It was a result that wasn’t supposed to happen. Arsenal, without Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez, both of whom could be off to pastures new this month, were consigned to the kind of result that leaves top six teams feeling embarrassed.
Talk of crisis is never far away from Arsenal these days, but perhaps they’ve all-but given up on a top four spot in the Premier League to focus on Europa League victory and a League Cup triumph: both are trophies manager Arsene Wenger has yet to win as a manager, and both are the only trophies Arsenal can win this season.
Perhaps that brinkmanship, that all of the eggs in one basket approach is what makes every Arsenal defeat seem like a crisis, given that every loss seems to show that they’re unlikely to be guaranteed victory in any competition. But on the other hand, that just means we end up focusing less on the team who actually played the best football in the game.
And this weekend, Bournemouth did just that, not just frustrating Arsenal but coming from behind to beat them.
Sometimes such results sometimes rely on lucky goals or breaks of the ball, and you always need luck when you beat a top six side. But some of the Bournemouth performances show that their contribution to the game was about more than two flukey goals to down a superior team.
Adam Smith, playing at right wing-back, put in one of the most complete performances on the pitch.
Callum Wilson might take some of the plaudits with a goal and an assist. Or Jordon Ibe, for scoring the winner and generally having a good game, but Smith’s contribution almost matches it for his attacking input, and probably surpasses it as an all-round performance.
With four dribbles – tied with Ibe for most of any player on the pitch – three tackles, and five interceptions, Smith did a sterling job standing up to Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Danny Welbeck all game, whilst also providing an attacking threat going in the other direction.
Instead of sitting a point above the relegation zone – where they would have been if they’d lost – Bournemouth have moved all the way up to 13th. In a tight Premier League bottom half wins go a long way; the flipside of that is a defeat can be just as costly.
But if this performance is the shape of things to come, perhaps this is the catalyst of a run of form to take the Cherries away from the relegation zone and into relative safety.