It is not known whether Alexis Sanchez tuned in to watch what will surely soon be his former Arsenal team-mates but he would have seen nothing to challenge the conclusion that it is time now to leave for a club who can mount a Premier League title challenge.
A 2-1 defeat here against Bournemouth is already Arsenal’s fifth away loss of the season and only extends the gap that has recently opened to the rest of the so-called ‘big six’.
Arsenal were average here without their two biggest stars and, while the current focus of the January transfer window surrounds who might leave, the priority should surely be the addition of some sort of inspiration.
A familiar Arsenal inquest, however, should not overlook Bournemouth’s achievement in claiming the scalp of another of English football’s richest clubs and also themselves taking an important step towards safety for another season.
The most eye-catching team news had naturally related to the complete omission of Sanchez. Wenger had a plausible football rationale for leaving him on the bench against Chelsea in midweek given the defensive resilience that his team had shown but there was no pretence here. The uncertainty over his future was the sole explanation and, with Manchester United now edging ahead of Manchester City in the chase, a resolution is expected imminently.
With Mesut Ozil also currently out with a knee injury – but expected to stay this month – it prompted Wenger to name the exact same outfield team that had drawn 0-0 with Chelsea.
As expected, the match was open and full of counter-attacking opportunities but Arsenal initially created the best chances.
Alexandre Lacazette quickly got himself to the byline and his lofted cross reached Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who had drifted in from the left.
Maitland-Niles cut inside and his quick feet just created sufficient space for him to shoot against the cross-bar.
Alex Iwobi then also has a clear sight of goal but his near-post shot was smothered by goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
The best chance of the first-half fell to Danny Welbeck after he was released clear on goal by Lacazette but his attempted finish was saved by Begovic’s outstretched legs.
The foundation for Arsenal’s dominance had largely been provided by Jack Wilshere on his return to Dean Court following a year on loan, with his confidence and fitness still clearly improving by the match.
Arsenal, though, are currently without their two best defenders in Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal and the team’s fragility was evident in several wobbly moments.
First Jordon Ibe crossed for Ryan Fraser, whose goalbound shot was well blocked by Calum Chambers. Fraser again also blasted over before Bournemouth had two big handball penalty appeals turned down by referee Kevin Friend.
In the first, Iwobi certainly seemed to move his arm towards Ibe’s cross but Friend waved play on. Nathan Ake then played the ball into Rob Holding and, while this incident was less convincing, Arsenal could still feel relieved to avoid a penalty.
They also soon finally found a way through Bournemouth. Xhaka and Wilshere had been involved in the build-up before passing to Iwobi, who threaded a precise pass inside left wing-back Charlie Daniels and into Bellerin’s path.
Bellerin’s pace meant that he was clear on goal and, while his shot was partially blocked by Begovic, there was just enough momentum for it to dribble over the line.
Bournemouth’s response was positive and they soon had Arsenal on the back foot.
Fraser had not stopped running at Arsenal’s frail back line and he then backed that dribbling up with a perfectly directed cross between both Bellerin and Chambers. Cech came out in an attempt to clear the danger but his misjudgement allowed Calum Wilson to sprint in and finish.
There was then further defensive muddle as Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding allowed Wilson between them and Ibe to follow up and put Bournemouth into the lead.
Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott were quickly introduced as Arsenal sacrificed a centre-back but, without the creative qualities of Sanchez and Ozil, did not come close close to equalising.
Jeremy Wilson's match report
ahoy, so I will bid you farewell. Chin up, Gooners!
No idea what this means
but it seems to encapsulate something or other.
Full time: Bournemouth 2 Arsenal 1
Oh, Arsene. What a shocker.
After the whistle, Xhaka stands motionless. Much as he was for the second goal.
Report and reaction to follow.
The four minutes are up, here come Arsenal for one last hurrah. Bellerin alone down the right, outnumbered.... loses the ball. That is the final whistle.
Four minutes of injury time
And then the wailing and gnashing of teeth can begin in earnest.
Wilson, who was excellent in the second half, leaves the pitch with the man of the match award, the applause of the crowd, and a word in his ear from Fwend to get a bloody move on and stop wasting time.
Arsenal are pushing hard, here they come down the left, a cross into the goalie's arms.
Lacazette with a sleek pass on for Wlebz, who is denied by a last gasp tackle from, I believe, Cook. Very fast.
Ibe's coming off. He's done well. Pugh on.
Aaron Ramsey replaced Calum Chambers earlier by the way.
Arsenal not looking especially likely to get back into this. Ibe hits a daisycutter just wide.
Don't worry, Gooners: Walcott's on.
World Class Wilshere shoots wide and gets a jeer from the home fans. Is that any way to speak to a former Cherry?
Tremendous stuff. Arsenal are a shambles, and it's Jordon Ibe who is the beneficiary. The cross is drilled to Wilson, who controls and wrong foots the Arsenal defence. He lays it up for the on-rushing Ibe and he's cracked it home. Arsenal shocking there in central defence. One rushed forward to play offside, the rest didn't, and it's again deeply amateurish stuff from a team whose claims to being in the top rank of English football are looking increasingly wide of the mark.
It's just basic error after basic error. Whether you see it as a failure of recruitment or a failure of coaching, how can they be so poor at simple defensive tasks?
That's the goalscorer highlighted, and next to him Xhaka who makes no run to track back. Even were it not for the back four being out of position/sync, the goal would have been averted if Xhaka had been running back with his man.
Wilshere booked almost immediately after the restart for a foul.
Talking of fouls, here's Francis with one and I reckon if he hadn't already had a yellow, the ref might have booked him there.
GOAL! Bournemouth equalise! It's Wilson!
Out of the blue, the hosts have equalised. A fine run down the wing from Fraser. He crosses perfectly - and here is Wilson! Cech comes haring out, and Wilson slots if past him.
why are there four Arsenal players drawn like moths to the ball's flame?
Jamie Redknapp: "Both sides have got the same system now, three at the back, but Arsenal are better at it."
"Lacazette may not be scoring but he is always linking play well," says Alan Smith, which is both fair and generous, as the Frenchman plays a clever ball forward for Iwobi.
Fraser's had a shot. It's all deeply ordinary down at the Vitality Stadium.
Ouch. Cook stamps, possibly unintentionally, on Bellerin's ankle. Freekick.
Mousset coming on in favour of Daniels.
sensational pic for the boy Mousset. Very dating website.
Wilson putting pressure on Mustafi, but he deals with it well.
The breaking Ibe is fouled from behind by Xhaka, who picks up the inevitable booking without complaint.
Who needs Sanchez when you have Bellerin.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 14, 2018
Bellerin's down that same inside right channel again, Francis trying to halt his progress but fearing a second yellow. Does enough. Does well. Forces Bellerin into a wayward pass.
GOAL! Arsenal! Bellerin
A super ball played through for Hector B by Iwobi, Bournemouth's defence are all over the show. Some are stepping up, others having a nice rest, and Bellerin shoots at the near post. Begovic gets a hand on it but the ball spins and dribbles over the line.
Arsene need not have rushed back. Quiet is not the word. But here are AFCB with a corner. Nothing doing.
Ake knees the ball through the area it brushes the arm of Xhaka. No pen.
AFCB the first to show, a bustling run down the left wing.
Ake steals the ball and plays in Fraser on the left, but his cross is just too high for Wilson.#BOUARS �� 0-0 �� (49)— AFC Bournemouth �� (@afcbournemouth) January 14, 2018
A pleasant hazy shade of winter down on the South Coast, the shadows long. Arsenal in their blue, a shadow of their former selves. Wenger shuffles, late, back to his seat.
Half time: Bournemouth 0 Arsenal 0
Arsenal were on top, Wilshere the best player on the pitch, but they let AFCB back into it and it is the hosts who finished the half looking most likely. Arsenal's Welbeck and Lacazette playing like strikers in the midst of serious goal-droughts. Both sides have some pace and are handy down the channels but this game is crying out for some quality up front.
Iwobi lucky not to concede a penalty when he elbowed the football.
The big teddy bear thing that is Bournemouth's mascot just dabbed. Basically the best thing that's happened so far.— Nick Miller (@NickMiller79) January 14, 2018
Cherries fans bringing the ironic cheers here. "I think that was a penalty, he sticks his elbow out," says Jamie R.
They've had a pen denied, and got two soft yellows.
Fraser shoots again. Blocked.
Ibe causing some problems. Arsenal clinging on here.
Cherries in the ascendancy and, looking at it again, they could well have had a pen there. Iwobi the man who seemed to move his elbow to the ball.
Bournemouth enjoying a couple of moments: Jordon Ibe sends a freekick in and there are some shouts for handball. Not given. Fraser and Smith both have shots.
Same combo again as Xhaka delivers the near post corner and Mustafi gets a headed effort... wide. Arsenal are knocking on the door here.
Lacazette with rather a heavy pass but Wilshere muscles past Francis and stabs a shot in. Begovic does well to make himself Schmeichel and deny. Arsenal have a corner. Mustafi goes close with the header.
Wilshere with a super cool through-his-own-legs pass that sends Maitland-Niles away but Bournemouth contain him.
You can hear a pin drop there.
Tantalising glimpse of a post-Alexis-Ozil future today. Taking me back to the Hleb-Rosicky-Adebayor glory years. #BOUARS— Matthew Horton (@matthewjh) January 14, 2018
Welbeck runs across Francis , who is booked for hauling him down. That's a yellow. AFCB will feel hard done by with both of those bookings. He barely touched the Arsenal player.
Welbz has not scored in 11 PL appearances, making Lacazette look positively red-hot by comparison.
Here are Arsenal down the right now. Cross... to nobody. That was a good ball from Iwobi and it deserved better than to dribble forlornly across the area. Arsenal still, all these years later, looking for a centre forward worthy of the name.
Well it's all a bit 6/10 here. Neither side clinical. Not been a massive amount to shout about over the last few minutes.
Brown dispatches Cherries fan
If there's one thing more tragic than getting a name on the back of your replica shirt, it's surely getting the name of a player at your club on loan pic.twitter.com/Ox8hw3Pnf7— Luke Brown (@lukedbrown) January 14, 2018
Dan Gosling goes into the book for diving after eating turf while attempting to go past Mustafi. Alan Smith thought the player was hard done-by.
Jamie Redknapp has popped up on the microphone to tell Alan Smith that he (Alan) was "a top player."
Ake has put a hard challenge in on goal-shy striker Lacazette, who now has one more sore leg than he has goals in his last seven Premier League games. Arsenal are looking a bit fiddly.
Jack Wilshere being Arsenal's best player again is like the last five years never happened. Welcome back to 2012-13!— Jack Pitt-Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) January 14, 2018
Fraser gets forward, crosses at the keeper.
Quiet few minutes after a rapier start from the Wenger boys.
Classic Arsenal over-commital here: they've left huge gaps at the back as Ibe breaks, and it's lucky for the visitors that Ibe gets his pass all wrong.
Arsenal at it again, brisk counter. Good touch Iwobi, Welbz with the ball in. Ake has to head behind for another corner.
Here's how the game is shaping up.
Another impressive move from Arsenal begets show from Iwobi that is deflected wide, and palmed away for a corner by Beggo. Delivered by Xhaka and hacked clear by a Bournemouth side who could be on the end of a beating here.
Wilshere again, nice ball through to Lacazette who shoes good strength and heart to keep the move alive and pick out Ashley M-N, who shows composure to keep the ball and get his shot away under pressure. He hits the crossbar!
If you fancy Arsenal to win here, you could put it together in a treble bet here. Coral: Arsenal, Manchester City, Barcelona and Dortmund all to win at 70/1
The Gunners look to hit back with a neat move, Bellerin onto the ball, and Cook has to look lively to deny him. Wilshere the man who supplied the ball.
Decent cross from Daniels, picking out his fellow full-back Adam Smith. The father of economics controls and hits a shot not far wide of the post.
Bournemouth playing the ball around nicely, albeit 60 yards or more from goal. Here they mount an attack though, Fraser with a darting run but he has muffed his pass.
Kick off. AFCB have a throw in near their own box. Arsenal pinning the hosts back in these early exchanges.
Arsene will be watching this one from the stands.
Here's how Bournemouth might line up
Gig for Alex Scott on Sky
Pitchside with Top Top.
Saw her on BT earlier in the season. Something of a wildcard, which is all to the good. Improving fast.
WATCH: @AlexScott and Jamie Redknapp react to @Alexis_Sanchez not being in the @Arsenal squad for their trip to @afcbournemouth.— Sky Sports GOS (@GoalsOnSunday) January 14, 2018
Get your questions in using #GoSpic.twitter.com/pSlWPLJKOh
I am interviewing Scott Hanson on Tuesday, looking forward to asking him about how you keep up with everything on the Red Zone. Stelling. What a man.
Here is Jeremy Wilson on Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez is edging towards moving to Manchester United, with sources at Arsenal increasingly convinced that his decision will now hinge on finances.
The Chelsea forward was left out completely of the squad to face Bournemouth today in the clearest signal yet that Arsenal have now decided simply to sell this month to the highest bidder.
It is the first time Sanchez has missed a game for a reason directly related to his contractual situation and, while an offer has not yet been accepted, there is an air of resignation at Arsenal about the situation. Theo Walcott is also increasingly likely to depart shortly – with Everton still favourites to sign him – but he is in Arsenal’s squad today.
It is the Sanchez situation, though, that is causing most intrigue. It is believed that Sanchez now favours a move to United and the prospect of a financial package that Manchester City are unwilling to match.
City have had a £60 million bid turned down for Sanchez and, with the player out of contract this summer, had only expected to pay around £20 million this month. Arsenal still want £30 million and United are believed to be most likely to match those demands, as well as a potential agent fee in excess of £10 million. Arsenal’s willingness to sell imminently is also linked to their desire to sign Bordeaux forward Malcom and they hope to quickly push through that deal.
Having played Sanchez against Liverpool at the end of August when he was also close to leaving, Wenger decided that it was better not to have the 29-year-old with his squad today. “He’s been vague at the moment,” said Wenger. “The situation is not completed decided one way or another so I left him at home.”
As well as Malcolm, Arsenal are also interested in Thomas Lemar from Monaco – but a deal is unlikely this month – and United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Arsenal’s only change at Bournemouth from the League Cup semi-final against Chelsea is the inclusion of Petr Cech in goal ahead of David Ospina, although Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey are back among the substitutes, as is Eddie Nketiah.
Being 'reported' on the internet
or claimed on the internet, anyway, that Sanchez has personal agreed terms with Man United. We will check this out.
The teams in text
AFC Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, Steve Cook, Ake, Adam Smith, Lewis Cook, Gosling, Daniels, Ibe, Fraser, Callum Wilson. Subs: Boruc, Surman, Pugh, Arter, Afobe, Mousset, Simpson.
Arsenal: Cech, Chambers, Mustafi, Holding, Bellerin, Xhaka, Wilshere, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette. Subs: Mertesacker, Ramsey, Ospina, Walcott, Kolasinac, Elneny, Nketiah.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
of course returns to his former loan club this pm.
�� “It was a good year. I really enjoyed it. I've got some good friends in Bournemouth, the manager was great for me. I think it was good for me as a player and a person to experience that.”@JackWilshere returns to Bournemouth this afternoon#AFCBvAFCpic.twitter.com/eC6a8IElhB— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 14, 2018
You're all winners
Lots of losers in the impending Sanchez move. Arsenal - who could have made £50m in August, and whoever buys him for £20-30m six months before’s a free agent.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) January 14, 2018
Excellent use of the word "vague"
Arsene on Alexis: "He’s been vague at the moment. The situation is not completely decided one way or the other so I left him at home".
Arsenal could do with a new wave of their own right about now.
And here the Cherries
�� Headline team news ahead of our @premierleague game against @Arsenal.— AFC Bournemouth �� (@afcbournemouth) January 14, 2018
�� L Cook and Gosling start
�� Fraser returns
�� King out injured
Live ➡️ https://t.co/w6PcHVopQD#BOUARS | #afcb �� pic.twitter.com/vYfurA3Q31
Here are the Arsenal
have never lost a football match against Bournemouth. Four wins and a draw in the Premier League. The sides met in the League Cup in 1987-1988, the Gunners won 3-0, and went onto the final... but not to glory.
I remember that final well, Luton beating Arsenal 3-2 and my dad, a Luton supporter, literally rolling on the living room floor with delight. That was a great, great match. Brian Stein with the winner at the death.
Thank god, none of those little washbag purses they have.
I like this video. The way the players troop through and then some bloke comes along wheeling what looks like a small dishwasher.
Team news as we have it
Shouldnae be long at all.
Stand by your beds for Malcom
The imminent-looking departure of Alexis Sanchez means Arsenal have a large hole to fill and have been linked with Bordeaux's tricky Brazilian number seven, a 20-year-old called Malcom.
Contrary to comedy rumours that he will play 'in the middle', Malcom is a wonderfully gifted, incredibly quick wide player who likes to cut inside from the right wing.
Malcom has been on the radar of Europe's top clubs for a number of years, having come through the Corinthians youth academy and moving to France in 2016. Since making that transfer, he has scored 15 goals in 67 (including substitute) Ligue 1 appearances as well as providing eight assists.
So where would he fit in at Arsenal?
Brilliant tactical analysis of Malcom's strengths and what he could bring by JJ Bull. Loved reading this. Literally all you need to know about the player.
Tyers here. Happy Sunday. Hope you are having a restful and enjoyable day. It seems unlikely that Arsene Wenger will. The now permanently beleaguered Arsenal gaffer takes his merry band to the South Coast, but he has felt it necessary to leave Alexis Sanchez, the club's best player in recent seasons, out of the squad. All the signs are that the wantaway Chilean will get his heart's desire: a transfer to Manchester. United, not City, mind you...
On the subject of transfers, Corals David Luiz 9-2 to join Arsenal this transfer window, having been 8-1 last week.
Super profile of Alexis Sanchez here by Sam Wallace:
They say that when the mood takes him at Arsenal’s training ground, Alexis Sanchez can occasionally walk off the pitch before a game or exercise has finished, a simple but effective way of reminding everyone who holds the power at the club. As he disappears down the track back to the main building, the game resumes, life goes on, but everyone has been given a taste of what it will be like when the best player in the club finally walks out for good.
That time is near now, and it says something about the Sanchez effect on both players and fans that it is now considered the best option for Arsenal that he does not see out his contract this June and goes this month. Sanchez has always put Sanchez first in four years at the club and for some of that time, it was good for both: an A-list footballer with the skill and bloody-mindedness to win a game on his own. At his best he played with a hustle that the opposition just could not live with. At his worst it was Arsenal who could not live with him.
There have been few sights that better suggest the true nature of Arsene Wenger’s second Arsenal decade than Sanchez single-handedly charging at an opposition back four and demanding that his team-mates join him in his own independent gegenpressing movement. Not so much for Sanchez’s despair when he is passed around, but for the hesitation of his fellow Arsenal players in following him, as they ask themselves if this was ever part of the plan.