Publicly new Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta told of his satisfaction at his players’ work rate, enthusiasm and craft as the Gunners took a point from a 1-1 draw in the Premier League at AFC Bournemouth on Boxing Day. Privately, of course, Arteta will be anything but satisfied, you could argue. He will have positives to take from the game, but he knows he has a lot of work to do, too.
The Spanish coach, who was at the helm for his first game in charge since replacing Unai Emery (we had former player Freddie Ljungberg as interim head coach in between, remember), and he watched on at the Vitality Stadium as his side did enough to merit – in a game in which ultimately honours ended even – a point.
The hosts took the lead through Dan Gosling after a long spell of dominance from the visitors and the strike knocked the confidence out of Arteta’s men. But they fought hard after the break to return to parity and did so when leading marksman Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang netted. At that point it was clear that the Gunners were going to push for the win but a resolute Cherries side held on and most who witnessed the affair agreed a draw was a fair result.
For Arteta, there was lots to take in, weigh up and act on. Arsenal dominated possession, looked far more resolute at the back and with Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka working well together, it was left to Mesut Ozil to try to carve out chances for the likes of Aubameyang and recalled frontman Alex Lacazette. The latter looked a little ring rusty and, on another day — and with his shooting boots on — he could have helped himself to a couple of goals.
Arteta elected to leave £72million winger Nic Pepe on the bench until late in the second half but when he did eventually replace the tireless yet not necessarily efficient Reiss Nelson, the Gunners looked a far more potent threat going forwards.
And so, all level it ended but there are those who saw the game who suggested that under Emery, a disheartened Arsenal may well have gone on and lost the game following going one goal behind.
Next up for Arsenal is a home game in the Premier League against Chelsea on Sunday. they then host Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on New Year’s Day — then they enjoy a break from league action with the FA Cup looming. Championship high-flyers Leeds United will be the visitors to North London on January 6.