Three matches into the season, and the inevitable has happened, albeit early, as we see “Wenger Out” posters flying around. If the 1-0 defeat at Stoke wasn’t bad enough, the 4-0 capitulation at Anfield means Wenger is already under huge pressure going into the international break, and it’s just the start of September!
The frustration for years has been a sense of Groundhog Day at the club, but things seem to have become even worse now. Arsenal are on a downward trajectory, having missed out on the Champions League last season and lost two of their opening three games this term.
The Bournemouth match at the Emirates thus is a must win clash, with all eyes on Wenger and Alexis Sanchez, who much to his annoyance, will be spending this season at Arsenal after a last-minute blunder on deadline day blocked his move to Manchester City.
The 28-year Chilean missed the first two games due to abdominal strain, but was a part of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Liverpool. While Wenger is confident that the Alexis is still a 100% committed to show the manager and fans that he is willing to fight for the team until at least January having missed out on the move he wanted.
Defeat on Saturday would mark three consecutive Premier League losses for the first time since January 2012, and with champions Chelsea awaiting at Stamford Bridge next weekend – after a Europa League clash with Koln in midweek – it would plunge Arsenal into even deeper trouble at this early stage of the season.
There are reasons to be optimistic, though; Arsenal have won their last six Premier League home games and have only lost one of their last 19 since the opening day of the 2016-17 season.
The most recent of those was the 4-3 win over Leicester City on the opening day of this campaign, which currently provides a less-than-convincing source for Arsenal’s only points so far.
Bournemouth, on the other hand find themselves in the relegation zone as one of three teams yet to pick up a point, although it is not a completely alien situation for them.
Bournemouth have lost their opening two games in both of their previous top-flight campaigns and gone on to survive relatively comfortably, so Howe will not be worrying too much just yet despite a growing desire to get those first points on the board.
The Cherries were seconds away from breaking the duck before the international break when they welcomed Manchester City to the Vitality Stadium, but they were denied an impressive draw at the death by a 97th-minute winner from Raheem Sterling.
In truth, Howe may not have expected much from the double-header against City and Arsenal either side of the international break, but that would have made the defeats to West Bromwich Albion and Watford in the opening two matches of the campaign even harder to take.
TEAM NEWS AND PROBABLE LINEUPS:
Wenger will be forced into at least one change from the humiliation at Anfield after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain‘s deadline-day switch to Liverpool.
Indeed, the Frenchman may look to send a message by making sweeping changes to the side, and the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Shkodran Mustafi and Saed Kolasinac will all be pushing for a recall.
Plenty of eyes will be on Sanchez after he was kept at the club against his will, but the Chilean is a minor doubt and will undergo a fitness test following his return from international duty.
Aaron Ramsey and David Ospina will also need to prove their fitness, while Wenger could include Jack Wilshere on the bench as he continues his recovery from injury.
Alex Iwobi and Calum Chambers are also expected to be in contention, leaving Santi Cazorla as Arsenal’s only remaining injury concern.
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil, Lacazette, Sanchez
Bournemouth could be without Simon Francis due to a thigh injury, but Benik Afobe, Nathan Ake and Junior Stanislas should be available following recent injury troubles.
Callum Wilson remains sidelined for the Cherries, though, which is likely to mean that former Tottenham man Jermain Defoe retains his place up front alongside Josh King.
Bournemouth possible starting lineup:
Begovic; Smith, Cook, Ake, Mings, Daniels; Gosling, Surman, Arter; King, Defoe