High-pressing, right-wing overloads, and quick balls in behind the Arsenal defence put Eddie Howe’s side firmly in the driving side, but a second-half retreat played into Olivier Giroud’s hands, costing Bournemouth all three points in dramatic fashion.
With the defensively-reluctant Alexis Sanchez again selected on the left wing by Arsene Wenger, Cherries manager Eddie Howe sniffed an opportunity to overload his visitors’ undermanned left-flank.
Captain Simon Francis advanced freely from right-back to deliver two dangerous final-third crosses in the opening 15 minutes, aided and abetted by the distraction caused by Josh King’s rightward drifts from the number ten position.
Eventually, the necessity of the Gunners defensive unit to shift left and compensate for Sanchez’s irresponsibility cost Wenger’s side parity. Standing aside an equally unmarked Francis, right-winger Junior Stanislas caught Arsenal cold by switching the play to left-back Charlie Daniels, who dodged the rash challenge of a recovering Hector Bellerin to finish well.
Another effective Howe gambit involved pressing his visitors high up the pitch, a tactic that has often troubled Wenger’s Arsenal in the past. Bournemouth enjoyed 53% of the possession before Granit Xhaka handed them a second goal with a characteristically rash foul; no mean feat against the ball-hogging Londoners.
Harrying the overrun Nacho Monreal in the Arsenal defensive third earned King an early potshot on Petr Cech’s goal, and although the hosts dropped much deeper after Callum Wilson’s penalty, the disappointing Alex Iwobi was also forced into an own-half turnover that led to a potentially dangerous stoppage-time free-kick.
Quantifying how difficult Wenger’s side found working the ball forward into attack, Arsenal failed to register a single shot on target in the first-half, rarely threatening Artur Boruc’s goal.
Bournemouth dropped even deeper in the early stages of the second-half, playing into the hands of penalty-box predator Olivier Giroud, who almost rekindled the wall-pass understanding he shared with Aaron Ramsey to such devastating effect in 2013/14 — were it not for Simon Cook’s last-ditch challenge.
Despite this retrenchment, it was the Cherries who struck first blood in the second stanza, thanks to the third plank of Howe’s strategy.
Quick balls in behind the Arsenal defence, to prevail on poor pressing from a tired Gunners cohort, forced both Cech and Shkodran Mustafi into last-ditch challenges on Callum Wilson in the first-half. Ryan Fraser went one better than his striker, holding off Bellerin to convert Daniels’ through-ball.
Seeing his side’s deficit increase to three prompted a rare change of shape from Wenger, when Lucas Perez joined Giroud from the the bench to facilitate a switch to 4-4-2. Howe moved to a 4-1-4-1 at the same time, sacrificing King to insert Andrew Surman into the holding role.
Although Fraser was promptly prevented from prevailing upon yet another simple ball in behind by a vital Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain challenge, Wenger’s change was the more effective one.
Bournemouth’s refusal to defend — or press — any higher than their own 12-yard line saw Giroud finally make the hay that Ramsey’s earlier chance hinted at, as the Frenchman scored two goals and created one from within the hosts’ penalty area.
First, the scorpion-kicking striker nipped ahead of Cook to flick on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s unpressed cross to Sanchez at the back post.
Then, Harry Arter’s failure to press deep-lying playmaker Xhaka allowed the Swiss to feed his striker in the box — with neither Cook nor Nathan Aké minded to get tight — allowing Perez to collect his partner’s deft flick and volley home.
Finally, after Francis’ dismissal reduced Bournemouth’s capacity to cover ground even further, Xhaka again found himself unpressed in stoppage-time — allowing the midfielder to hoik a lofted pass onto the head of Giroud, who salvaged a fortunate point for his side.