Arsenal return to the Emirates Stadium on Monday evening hoping to wave off 2015 by going top of the Premier League table at the second attempt in three days when they face AFC Bournemouth.
The Gunners; who currently sit two points behind surprise leaders Leicester City in the standings, spurned the opportunity to take hold a one-point advantage at the summit on Boxing Day after being thrashed 4-0 by out-of-form Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium.
Meanwhile the Cherries, who hover three points above the bottom three in 14th spot, extended their unbeaten run to six English top-flight fixtures after a solid goalless draw against Crystal Palace.
This evening’s fixture will only be the SECOND-EVER competitive meeting between the two clubs. The last time Arsenal fought against Bournemouth was back in October 1987 when goals from Alan Smith, Kevin Richardson and Michael Thomas (Pen) sealed an easy passage for the Gunners into the fourth round of the League Cup at Highbury.
As a matter of fact, Eddie Howe’s visitors will become Arsenal’s 80th different opponent in league football. However the hosts will take great heart in the fact they remain unbeaten in their last 21 Premier League meetings with newly-promoted outfits (W17 D4).
Arsenal’s last Premier League defeat against a newly-promoted side was back in March 2012 in a 2-1 defeat at Queens Park Rangers.
The Gunners have also not lost their final league game in a calendar year since 2006; when they lost 1-0 away at Sheffield United thanks to Christian Nade’s only goal of the game shortly before half-time.
However Bournemouth should not be written off as they are currently six games unbeaten in the Premier League, with victories over the likes of defending champions Chelsea and Manchester United to boast of. Plus the Cherries have won on five of their last six league trips to London, including the historic win at Stamford Bridge earlier this month.
Manager Arsene Wenger could make changes following Saturday’s defeat to Southampton, with impact substitutes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calum Chambers and Alex Iwobi all pushing for starts at the Emirates Stadium.
However, the Gunners are certainly without Alexis Sanchez (hamstring), Jack Wilshere (leg), Mikel Arteta (calf), Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky (all knee).
Meanwhile, opposing boss Eddie Howe is set to make a late call on whether midfielder Harry Arter remains in his starting eleven after admitting he was to “manage his workload” after recently recovering from a hamstring injury picked up at the end of November.
Forward Lee Tomlin could return from a groin injury, but the trip to Arsenal has come too soon for the likes of Josh King (hamstring), Christian Atsu (calf) and Tommy Elphwick (ankle), who are set to return to full fitness next month.
The Cherries are also certainly without long-term absentees Max Gradel, Callum Wilson and Tyrone Mings due to respective knee injuries.
League Position: Arsenal – 2nd (36 pts); Bournemouth – 14th (20 pts)
Last Meeting: Arsenal 3-0 Bournemouth – October 27, 1987 (League Cup)
Key Players: Arsenal – Mesut Ozil; Bournemouth – Matt Ritchie
League Form: Arsenal – LDWWWL; Bournemouth – DDWWWD
Shoot Says: Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth