It has been a strange week for Arsenal, but one in many ways which epitomises the club’s recent years.
They beat Manchester City 2-0 on Monday to arguably establish themselves as title favourites, only to be thrashed 4-0 by Southampton yesterday and see their championship credentials questioned again.
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The Saints ran riot at St Mary’s Stadium to expose the same weaknesses which have plagued the Gunners during their 11 years without a Premier League title – inconsistency and a soft centre.
Arsene Wenger’s side can still leapfrog Leicester City to of the table with a win at home to Bournemouth tomorrow, but they are unlikely to stay there unless they address their problems in January.
They have been linked with a £33m move for Sevilla midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak by The Sun. In the meantime, Mathieu Flamini will cover for the injured Francis Coquelin in front of the back four.
Coquelin is one of six absentees that restrict Wenger’s options to rotate for their second game in 48 hours. Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Mikel Arteta remain out.
Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the most likely options to freshen things up, but Wenger will probably otherwise look for a response from the side that was embarrassed by Southampton.
Bournemouth’s 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on Boxing Day extended their unbeaten run to four games. They have knocked off Chelsea and Manchester United during that run, so Arsenal should be wary.
The Cherries have injury problems themselves. Callum Wilson, Tyrone Mings, Max Gradel, Tommy Elphick and Christian Atsu all missed the Palace stalemate, but Josh King may be fit to return.
This is the first ever league meeting between the two sides. A Bournemouth victory at the Emirates could send them to 13th in the table, and trigger more questions over whether Arsenal are the real deal.
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