Thursday, 31 December 2015

The hard work starts now for AFCB

We are half way through the season and the collection of 20 points is certainly better than expected when we entered December. The points so far are only par for the course though if the Cherries want to stay up, and some improvements will be needed in the second half of the season as it is still a tight battle between about seven clubs to see who may find themselves in that bottom three with the likes of Sunderland and Aston Villa who are already looking slightly cut a drift. 
AFC Bournemouth players at the Emirates Stadium.
Things can change quickly and there is no time to waste in picking up points. It does not matter that AFCB next play Leicester City away who are at the other end of the table - every game must be seen as a potential three points. The Foxes themselves are under pressure to hit that magic 40 point mark and recent games have slowed their progress. Leicester's incentive of getting back to the top of the table may be very different from what AFCB's ambitions are, but the previous draw between the two sides in August indicates that the Cherries have every chance of going to the King Power stadium and competing well with the Foxes.

The home ties to West Ham and Norwich City will be games where wins are really going to be required to pull away from the bottom three so the pressure will be on, even if the FA Cup might bring a bit of welcome relief. This period is going to be full of distractions with the transfer window and players trying to get back from injury to help the squad, so I expect no end of stories as the table starts to see teams already guaranteeing their survival.

I know that AFCB's players will work harder than ever to try and retain their Premier League status. It is evident in the matches that we have already seen that they are fighting and will battle even more in the coming games. They have the quality to see them safe but they must help themselves by beating those teams in and around them just like they had to be beat the top six teams in the Championship in the second half of last season. 

Free Competition - correct score prediction
An AFC Bournemouth diary for 2016 is up for grabs.
My good friends Altamira Deco, Broomhill Garden Buildings and Natterjacks Vets have been sponsoring Cherry Chimes in AFC Bournemouth's first Premier League season and therefore I wanted to give away a few small prizes for those who try and predict the scores for AFC Bournemouth games each week. Let's see if we can get a few more correct ones!

This week we are giving away an official AFC Bournemouth 2016 diary. It is free to enter. You need a Twitter account and need to follow and send a tweet to @PeterBell19 with the correct score for LCFC v AFCB, before Friday 1 January at 8pm. 

If there are more than one correct score we will select the winner from the hat from those with the correct score. If there are no correct scores the prize will roll over to the next game.  

We will post all predictions as usual on the blog. 

If you want to play along as usual but do not want to win the prize just add #NP on your score prediction tweet for no prize.

All Departments has a double podcast reviewing the Crystal Palace and Arsenal games so listen in by visiting the All Departments' website.

The Cherry Chimes Newsletter will be out tomorrow.
Cherry Chimes' January Newsletter  brings you the best stories on the blog and the thoughts behind them from last month, plus there is a special Newsletter article entitled: Can't wait for the 2nd half of the season?

To sign up for the newsletter just complete the form below - like all good things it's free:

Email Format

A better cutting-edge is needed against the top teams

Bournemouth were very much in the game against Arsenal in the first half and even when they went one-nil down they managed to hold the score at just the one goal well into the second half. Possession was fairly even over all as Arsenal became stronger as the game went on. Yet the early dominance that the Cherries had in possession needed them to make Petr Cech more busy if they were to get anything out of the game and in that they came up short.

Petr Cech's clean sheet record may have been a landmark for him, but it was a stat that was made a little easier on the night to achieve with the few shots that the Cherries got on target. For once it did not look like AFCB were going to score and make a comeback. Josh King was preferred as the striker choice and he made plenty of runs with the best being early in the second half when really he should have been in on goal, but could not get the ball under control quickly enough once Surman had played him through. He was probably offside from the TV camera's view, but at least he was making the runs that get defenders turning and offer the chance of a shot.
Josh King may need more help up front.
Against the top sides, the Cherries are having enough possession to live with them but they also have to find gaps in defences and this is something that is still not quite as sharp as the best in the business. With Junior Stanislas coming on in the second half there was more speed and quicker deliveries from out wide but getting in behind Arsenal proved difficult and Charlie Daniels runs usually ended up with the ball being taken off him and he was then helpless and out of position which Arsenal exploited. At that stage of the game though in the second half Eddie Howe was gambling a little to try and get a foothold in the match. 

While Eddie is being quiet about options for the January window it is surely a time when AFCB have to consider bringing in another top striker to give Howe more options than he currently has.

All Departments has a double podcast reviewing the Crystal Palace and Arsenal games so listen in by visiting the All Departments' website.

Free Competition - correct score prediction
An AFC Bournemouth diary for 2016 is up for grabs.
Okay, my good friends Altamira DecoBroomhill Garden Buildings and Natterjacks Vets have been sponsoring Cherry Chimes in AFC Bournemouth's first Premier League season and therefore I wanted to give away a few small prizes for those who try and predict the scores for AFC Bournemouth games each week. Let's see if we can get a few more correct ones!

This week we are giving away an official AFC Bournemouth 2016 diary. It is free to enter. You need a Twitter account and need to follow and send a tweet to @PeterBell19 with the correct score for LCFC v AFCB, before Friday 1 January at 8pm. 

If there are more than one correct score we will select the winner from the hat from those with the correct score. If there are no correct scores the prize will roll over to the next game.  

We will post all predictions as usual on the blog. 

If you want to play along as usual but do not want to win the prize just add #NP on your score prediction tweet for no prize.

The Cherry Chimes Newsletter will be out tomorrow.
Cherry Chimes' January Newsletter  brings you the best stories on the blog and the thoughts behind them from last month, plus there is a special Newsletter article entitled: Can't wait for the 2nd half of the season?

To sign up for the newsletter just complete the form below - like all good things it's free:

Email Format

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Franno upset with unbeaten run coming to an end

There was a very honest and frank interview that Simon Francis gave to BBC RadioSolent after the defat at Arsenal. It was very clear that he was disappointed to see the unbeaten run go even though he recognised that Arsenal are title contenders and defeats to such teams are not as damaging as perhaps losing to sides in the bottom six.
Simon Francis shows AFCB's ambition by his disappointment at the Arsenal result.
Francis said that he felt "We had the players out there in the starting eleven to cause them problems today but it was just not enough."

The depth of the squad is shown up a little when playing teams like Arsenal who can bring on international players with pedigree and the starting eleven they have is overloaded with international caps.

Francis though could not be disappointed at how December had gone as a whole for the Cherries. "We go into the New Year still with a lot of confidence," he said. "We've lost to a team in Arsenal, who I think really should go on and win the title. So if so and they win the title and we stay in the Premier League then it's not to bad a thing to lose to the Champions."

Franno admitted though that, "we weren't just at 100 per cent though and that is what cost us."

Going into the Leicester game though and the second half of the season there are more points to be had and if the Cherries can get off to a winning start against a Leicester side that have amazed everyone in 2015 then the end of the unbeaten run at the Emirates would quickly be forgotten.

You can read my article on Dan Gosling online at Shoot now.

Is Fulham striker heading for the Cherries?

The news that The Daily Mail and Shoot brought about Ross McCormack, 29, being a target for Eddie Howe this transfer window certainly excites me. While Fulham are in a fight to ensure their Championship status, they have brought in Slavisa Jokanovic who got Watford promoted last season and Ross may not be part of the new manager's plans if he himself wants to add new firepower to the Cottagers.

Ross McCormack is Fulham's top scorers on 15 goals and added his latest goal to that total last night with a 4-1 win over Rotherham Utd. While Ross really hit the headlines for his goalscoring at Leeds Utd, he has continued to bag plenty of goals for Fulham and is a goalscorer who has a good range of finishing both inside and outside the box. He is also a Scottish international even though he has not been selected for some time. 

Fulham face a transfer embargo but their websites says that they can still trade within FFP limits.
Ross McCormack would add goals for the Cherries.
Looking at the Cherries front line, they would benefit from a player who is quick with his feet in and around the box and if Charlie Austin is too expensive then Ross would seem to fit the bill to me. While he has not had Premier League experience, he would not demand such a high wage and would be a player that would surely relish the chance to play in the Premier League. 

I think Ross would also be a player that might bring more out of Lee Tomlin as well. Lee has not really managed to get into the side and with Ross liking to have short passes played into him in and around the box it is possible that Eddie might look to play with Lee in the side more often if he wanted to move King back out to the wing. 

You can read my article on Dan Gosling online at Shoot now.

Arsenal's quality just too strong for AFCB

Some times you have to hold your hand up and say that was just too good from the opposition. In Mesut Ozil Arsenal have a player that unlocks defences in a flash and he'll do it against better defenders than we have at AFCB. Still, seeing Arsenal cut through the Cherries' defence was only prominent during the last third of the match.
Marc Pugh warms up before the Arsenal match but only played 45 minutes.
While it would have been great to see what pressure AFCB could have put Arsenal under, had the Gunners not got the second goal when they did, it is those slight differences in experience and the execution of moves at key moments that differentiate the top teams from the rest. Sitting back and watching Mesut Ozil's goal without my AFCB hat on, it is easy to see that it was a great goal and made to look very simple with Giroud's excellent heel on to pass the ball back into Ozil's run. Andrew Surman and Steve Cook became spectators in that one second and the whole back line was undone. There was not much anyone could do about it and Ozil was not going to miss every time he got through.

The big difference with sides like Arsenal is that they almost switch into another mode when they see a goal chance coming. They don't get flustered or excited. It's a time of maximum concentration and ball control and they simply don't let you get a tackle in. They work it quickly and accurately and to predict where the ball is going.

I do believe the quick turnover of games in 48 hours was telling on the Bournemouth players because of the way that they play with high intensity. But it was perhaps unfortunate that Arsenal were the team to play just hours after the Boxing Day game as AFCB knew they would have to deal not only with the running energy of Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Walcott, but also the trickery of Ozil and Giroud. But it doesn't get tougher than that and the Cherries were not given a battering, which is helpful in terms of confidence. I don't think AFCB would have been able to go to the Emirates a season ago and come away with just a 2-0 defeat and have taken the game to them in the fashion that they did in that first half.  The building blocks are getting stronger for Eddie Howe's team but we know there are divisions within the Premier League. 

Transfer Gossip
Fulham's Ross McCormack is said to be a target for the Cherries this transfer window, according to Shoot. His value is said to be £11m. Later today you should also see my latest Shoot article about Dan Gosling available to read.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

If only AFCB could defend corners better

It's not hard to see where Arsenal found an achilles heel in AFCB's defence. The organisation on set pieces was simply lacking and for that reason it might be good news to hear that Tommy Elphick is getting closer to making a comeback. Even the captain's absence though is not an excuse for players switching off when they have some of the best headers of the ball lining themselves up at corners. The Cherries will be on corner duty for sure this week.

I was talking to a couple of Arsenal fans before the match and they were saying how teams will have worked out what AFCB do well and how they have been conceding goals in the first half of the season. Analysis of the Cherries certainly highlights problems against teams that can get a run on our defenders in the box and it's not something that is new. We've known it for a long time.
Charlie Daniels found it hard going against
Arsenal but he'll have learnt from that game.
Players like Sylvain Distin have been added to the squad to try and share their knowledge and experience of such situations but there is a point when the players have to do it on the pitch in some of the biggest stadiums in the country. They seem soft goals when you look back at them and if the Cherries can start to shut those attempts on goal out they will become a much harder side to beat. It sounds simple but putting into practise is clearly much more difficult or no side would ever concede from free kicks and corners.

There may be a few concerns about no goals for in the last two matches, but it is perhaps more of a puzzle for Eddie Howe to have seen his side defend so well against Chelsea and Crystal Palace, and to then to see them unable to stand up to Arsenal's aerial power at set pieces. Every time a corner came in against AFCB after that first goal it was nervous at the back and perhaps it would help the team to think more positively when they have conceded a corner - to think this is a chance to win the ball and make a fast break. At least all the players would be looking to spring away and get the ball clear and if every player can be faster than his man to the ball then defence can quickly turn into attack.

Leicester will have watched the Arsenal game and will be trying to see if they can test the Cherries now from free kicks and corners and these top teams don't need any gifts to make it easier for them.

Cherries unable to stop Arsenal going top 2-0

Match Report

Arsenal 2 v 0 AFCB
28 December 2015
Attendance: 59,983

We arrive at the ground.
The Cherries visits to the capital had all been very profitable up until this game. Yet, taking on Arsenal at the Emirates was one hurdle too far. While the Cherries passed the 20 minute mark looking the better side, it was a simple corner that undid all the hard work with Gabriel given a free header to put the Gunners in control. From there on, Arsenal knew the Cherries' weakness and every Arsenal corner made the AFCB faithful hold their breath. It wasn't until the second half that the game was made safe though when Mesut Ozil played a slick one-two with Olivier Giroud and swept past the Cherries defence, before slotting the ball under Artur Boruc to make it 2-0.
View outside the club shop
Outside the Emirates.
It's almost time.

Arsenal fans Chris and James explain what this season has been like for the Gunners.

There are more pictures on Match Day Gallery.

The two changes AFCB made for this game saw Junior Stanislas moved to the bench along with Glenn Murray so that Marc Pugh could start on the left wing and Josh King would be the sole striker. Arsenal made four changes with Gabriel, Gibbs, Bellerin and Chambers coming into their side following their 4-0 defeat at Southampton.
Bournemouth players do their stretches.
The Arsenal players are also on the pitch.
We give a minutes applause for Don Howe a past Arsenal player and manager.
It was AFCB that started quickly winning the first corner after Josh King had made a run down the right wing, even if nothing came of it. There were good signs when Harry Arter made a driving run that allowed King to get a shot off that Cech caught easily high to his left. Arter was caught in a head incident on half way but soon recovered. Ozil played a good ball in for Walcott who could not get a touch and the ball fell through to Boruc.

The Cherries were enjoying their possession and it was not until 13 minutes had passed before Arsenal won a corner and Boruc caught that cleanly. The Cherries were getting more ambitious and Arter tried to latch onto a Ritchie cross with an attempted volley. Gosling and Ritchie were drawing fouls and with 20 minutes gone it had been a satisfactory start for AFCB. Pugh was overrunning the ball at times and Chambers was similarly hitting his crosses too strongly for Arsenal.

Oxlaide-Chamberlain was running hard at Charlie Daniels though and won a corner on 27 minutes, when Gabriel headed in unchallenged past Boruc's left hand to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal and very much against the run of play. Charlie Daniels had lost his man and Gabriel made the goal look very easy.

Aaron Ramsey picked up a yellow card as play continued with Arsenal making the odd foul to halt the Cherries' progress. Arsenal came close again though when Calum Chambers played Theo Walcott in and the striker failed to beat Artur Boruc at the near post. The corner saw Gabriel nod on from the front of the area and the ball came off the far post only for Per Mertesacker to see it come back at him, and he headed wide from one yard out! It was comical, but Mertesacker had no time to react.

Ozil then got Walcott in and Boruc made another good save. Another corner and Giroud headed over. The control that AFCB had on the game had totally disappeared. Every corner looked like it could be a goal for Arsenal. Bellerin might also have done better with an effort he hit over, but as half time came, Bournemouth fans were pleased that Eddie Howe might be able to get some organisation and order back into the Cherries game.
Half time games with the Arsenal mascot.
Second Half
Junior Stanislas replaced Marc Pugh who had not looked up to speed in the first half. Josh King made sure the Cherries were on the attack as he received a ball over the top from Surman but he could not quite get his shot away before Gabriel recovered to concede a corner. At the other end Boruc was called upon again as a low cross from Oxlaide-Chamberlain had him diving on the ball.

Adam Smith put in a similar cross into Arsenal's box but Cech caught it well. King won another corner on 51 minutes and Stanislas took it short with Ritchie, and when Chambers made a headed clearance from Stanislas' cross, Arter had a shot that Chambers blocked.

Arter was later fouled by Chambers who was yellow carded. The hour mark passed and Dan Gosling was subbed for Eunan O'Kane. Moments later, Daniels had given the ball away and Ozil was playing a one-two with Giroud's back heel, on the edge of Bournemouth's box, and finished underneath Boruc to make it 2-0 on 63 minutes. It hadn't been a great game for Daniels who was getting stranded fairly regularly high up the pitch now. 

Bellerin then made a strong run and released Walcott who shot low and right across the goal from the right wing. Giroud went close again when he shot from the edge of the box and Boruc spilled the shot. Luckily, Walcott following up was offside, even if he missed.

The flow of Arsenal attacks were stemmed for a moment when Arter and Stanislas linked up and Arter found Ritchie who shot from 25 yards out, but right at Petr Cech. Ozil was running the show now though and his pulled-back cross was met by Giroud on the penalty spot, who shot side to the right of goal!

Arsenal brought on Campbell for Giroud for the last 10 minutes. Glenn Murray replaced Josh King as well. Two minutes later Monreal also came on for Gibbs. Arsenal had another flowing move with Monreal, into Walcott and Oxlaide-Chamberlain turned and hit a right foot shot that was deflected off Steve Cook onto the post with Boruc beaten.

There was a final attempt by Bournemouth to get a goal in the added on time. Arter played a quick pass into Murray who turned in the box and hit a shot across goal that Cech got a touch to and saw it safely cleared by his defenders. The counter saw Ozil race up the left wing and cross to Walcott who did not control the ball that well and Boruc made himself big and made the save near his left post. The last sub of the game saw Alex Iwobi replace Oxlaide-Chamberlain.
A brave effort by the lads but no points.
Glenn Murray leads the applause after the game.
The Cherries still have much work to do on defending set plays when teams score as easily as Arsenal did in the first half with Charlie Daniels losing his man. It is also noticeable that when the Cherries are on top and enjoying a good spell of football they need to score and take full advantage by shooting when they can see a shot on. It was familiar problems that arose from this game but against a top team it is no surprise that AFCB's weaknesses were unmasked and while it shows that the team has further to improve there were long spells, especially in the first 25 minutes, when AFCB bossed the game, and they have to learn how to keep those sort of spells going for longer periods. As soon as Arsenal got a lead, the Cherries were on the ropes, yet they had been doing so well up until then.
It was a tough one for the boys.
On our way out of the stadium.
Cech, Bellerín, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs (Monreal 82), Chambers, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Iwobi 93), Özil, Walcott, Giroud (Campbell -80)

Arsenal Subs 
Debuchy, Koscielny, Ospina, Monreal, Campbell, Iwobi, Reine Adelaide

Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Ritchie,  Gosling (O'Kane 61), Arter, 
Pugh (Stanislas 45), King (Murray 80)

Federici, Distin, Stanislas, Tomlin, Rantie, Murray

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 8, Smith 6, Francis 6, Cook 7, Daniels 5, Surman 6, Ritchie 6,  Gosling 6, Arter 7, 
Pugh 5, King 6

Ref Watch: Roger East 8/10 - no contentious decisions. A good flowing game.

My interview with Gunners Town is finally up.

Monday, 28 December 2015

The Boxing Day hangover may still remain for Arsenal

The AFCB players have to find some energy from somewhere for the match against Arsenal. It may only be 48 hours between games but Arsenal played a few hours later than the Cherries, so they have less time to recuperate. This is where the extra cash that AFCB have spent on ice baths and treatment rooms really come into play and while I am not sure if the team will travel up by coach or fly, I expect they will be fresh and ready to go with high-intensity when they see the Gunner's logo on the side of the Emirates stadium.  
Artur Boruc will be keen to add a clean sheet against Arsenal to his record.
The Christmas period is always a busy period and Dan Hodges will have the players  well set up to recover their energy quickly. I am not sure if the Southampton battering of Arsenal did the Cherries much good, but the defeat will be fresh in the heads of the Arsenal players which could be a good thing if the Cherries can have a good start and put them under pressure from the off. The game is a late kick-off at 5.30pm and that will also not sit comfortably with Arsenal after the late game against Southampton, even if it is in their home stadium. The Boxing Day hangover may still remain for Arsenal.

We know that Arsenal have a big squad, but they have also got injury worries - most notably Sanchez and Cazorla. But they have great talent at their disposal and players like Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Walcott will be a big test for Daniels and Smith, while Giroud has been scoring a lot of goals. Arter and Gosling will also have to take on Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil - doesn't it make you excited? I hope Eddie does not over think the threat from Arsenal though. The Cherries have to give Arsene Wenger's team something to think about and Josh King and Junior Stanislas can do it against the best teams as we have seen this month already.

Every Bournemouth player is going to need to be on their game but they have to be as excited about this game as the fans. If they perform and get a result at Arsenal it will surely have been the best footballing month in the Cherries' history.   

Later today, I answer some questions on the Cherries on the Gunners Town website - look out for my interview at Gunners Town.

Arsenal will be as big a test as Man City away and more

I disagree with football commentator Jonathan Pearce's view that AFCB should abandon their free-flowing football at the Emirates. The Cherries have found form in recent weeks and should not back away from trying to take their game to the Emirates and to play with full conviction. They will have to be brave to do that, but it is the best chance they have of gaining a result against one of the top four sides. 
The Cherries need a big performance now.
When up against Man City it was not a great day for the pink-shirted third kit to make their first appearance. There were come mitigating circumstance though that day with Artur Boruc getting injured in the warm up and some errors from Adam Federici and Andrew Surman that made the day a bit easier for the Sky Blues. The Cherries have had to wait a long time to play another top four side away from home, but they'll be excited about going to a ground like the Emirates and it is a fantastic way for the team and the fans to round off the calendar year.

It will be a test to see how far the Cherries have come since that nervous match up at the Etihad. Since then we know that they have shown more grit and skill in their performances and a sharpness in front of goal that has brought them several wins, so can they now do it against a big side away from home? You could say they have done it against Chelsea, but to beat Arsenal at the Emirates would be a far greater achievement in my book with the way Arsenal have been playing - barring their Southampton defeat.

Arsenal have had three defeats all season. West Ham is the only team to come away from the Emirates with three points and that was back on 9 August. Spurs and Liverpool are the only other teams to have come away with a point, so there is no disguising how formidable the Gunners are at home. They can smell a chance of the title and they have plenty of stars who can win a game single-handedly.

For the Cherries though it must be about trying to make Arsenal do the parts of the game they don't want to do, like chasing back, making them play sideways and pressing their back four into mistakes. A high work rate and hunting in packs has seen Leicester be the most successful side up until now and AFCB have the players to give Arsenal some problems, but they have to do the basics at the back right and that will be the main factor they have to do well if they are to limit the Gunner's opportunities to score.

Enjoy the match today - see you there UTCIAD!

Arsenal Home Form

AFCB Away Form

Later today, I answer some questions on the Cherries on the Gunners Town website - check out my interview at Gunners Town.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Rival Lines: Junior Stanislas worries You Are My Arsenal

Rival Lines
Match Preview: Arsenal v AFCB
Blogger Interview: You are my Arsenal
Twitter: @YouAreMyArsenal

I wanted to give you readers some idea of how the Premier League is spreading its wings across the Atlantic, especially following AFCB's tie-up with Peak6. So when it came to contacting an Arsenal blogger I got in touch with Michael Price on the You Are My Arsenal site that operates out of the USA. If you did not think the game was big over there check out the You Are My Arsenal website's twitter account - 70.6k followers!

CC: How did You are my Arsenal get started over in the USA?

YAMA: We started in 2008 when the US supporters club made substantial changes to it's posting policy on what was then really the only place online for US Gooners to congregate. We originally started out as a place for a few of us to discuss matches and the team in general. I'm based in Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, East coast, USA.

CC: How do you see the games in the USA - do you go to a favourite local drinking hole or do you live stream at home - and do you miss not seeing Arsenal games live?

YAMA: Most of the games I watch either from the comfort of my own home or live in one of two Gooner-based pubs local to me. Yes, not seeing them live is difficult. Prior to 2000 I was over at least twice a year to see them.

CC: What is the amount of support for Arsenal over on the States and are they a team that many US fans have really taken to for any particular reason?

YAMA: I don't have any concrete numbers but we are one of the largest clubs supported in the US. When they were over in New York two summers ago - they had to cancel events because they completely underestimated the response and the venues were too small. The New York and Philadelphia supporters clubs are two of the largest in the US have been recognised by the club as their own stand-alone official clubs. If you didn't come to Arsenal a long time ago, I'd say recent converts like the way the team plays, likes its a challenger and probably one of the clubs that is on US TV all the time.

CC: I picked Arsenal pre-season to win the Premier League in 2015-16 - was it the right team to back?

YAMA: Hard to say after getting drubbed 4-0 to Southampton on boxing day. But I had them pegged on to win and I am going to stick by that. Even with the loss on Boxing Day, it's not the end of the world. Especially given the uncertainty in the league this season.

CC: Are the number of London derby matches the biggest worry to Arsenal fans when it come to making a viable title challenge every season?

YAMA: I don't think so. I actually think it lends to the strengthening of the side. Any derby is always a big match. London derbies are for the king of the capital. Obviously though, the North London Derby is the biggest and most meaningful.

CC: Who do you believe has been Arsenal's best player this season so far and what Premier League game has been most memorable?

YAMA: Mesut Özil bar none. And 3-0 win against United sticks out so far. We completely annihilated a team that we've not beaten with any regularity in the last few years.

CC: Olivier Giroud has been banging in the goals but are you convinced about Theo Wallcott being a number 9?

YAMA: I think the tandem gives us two different options up front. We've got Giroud with strength and hold up play (And that near post diagonal run) and we've got Theo who is looking to exploit the gaps between the back 4. I do think Theo is making a strong case for himself as a number 9.

CC: The Gooner's midfield has been tremendous with Ozil, Cazorla and Ramsey so can you see Wilshere being injured as a big loss this season?

YAMA: It's a big loss because it hurt our ability to rotate and rest someone like Cazorla who is now injured until March. Wilshere would've made it easier to rotate and likely gotten Cazorla rested throughout the first half of the season.

CC: Joel Campbell has been finding his feet in the team, but do you think he is better than Oxlade-Chamberlain?

YAMA: I think it's a toss up between the two. Joel Campbell seems better in keeping the ball than Oxlade-Chamberlain but the Ox offers more hunger going forward. Both need improvement in their decision making in the final third.

CC: Do you think Alexis Sanchez will want to move on if he does not win silverware this season?

YAMA: No. I think Sanchez wants to be the main man and at Arsenal he is that. In all of his moves he moved for playing time. I think he at a minimum sees out his contract then decides.

CC: Does Arsene Wenger need to buy players in January and who would you suggest he buys?

YAMA: I do think he has to buy. I'd like a DM and Winger for cover.

CC: What have you made of AFC Bournemouth's start to the season?

YAMA: I've been impressed with the run of late. They've not given in and really took chances when they had to and had some good wins against the likes of United and Chelsea.

CC: Are there any AFC Bournemouth players that you think Arsenal need to be particularly wary of?

YAMA: I like the looks of Junior Stanislas. He clearly has bought into what Howe is doing and I think he can cause problems for a team that is going to be smarting after the Boxing Day massacre.

CC: What is your score prediction for the match?

YAMA: Head says 0-0 draw
Heart says 1-0 bounce back win for the Arsenal

CC: Many thanks for You Are My Arsenal taking some time out over the busy Christmas period to answer Cherry Chimes' questions. Please do take a look at the You Are My Arsenal site which asks Is it Arsenal's year? There's also a match report on the Man City top of the table clash and I expect a preview of the AFC Bournemouth game will soon be up on the site.   

Eddie Howe needs more experiences like the tight Palace game

While it may not have been the result everyone wanted on Boxing Day, I don't think the draw against Crystal Palace did the Cherries too much harm. In fact days like that are something that Eddie Howe and his team will probably learn more from than when everything goes smoothly and the team wins by three- or four-nil.

I thought Alan Pardew was very fair in his post-match summary in that it had been a tough game for both sides. It was one of those relentless 0-0 draws that perhaps could have done with more goal mouth action, but was no less intense for all the tackles and energy put into the match from both sides. On the plus side, it was another clean sheet for the Cherries that have been hard to come by and this one was against a top six side that is used to getting shots on target in away games, but they failed to do that in this match. The unbeaten run goes on as well and AFC Bournemouth are as Eddie Howe says becoming harder to beat.
AFCB will be learning all the time from tight games like the one against Crystal Palace.
The accuracy in front goal was just lacking but on another day it could easily ave been a home win. I expect that Josh King will come back into the side against Arsenal as their back four is questionable when it comes to pace and if the Cherries can get ahead there could be another exciting chance to take a scalp of a big four team.

How soon Eddie Howe can take on board the lessons of the Palace game is hard to say. With Arsenal away coming up so fast there is little time to catch breath but it was evident that there was very little space in the game against Crystal Palace who made the pitch small. It was another hard encounter as well following the physicality of the WBA game. Being involved in tight games though is something we have not seen too much of and just getting the edge of teams in these close games is something that Eddie will be keen to improve on.

Against Arsenal the pitch will be wide and accommodating for both sides to get out on the wings and the Cherries will want to round off the year and a fantastic December with another shock win.

Half-term verdict
The Observer asked me to contribute to its Half-term report on the Cherries in the Premier League you can read the article at - Premier League fan's verdict.

The Cherries find no way through Palace 0-0

Match Report
26 December 2015
AFCB 0 v 0 Crystal Palace
Attendance 11,218
The two teams walk onto the pitch
The Boxing Day fixtures had turned up a really hard foe for the Cherries as Palace have one of the best away records in the division. It was a keenly contested match with both sides protecting strong undefeated records and during the first half it looked like only a mistake might create the opportunity for one side to gain an advantage. The midfield battle was very intense with Harry Arter and Wilfred Zaha raising the heat when Harry was carded for a mis-timed challenge on the Palace star. There were few clear cut chances but when Dan Gosling raced towards the Palace box in the second half and teed up Glenn Murray for his big moment, the former Eagles' man could only shoot weakly at Hennessey. While the tempo and excitement mounted towards the end with Pardew's subs - Cabaye, Jedinak and Chamakh - adding more energy, the Cherries were able to hold out with Eunan O'Kane, Tokelo Rantie making appearances and Yann Kermorgant just seeing out extra time.
Junior Stanislas recovers well enough in the week to start.
Junior Stanislas was the main surprise of the team news having recovered sufficiently from his hamstring twinge that he received in the previous match against WBA. Glenn Murray kept his place up front and Josh King was rested.

Crystal Palace get ready to kick off.
Crystal Palace brought in Jordan Mutch and Fraizer Campbell for Yannick Bolasie and Connor Wickham, while the influential play maker Yohan Cabaye managed to make the bench.

Francis and Chris have some great views about Crystal Palace taking on AFCB.

There are more pictures on Match Day Gallery.

The early part of the match was awash with Crystal Palace corners. Scott Dann came closes with a header over, but Palace were lacking some invention and when Jason Puncheon found a great position on the 'D' he just chipped the ball too strongly which made it easy for Boruc to collect. 

The Cherries were finding it heard to break out and passes from both sides were going astray. Steve Cook made an early slip, Gosling was not finding his range of passing, but Daniels was making strong tackles.

Jason Puncheon put in a ball up to Fraizer Campbell on the left who did well with his deflected effort that had Boruc scrambling, but the ball landed on top of the net. Boruc then had to make a save after a drifted corner that saw him dive, fully-stretched, to his right from a Damien Delaney shot. On watching a replay though it was Francis that cleared the ball off the line. 

Adam Smith started to add a liveliness and more adventure to the Cherries' attacks and was of course fouled by Souare. Dan Gosling was also getting in good positions but was soon robbed of the ball. Delaney was causing problems though and his cross to Campbell on the edge of the box saw the striker turn well but shot just high and wide of the goal's top left corner.

The breaks came off though on 14 minutes when Arter finally got AFCB on the front foot with a shot from the edge of the box that forced a good save out of Hennessey. Daniels then saw his shot go wide. Glenn Murray was not getting on the ball at all, but the passing was improving amongst the team.

Dann was first to get caught by Harry Arter and he showed his annoyance to the referee. Bournemouth's best chance of the half followed on 24 minutes when a cross from Stanislas was met by Ritchie, but with Murray also coming in on the ball and the header went just wide of Palace's left post with Hennessey beaten.

Francis made a mistake of heading the ball straight to Campbell but the striker was luckily offside. The Cherries were more in control of the game and were starting to win more free kicks with Murray the latest to get fouled by Delaney on half way. Stanislas went down in the box but nothing was given. Adam Smith was making progress up the right and put in a cross that went right across the box. It was a good period with Ritchie finding Gosling who had his shot deflected wide.

The game got more feisty and when Arter crashed through Wilfred Zaha and received a yellow, the away fans were chanting for a red. There may have been an overreaction by one of the Palace players but none of their players got booked.

While Palace saw Puncheon giving his frequent, one and two arms up, signals for a couple more corners , it was the Cherries that came closest to scoring as we approached 40 minutes. Daniels played a good ball across to Stanislas who lent back a bit too much and blasted his shot over. A bit of composure might have seen the Cherries take the lead there.

Daniels then gave the ball away though on the Cherries' left and Campbell and Zaha recovered the ball, crossing for Jordon Mutch who headed over from close range. So at half time it was 0-0.
Half time fun and games.
Glenn Murray and Dan Gosling start the second half.
Second Half
Crystal Palace replaced Mutch and brought on Cabaye for the second half, while Eddie Howe withdrew Arter and brought on Eunan O'Kane - probably a sensible move considering the tension in the game.  An early corner for the Cherries was a better start and the introduction of O'Kane saw a venomous shot from the midfielder that stung the hands of Hennessey. It looked like the breakthrough was coming. The game was already more open just five minutes into the second half and when Gosling slotted past a couple of challenges and into the box, before squaring the ball for Murray, everything was there for the centre forward to get the first goal. Perhaps he had too long to think about it, but Glenn stood still and his shot was weak and directed straight at Hennesey! The run of Joel Ward coming in behind Murray probably did enough to distract his attention enough and the chance was gone in a flash.

That was probably AFCB's best chance of the game. Gosling was making some surging runs now and Daniels was equally putting the tricks in and keeping AFCB moves going. Meanwhile, Murray was losing some confidence in overrunning the ball.

On 68 minutes Palace replaced Campbell with Chamakh. The corners that had been dangerous for AFCB in previous matches were not providing much of a goal threat in this game. Murray was subbed on 71 minutes with Rantie getting another chance. Palace took off Ledley and replaced him with Jedinak three minutes later. 

The main excitement of the last 12 minutes came when Scott Dann went down in the box and play went on. Pardew was telling his player to get up as he was playing everyone on side, but the Cherries lost possession and Dann received treatment. A run by O'Kane saw the ball pulled back for Rantie who got his shot away but it hit Scott Dann when it looked like it would have been heading for the net. Palace had a late rally but the Cherries defence was holding firm. It only remained for Yann Kermorgant to get a couple of minutes in extra time before the game ran out as the Cherries' first 0-0 draw of the season.
The first 0-0 draw for AFCB in the 2015-16 season.
Crystal Palace was arguably the most difficult game that the Cherries have had so far in December. Palace move into fifth place on the back of this result and while the Cherries stay in 14th there is a much more resilient look about the defence now, and to get an other clean sheet is something that Eddie Howe can be pleased about. Taking chances is always important and this game slipped by Murray and it may have been more difficult than he thought playing against his former club so soon after his move. A point towards safety though is a good point and this is the kind of game that the Cherries might have lost if it had come earlier in the season. The undefeated run is extended to six games and the team will need to draw on that positive when they go to Arsenal 48 hours after this game.
The end of the game.
The Cherries thank the supporters.
Matt Ritchie is already having a recovery drink.
Marc Pugh did not get on but may be used on Monday against Arsenal.


Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Ritchie, Gosling (Kermorgant 92), Arter, (O'Kane 45), Stanislas, Murray (Rantie 71)

Pugh, Rantie, MacDonald, Kermorgant, Federici, Distin, O'Kane

Crystal Palace
Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souaré, Ledley (Jedinak 74), McArthur, Zaha,
Mutch (Cabaye 45), Puncheon, Campbell (Chamakh 68)

Palace Subs
Hangeland, Cabaye, McCarthy, Jedinak, Chamakh, Kelly, Dymond

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 7, Smith 7, Francis 6, Cook 7, Daniels 8, Surman 7, Ritchie 7, Gosling 8, 
Arter 6 (O'Kane 6), Stanislas 6, Murray 6 (Rantie 6) 

Referee Watch: Michael Oliver - 7/10 While he could have shown more yellow cards I though the referee was fairly even with his decisions, and the game was difficult to let run on such a wet surface.