A pair of top-eight sides looking to head into the international break collide at the Emirates on Sunday when Arsenal look to consolidate their top-four status at the expense of Bournemouth.
The Gunners (3-3-1) are unbeaten in their last seven (4-3-0) in all competitions since being outclassed 3-1 at Liverpool on Aug. 24 and have put themselves on solid footing in Group F of the Europa League with two dominating victories. The second came Thursday in a 4-0 hiding of Belgium side Standard Liege, with teen starlet Gabriel Martinelli scoring Arsenal’s first two goals 131 seconds apart in the first half.
Joe Willock added a third before intermission and Dani Ceballos fattened the scoreline in the second half as Arsenal have taken all six points from their two group matches and scored seven goals without conceding.
It was the second brace in three matches for Martinelli – the 18-year-old struck twice in Arsenal’s 5-0 victory over Nottingham Forest in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Sept. 24. While the Brasilian has yet to feature in a league match, he is putting pressure on Gunners manager Unai Emery to at least have him on the bench as striker Alexander Lacazette continues to recover from an injury.
“In every training he showed us his hunger to be with us,” Emery told Arsenal’s official website about Martinelli. “In pre-season he played in different positions, but above all he preferred playing on the left wing. But also he played as a right winger. I used him as a striker because in Brazil he played this position (centre forward).
“It’s not the best position for him, but the first thing in his mind is to help us and receive some minutes with us in the team. Tonight I think his performance and attitude was amazing.”
Summer signing and right back Kieran Tierney made his second start after missing time with hip and groin injuries, and it is uncertain if Emery will hand the Scotland international his Premier League debut. The 22-year-old will not be with Scotland for their upcoming European qualifiers in next week’s international break.
After making an 11-minute cameo off the bench Thursday, striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will look to extend his white-hot form. The Gabon international has scored in his last four league matches, potting five in that stretch, and is tied with Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham for second with seven overall.
Bournemouth (3-2-2) are one of four teams on 11 points, trailing Spurs on goal difference and Chelsea on goals scored while edging out Crystal Palace on goal difference for eighth. This is the type of match, however, where the Cherries have struggled to punch above their weight and make a statement of intent for their European ambitions.
Since winning their initial promotion for 2015, Eddie Howe’s side has produced just eight points in 24 road matches against the Big Six, recording just two wins and two draws. Both victories have come at Stamford Bridge, and Bournemouth were swept in all six contests last term by a combined 22-3.
Howe, though, has tipped his club to be ready for this contest. The Cherries are coming off a 2-2 draw at home versus West Ham United on Sept. 28 in which Joshua King scored in the first half and set up Callum Wilson’s goal just after the restart.
“The boys are believing in themselves and the team and we’re in a good place, but we know from our experience that things can change quickly so we have to be ready,” Howe said at his Friday press conference. “I feel that there’s more to come. We are doing something right, I think the spirit in the group has been very strong and that’s why we’ve got the results we have. If we can improve technically then we can be even stronger.”
Wilson has also been in scintillating and clinical form as he too rides a four-match goal-scoring streak into this contest. He earned a call-up to the England squad for next week’s European qualifiers at the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, while strike partner King will be part of a Norway side who will face Spain and Romania.
The Emirates has been a bogey ground for Bournemouth, who have come away empty in all four visits since earning promotion and are 1-1-6 in the top flight versus the Gunners. They also have had no answers for Aubameyang, who has been an absolute terror with three braces and seven goals in four matches since joining Arsenal.
The Gunners ran out easy 5-1 winners in last term’s corresponding fixture, with Aubameyang and Laurent Koscielny scoring early in the second half to put the contest out of reach.