By Okeowo Oladapo
With Liverpool dropping points and Manchester clubs winning their games and cutting the lead, the game against Bournemouth was a must-win, the expectation was palpable.
Both teams started out testing out each other. A slow dance of two martial artists checking out for the other’s weaknesses.
As the game progressed, the home team played like they wanted it more. They pressed high up the pitch and kept Arsenal on the backfoot. Bournemouth let Arsenal have the ball but not in any dangerous position while looking out for the counter.
The Cherries had a penalty appeal waved away in the 13th minute and finally got the opener with a cross-field pass that caught Arsenal’s back line totally out of shape. Daniels collected the ball, cut in on Bellerin and shot into the near post, giving Cech no chance.
The game restarted and the North Londoners played like a team that hadn’t left the dressing room. They would later pay for this lethargy in the 20th minute when Wilson scored from the spot. This was after a needless shove by Granit Xhaka on Bournemouth’s Fraser.
The Gunners’ woes were compounded when Coquelin went off injured and was replaced by Oxlade-Chamberlain. The first half ended 2 nil in favour of Eddie Howe’s side.
The second half started and Wenger switched to a 4-4-2 after removing Iwobi and bringing on Perez as the second striker. But the French manager did not see an immediate turnaround as Fraser got his third for Bournemouth.
Fraser seemed to have shoved Bellerin just before scoring the goal. Commenting on it, Wenger said: “It is no penalty, or if it is then it’s a foul [on Bellerin]. The push from Xhaka was much less strong than the push for the goal.”
However the goal stood. After this, magic. A comeback that defied logic. It started out with a fortuitous flick by Giroud finding Sanchez at the far post. He made no mistake. Five minutes later, a flick by Giroud found Perez who shot into the goal.
3-2. Game on!
The 2-goal lead was almost restored but they conspired to miss the chance when scoring was easier. Next passage of play, Francis, Bouremouth’s captain, got red-carded for a rash challenge on Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal got back on the front foot and went in search of the equaliser. They got it in the 91st minute after Giroud nodded in Xhaka’s cross.
The Frenchman celebrated with a reference to the scorpion kick while Chamberlain urged him to return to the centre circle to see if the game can be won still.
The game ended 3-3.
In his post-match interview, Eddie Howe, Bournemouth’s coach, said: “Fate conspired against us in several ways. I didn’t think it was a sending off. I thought that was harsh but in the end the quality of their players showed.”