also restored to the starting XI.
The visitors boasted two alterations – with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sokratis displacing Alexandre Lacazette, who suffered a recent groin injury, and Mesut Ozil.
Cherries dominated the early exchanges, and even had the ball in the back of the net on seven minutes through the club’s October player of the month, David Brooks. The Welshman combined with King on the right edge of the penalty area before steering a low finish coolly beneath Bernd Leno, only to see the effort chalked off by a raised offside flag.
The visitors looked for an immediate response, and almost swept into the lead themselves just a minute later. Lucas Torreira was afforded acres of freedom on the edge of the box, and only the outside of the woodwork denied the Uruguayan midfielder his first goal of the season. Alex Iwobi then blazed off target from the rebound.
Torreira once again chanced his arm on ten minutes, but fired high over the crossbar from distance.
Callum Wilson, making his first Cherries appearance since netting on his England debut at Wembley earlier this month, then received the ball to his feet but saw a powerful drive deflected away by a resolute Arsenal backline.
The ex-Coventry frontman then nodded tamely into Leno’s arms, following Simon Francis’ superb drive and cross.
The end-to-end momentum of the clash hurtled past the 20-minute mark, and Aubameyang was the next culprit of squandering a guilt-edged opportunity. A set piece from the visitors was floated towards the Gabonese ace, who failed to direct a scorching half volley on target from eight yards.
However, on the half-hour mark, the Gunners did break the deadlock. Kolasinac weaved into Cherries’ penalty area, before delicately lofting a delivery into a crowded six-yard box. As the ball dropped, the backtracking Lerma inadvertently flashed his attempted clearance inside Asmir Begovic’s near post.
The opener appeared to fire all momentum in the visitors’ direction, leaving Cherries flat and languid for a brief spell. It was during this period that Arsenal should have doubled their lead, only for Begovic to intervene superbly after plunging to his left and clawing away Iwobi’s bending effort.
A marauding Hector Bellerin then fizzed a cross along the face of goal on 38 minutes, forcing Francis to slide in and slice a clearance out of danger. Arsenal continued to work possession superbly 25 yards from goal, before Mkhitaryan brought a swift end to the exchange after blazing over the crossbar.
A first half of relative frustration appeared destined to culminate in Arsenal entering the interval in the ascendency, before Cherries hit back in spectacular fashion on the stroke of Craig Pawson’s whistle.
In a final foray forward during the dying embers of the half, Wilson raced down the left-hand channel before picking out Brooks’ run in the centre of the Gunners’ half. The youngster in turn slotted through King on the right side of the box, who emphatically bent a first-time strike beyond Leno and into the top left-hand corner.
After the resumption, Aubameyang looked to utilise his fearsome turn of pace to breeze past Steve Cook, but the experienced centre-half backtracked superbly before timing a sliding interception to perfection.
Nathan Ake was then shown a yellow card by referee Pawson on 51 minutes, after preventing Mkhitaryan from spinning away from his attentions inside the centre circle.
A Cherries counter-attack, bearing all the hallmarks of Howe’s relentlessly high standard of football, then sliced through the visiting ranks, allowing Fraser to advance into yards of space on the right-hand flank. The Scot’s cross was unerring, but Daniels was unable to divert his strike towards goal from the far side of the penalty area.
Torreira tried his luck from distance on 56 minutes after a stunning first touch, only for the Uruguayan’s effort to take a wicked deflection and swerve narrowly off target.
But on 65 minutes, Arsenal swept into the lead once again after Lerma gifted the visitors a free-kick inches inside Cherries’ half. The transition from patience to the decisive blow was typically polished and slick, as Iwobi rolled a perfectly weighted pass through to Kolasinac.
The Bosnian full-back’s delivery was inviting, and the waiting Aubameyang seized upon the golden opportunity to prod into the empty net and restore Arsenal’s lead.
The home side looked to regroup rapidly before hunting for a crucial equaliser, but it was the Londoners who should have eased out of sight minutes after restoring their firm grasp on maximum points. Another rapid breakaway culminated in Mkhitaryan bursting into the penalty area, but the Armenian winger could only rifle into the side netting at Begovic’s near upright.
Fraser, ever a livewire influence for the home side, then looked to haul Cherries level on 71 minutes but his strike, which crested the outside of his right boot, was gathered with ease by Leno.
The pendulum once again swung Arsenal’s direction as the clash entered its latter stages, and Kolasinac threatened to wrap up the points for the visitors after easing past Cook before lashing wide of the target.
Junior Stanislas was then introduced into the fray by Howe with ten minutes remaining and the winger almost immediately fired Cherries level. The substitute latched on to Daniels’ clever pull-back, but the resultant strike was weak and comfortably gathered by Leno, despite the German being unsighted after the ball trickled through Rob Holding’s legs.
Lerma was then afforded the limelight, and a chance to make up for his cardinal sin earlier in the game, but the Colombian could only watch on helplessly as his piledriver clattered off the left-hand upright and fell away.
The home side continued to pile on the pressure late on, and Leno had to be alert once again to acrobatically beat away Ake’s flicked header from underneath the visitors’ crossbar.
Aubameyang dragged an effort off target in the visitors’ final chance, before Stanislas fired over the top with the last kick of the game.
The defeat means that Cherries’ winless streak has now been extended to three league clashes ahead of an away trip to Manchester City next weekend, whilst the visitors move within one point of the Premier League top four.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Daniels, Brooks (Stanislas, 72), Gosling (L. Cook, 72), Lerma, Fraser, King (Mousset, 81), Wilson
Unused substitutes: Boruc, Mings, Surman, Defoe
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Holding, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira (Guendouzi, 78), Mkhitaryan, Iwobi (Ramsey, 82), Aubameyang (Nketiah, 90)
Unused substitutes: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Ozil