Alexis Sanchez absence leaves a cloud as hapless Arsenal fall to defeat

Alexis Sanchez absence leaves a cloud as hapless Arsenal fall to defeat
From ESPN - January 14, 2018

BOURNEMOUTH -- Three quick thoughts on Bournemouth 2-1 Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.

1. New low for Arsenal in desperate defeat

The day started with Arsene Wengerall-but confirming Alexis Sanchez was off, and things got worse from there. Whether the Chilean will be wearing red or blue for the remainder of the season is still to be decided, but that does not especially matter for Arsenal now, in the wake of another dispiriting defeat.

Sunday's 2-1 loss at Bournemouth, after Arsenal took the lead in the second half, was achingly familiar. A few moments of quality aside, this was a desperate showing from the Gunners, perhaps made even worse because Eddie Howe's side -- at the start of the day only just outside the relegation zone -- did not even have to be particularly good to beat them.

Hector Bellerin put Arsenal ahead at the start of the second half, but they never really looked like forcing their advantage home, and strikes from Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe sealed the three points for Bournemouth. Sanchez, wherever he is, must have watched on with a sense of vindication.

Without Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, the latter still missing with a knee problem, the Arsenal team was profoundly uninspiring, which showed in their performance and general quality of the game. Aside from a shot from Ainsley Maitland-Niles that pinged against the bar, the first 45 minutes ticked along in a series of half-realised chances and poor final balls, both sides apparently reticent about taking a risk as basic as shooting.

As neat summaries of Arsenal's general efforts went, two players inside a few minutes simply running the ball out of play when only semi-pressured, fitted quite nicely. Bournemouth were not much better, and while Arsenal's backline of Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers occasionally looked nervous -- their default state, the cruel might say -- the home side did not cause them excessive problems.

It could only get better after the break, and six minutes into the second half it did, as Arsenal took the lead. Alex Iwobi played a delightful through ball to Bellerin, whose shot was half-saved by Asmir Begovic but gently bounced over the line. "How s--- must you be, we are winning away," sang the Arsenal fans, a tune usually reserved for the truly desperate.

But that changed shortly afterwards, when Bournemouth equalised from nowhere. Ryan Fraser fizzed a low, early cross from deep on the right which Wilson just reached ahead of Petr Cech and stabbed home.

And four minutes later, the hosts were ahead. Wilson nicely held up a ball into the box, he laid it off to Ibe and his shot ricocheted through Cech's legs and into the net.

Last season in this game Arsenal equalised in the 97th minute, but it might sum up their current position that, even with 20 minutes to do so, they did not look like repeating the feat this time.

2. Cech decline clear to see

When Wenger finally gave in to the inevitable and bought Cech in 2015, it was meant to solve a problem. He was 33, but in goalkeeping terms that is not especially old: the plan was that he would correct a long-standing weakness for the next four or five years.


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