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Focus: How Arsenal could exploit Bournemouth's passing philosophy

Bournemouth’s persistence with a short-passing tactical philosophy is commendable, but their absence of a Plan B can leave them wanting against in-form teams.

Before the turnaround last weekend against struggling Crystal Palace, the Cherries had earned just one point from a losing position this season and although victories against Manchester United and Chelsea suggest they are capable of giant killings, in reality both of these teams were in poor form. In five games against the current top four Bournemouth have earned two points, scored three goals and conceded 13.

In five games against the current top four Bournemouth have earned two points, scored three goals, and conceded 13

Their main problem is that such a fluid passing system leads to a poorer defensive shape when possession is lost. Eddie Howe’s team often leave large gaps between the lines of defence and midfield, allowing their opponents to pass the ball with composure in the final third. In the 5-1, 5-1 and 2-0 defeats to Spurs, Manchester City and Arsenal respectively, all of the central attacking midfielders on the pitch ran riot. Raheem Sterling bagged a hat-trick, Christian Eriksen created five chances (one assist) and Mesut Ozil created nine chances (one goal, one assist).

Timely return

What is worrying for Bournemouth is that Alexis Sanchez’s return will see Arsenal overload the central attacking third alongside Ozil. Dan Gosling (2.5 tackles, 1.5 interceptions per match) and Andrew Surman (1.1 tackles, 2.7 interceptions per match) will undoubtedly be the most important players on the pitch for Bournemouth on Sunday, but they will need to ensure that they sit deeper than usual to close out spaces between themselves and the centre-backs.

Bournemouth have only lost twice in their last 14 league fixtures, but their ability to create chances in this match is significantly reduced by two key pieces of injury news. Firstly, Junior Stanislas – their main source of creativity – is out, and secondly Francis Coquelin should be fit to start.

Since Bournemouth’s build-up play is generally low tempo, Coquelin’s ability to intercept and – more importantly – cut off passing lines by shimmying back and forth (an action that regularly goes unseen and leaves no statistical trail) will most likely see these long passing moves break down. Furthermore, Coquelin is the key component in Arsenal sustaining long periods of pressure; he will stick tightly to Harry Arter and should prevent the counter-attack from developing.

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