After their disastrous start to last season, in which the team lost three in a row, Arsenal’s fortunes looked to be improving vastly this season. Impressive wins over Crystal Palace and Leicester City have given Arsenal fans a new lease of life.
For the first time since the 2003/2004 season (a vintage year if ever there was one), Arsenal named the same starting eleven for the first three matches, with the added bonus of summer signing Fábio Vieria was also available for selection.
In typical fashion so far this season, Arsenal started exceptionally well right from the off. Bournemouth couldn’t seem to get near Mikel Arteta’s men, as the away side began to play intricate passing patterns, drawing Bournemouth out of position in droves.
Bournemouth’s primary tactic seemed to be to press Arsenal in their own half (in an attempt to win the ball back high up the field) and then switch to a low-block once Arsenal crossed the halfway line.
Suffice to say that it did not work.
A shanked ball from Ben White was exceptionally well cushioned by Gabriel Jesus, who used his strength and balance to embark on a mazy run through the Bournemouth midfield before slipping in a reverse ball to Gabriel Martinelli whose shot was well-saved by Mark Travers, only for Martin Ødegaard to tuck in the rebound to give the visitors the lead.
Arsenal did not rest on their laurels, however.
Barely 6 minutes later they had another. Exceptional inter-play between Bukayo Saka and Ben White exposed Bournemouth’s right-hand flank, allowing White to fizz a grounded cut-back into Gabriel Jesus, only for Ødegaardto then take it off Jesus’ toes and hit a first-time effort into the back of the net for 0-2.
It was a consummate first-half performance from Arsenal, with Bournemouth unable to even muster a touch in Arsenal’s penalty area and unable to muster a single shot, on target or otherwise.
In the second half, Bournemouth began to look a lot more dangerous.
Though they did not really trouble former-Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, they did begin to ask questions of Arsenal’s backline.
In the end, the game was dead and buried around nine minutes into the second half.
A short free-kick allowed Gabriel Martinelli to whip a superb cross deep into the Bournemouth penalty area. Granit Xhaka brought the ball down and passed it to William Saliba on the edge of the penalty area, who lashed home a cultured left-foot strike for his first-ever Arsenal goal and only his second in senior football. 0-3.
Arsenal did have a fourth before long, only for it to be chalked off. An utterly mesmeric through ball from Ødegaard into Gabriel Jesus allowed the Brazilian time and space, before a deft chip over the goalkeeper rounded off a spectacular Arsenal move. However, VAR, ever the party-pooper, rubbed the goal off the scoreboard for offside.
Though Bournemouth did create a few chances, very few really troubled Aaron Ramsdale and, in the end, they were immensely glad to hear the final whistle blow.
From Arsenal’s perspective, it was as close to a perfect game as they could have hoped for.
Mikel Arteta’s side looked unstoppable from start to finish, with Bournemouth unable to land a killer blow.
The performances of Gabriel Jesus, captain Martin Ødegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko were standouts among a team where no one put a foot wrong.
Jesus’ work for the opening goal was exceptional. A deftly cushion touch to bring the ball down, remarkable strength to hold off the defender and a Lionel Messi-esque run into the penalty area was just a microcosm of the work the striker put in all day.
As for Martin Ødegaard, the new Arsenal captain seemed to regain some of his swagger from last season. Largely an active supporter in the first two matches, Ødegaard was at the heart of everything today. His two goals were a combination of right-place-right-time and exceptional finishing, something he definitely lacked at Selhurst Park on matchday one. He was perhaps unlucky not to pick up an assist too; a very tight VAR call ending his chances.
In reality, anyone in Arsenal’s backline was due for praise really. Ben White put in yet another solid shift at right-back. Gabriel Magalhães was quick to snuff out any danger he could see. The calm and composed William Saliba’s defensive performance was only over-shadowed by his exceptional goal and the inventive (if slightly annoying) new Arsenal supporter’s chant. But it was Oleksandr Zinchenko who stood out the most.
Zinchenko seems to be genuinely challenging Kieran Tierney for a starting spot, to the point where it seems unlikely that the former-Celtic man will be able to take the position back for a while.
The Ukrainian was at the heart of Arsenal’s defensive solidity. His awareness of potential threats was essential to the team’s defensive performance, as was his calmness under pressure. Zinchenko linked-up well with Gabriel Martinelli throughout the match, but was equally happy to drop into midfield whenever it looked like Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka were being over-run.
An exceptional performance from Mikel Arteta’s men, but now their attention turns to next Saturday and the visit of Fulham.
1.) Mark Travers
6.) Chris Mepham
25.) Marcos Senesi (Anthony 45’)
5.) Lloyd Kelly (c)
8.) Jefferson Lerma
15.) Adam Smith
16.) James Tavernier
22.) Ben Pearson (Cook 45’)
33.) Jordan Zemura
21.) Kieffer Moore
29.) Philip Billing (Christie 65’)
17.) Jack Stacey
23.) James Hill
4.) Lewis Cook
11.) Emiliano Marcondes
10.) Ryan Christie
20.) Siriki Dembélé
32.) Jaidon Anthony
18.) Jamal Lowe
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
4.) Benjamin White (Tomiyasu 75’)
12.) William Saliba
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko
5.) Thomas Partey
34.) Granit Xhaka (Lokonga 88’)
8.) Martin Ødegaard (c) (Smith Rowe 74’)
7.) Bukayo Saka (Tierney 88’)
9.) Gabriel Jesus
11.) Gabriel Martinelli (Nketiah 74’)
30.) Matt Turner
16.) Rob Holding
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
3.) Kieran Tierney
25.) Mohamed Elneny
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
21.) Fábio Vieira
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
14.) Eddie Nketiah