The first of two Premier League games this afternoon takes us to the Vitality Stadium where Bournemouth take on Arsenal. It is fair to say that this fixture is must win for both Eddie Howe and Arsene Wenger albeit for far differing reasons.
For Bournemouth it is the need to pull themselves further away from the relegation zone especially as a number of teams around them picked up positive results yesterday, while for Arsenal a win is required to stay in the race for the top four.
One that if they fail to win later today will see begin to be cast adrift and very much on the outside looking in, not only that though but Arsene Wenger will be under pressure to deliver after seeing his side dumped out of the F.A. Cup last weekend.
Bournemouth’s own cup exploits saw them rescue a draw at home to Wigan eight days ago, it required an injury time goal from Steve Cook to keep the tie alive although they now have the unwanted task of having to do it all over again at the DW Stadium in midweek.
Cherries manager Eddie Howe will certainly be mindful of the fact that should results go against them over the next couple of days they would end the gameweek in the bottom three, that would mean that Bournemouth lose while Stoke win tomorrow at Manchester United.
With the form that Stoke are in that may well seem unlikely but stranger things have happened in football, so the focus this afternoon for the Dorset outfit will be to get points on the board and lift them clear of the precarious position they find themselves in.
Bournemouth are unbeaten in their last three league matches, although only one of those have come in the way of a win, that was against Everton at the tail end of 2017 while their last league outing saw them share the points with Brighton in a local derby which kick started 2018.
While today’s opponents Arsenal are unbeaten in their last seven league outings, but are dropping too many points for their own liking, their last two league matches have been draws with the Gunners having to make do with being held by both West Brom and Chelsea.
Going into the game Arsenal find themselves five points behind both Liverpool and Tottenham in the race for fourth and they will be hoping that Manchester City can also do them a favour later today when they travel to Anfield to face Jurgen Klopp’s men.
But ultimately Arsenal cannot be looking for favours, they need to return to winning ways and show that they can still be part of the race for the Champions League places come the end of the season especially among the backdrop of mounting pressure for Arsene Wenger once again.
Not only has the now annual debate as to whether the legendary manager should stay or go sparked up once again but there is also the ongoing uncertainty as to the status of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil beyond the end of this month.
The fact that no-one knows whether they will still be in North London in a couple of weeks is not helping the club and you get the feeling that Wenger would like to get to February just so that any talks of transfers can at least be hushed with their being no immediate risk of a player departure.
That is not to say that they will go away completely but at least everyone connected to the club will know where they stand until the end of the season at least when should Sanchez and Ozil still be in North London they will then walk away for nothing should a new contract fail to be signed by either party.
But today it is all about matters on the pitch, last season the corresponding fixture gave us now fewer than six goals as the two teams played out an entertaining 3-3 draw. I don’t think there will be that many this time around and the outcome will also differ, I’ll go for a much needed Arsenal win this afternoon.