Emotion Fueled Comeback Hurtles Arsenal Past Cherries in Unlikely Match Script

Nobody will have predicted that match script in it’s entirety, but when you’ve got a bit of magic, you’ve got a bit of magic.

An afternoon kickoff for Arsenal, at home, but the buzz was in the air long before the whistle. It’s a title-challenging season, meaning every match is the biggest match since the last match was the biggest match.

There’s nothing about three points in the Premier League a team can take for granted, but this wasn’t a match Arsenal could afford to lose as they approach the run in. To add to the occasion, Manchester City dispatched Newcastle with relative ease.

Many Arsenal fans would have been hoping fourth-place Newcastle could do them a favor, at least in the form of a draw, but it feels like Newcastle’s underlying stats are beginning to catch up with them.

So, Arsenal had all the reason to come out and put a susceptible Bournemouth team to the sword, and their lineup selection showed an intent to do just that.

The name on everybody’s lips was Fabio Vieira, as he was selected to start in place of Granit Xhaka. Everyone loves a lineup that drips with attacking potency, and you can’t argue that Vieira’s G/A per 147 minutes this season doesn’t offer that (1 per ~104 in the PL).

Two days ago I wrote about Fabio after Arteta foreshadowed more involvement, and earlier in February I gave my thoughts on Xhaka’s role as a starter and his future.

But it was a day for him to prove to the world that he had more to offer in the other 89 minutes of match. If we know he has goals and assists in him, can he help contribute to the team effectively for all 89 minutes? It’s not something he’s done much this season and it’s earned him the label of “moments man”, but his season-long refinement has been on display of late. At 22, you can’t underestimate the room for growth in player.

Before he, or anyone, could get a touch on the ball, Arsenal would find themselves in a deficit. Just 9 seconds in the match Bournemouth would take the lead. In a goal that would rival our Aston Villa concessions for “most embarrassing”, no one switched themselves on when the whistle blew. I hate when fans say this, but I feel like I could’ve cleared that.

The only aspect of conceding that early that you can be thankful for is there’s more than 90 minutes left to change the result.

But in the 18th minute, Bournemouth have a chance to go two up. Saka dribbles across the top of the box, tries to shoot but is blocked by three Cherries who break. There may have been an offsides in the transition but no flag sees an easy finish opportunity for Bournemouth.

It’s the exact turnover situation Arteta said would make him upset to concede from, just yesterday. Much of Arsenal’s left side had migrated to overload the right and it left two Bournemouth players in acres of space in the hole. Fortunately, Ramsdale comes up huge and makes the 1v.1 save.

A first 20 minutes that seemed tumultuous for Arsenal got worse when Trossard had to exit the game with an injury. Emile Smith Rowe comes in to much applause and Martinelli moves central. With Eddie having the day off and Vieira as the left central midfielder, it was a different looking Arsenal side with everything to play for.

In the 34th minute, things get contentious once more with VAR. A contested ball in the box clearly comes down on a Bournemouth defenders arm, without a doubt. VAR don’t overturn the call on the field and it seems the call is based on it being a “contested accidental, shoulder-grey area” (?). I don’t know. Looked pretty clear to me but they wanted none of it. It wouldn’t be the last.

It’s a bad first half on the whole, but 85% possession and 14 shots was enough to give a shot of confidence that this match was reclaimable. Ben White comes on for Tomiyasu at the start of the second half. It really wasn’t a great showing for Tomiyasu who looked off the pace in smaller moments on both sides of the ball.

In the 49th minute, Arsenal win a corner and Ødegaard runs to the corner jumping with his arms waving to amp up the crowd and implore for some life. This team has run on emotion and energy all year, today was not the day to have it go flat. The energy picked up, but the Bournemouth wall stood strong.

In the 58th minute, the second break for Bournemouth comes. A corner kick sees one of The Cherries’ big center backs escape his mark and put a glancing, near-post header past Ramsdale. On a day where Arsenal had so many set pieces and corners, they are undone by Bournemouth’s first.

It looked like an uphill battle, but when Arsenal needed a spark of life, they got it. Just 4 minutes after conceding their second, they respond with a set piece goal of their own. Thomas Partey holds his back post position well and Emile Smith Rowe finds him with a header. Arsenal catch Bournemouth doing a bit of ball watching and pull one back. 1-2!

In search for an equalizer, Arteta brings on Reiss Nelson for the subbed on Smith Rowe. The response? Instant impact!

Was told Ben White’s first goal at the Emirates would hit like none other and it has. In the 70th minute, Reiss Nelson plays an absolutely perfect cross through the face of goal and White puts an absolute pearl of a volley across the line. Neto palms it out but it’s already across. 2-2!

Game on! But Arsenal know they really need a third. A win here was necessary to save what little room for error there is in this season for other matches. The crowd instantly became electric, the buzz was fully back — although it never fully left — and the belief was there.

Tensions were sky high and only made higher as Bournemouth has two consecutive handballs reviewed by VAR and upheld as acceptable. It makes four on the day and another game where you are left with that feeling of “on another day”. The difference is that Arsenal won the match with Everton.

Time ticked into added time, Bournemouth went to the time-wasting tactics Arsenal have faced all year. The ol’ “less we have to play them, the happier we’ll be” plan. But there were six minutes to play as desperation begins to seep in and you click to the belief there’s another chance or two still in it. Have teams not learned from Emi? You don’t waste time against The Arsenal and expect to not pay for it.

When a season is magic, it’s magic. Everyone steps up!

At the very death, Arsenal get their seventeenth corner of the match and Reiss Nelson makes magic. Bringing Maitland-Niles-penalty levels of cool, he chests a ball and smashes a volley past Neto. Moment of the season? Maybe recency bias but it’s hard not to feel like it.

There’s not a person in the surrounding mile of my home still asleep after my yelling. Google is going to get an uptick in searches for “REISS FUCKING NELSON”.

He’s come into the game and turned it on its head. Impact sub times one million. We have become very used to this inverted winger look, but he holds the width and it created a huge change in look for Bournemouth defenders to deal with. Reiss creates the assist to Ben White and the game winner. He has to collect the Man of Match award for it.

But most importantly, Arsenal claim all three points in the most unlikely of match scripts. Frustrating at its worst, exhilarating at its best. Almost a statement on Arsenal the last month as they have dipped to their worst and risen back to some of their best, in the face of teams figuring out how to defend.

Match script:

  • Concede in 9 seconds
  • Lose Trossard
  • No VAR overturn on handball
  • Concede a 2nd to go down 2-0
  • Claw back 1 four minutes later
  • Get a 2nd 8 minutes after that
  • More contentious handballs

We stay 5 clear of City and the emotional, magical ride continues! ENJOY IT ALL, Gooners.

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