Arsenal are the comeback kings! Reiss Nelson’s 97th-minute strike was the Gunners’ THIRD injury-time winner in the last six weeks… Mikel Arteta’s side win because they are relentless
- Reiss Nelson scored with last kick of the game to hand Arsenal all three points
- Gary O’Neil said he knew what was coming even when Bournemouth lead 2-0
- Arsenal have won three matches with winning goals in 90th minute or later
Even at 2-0, Gary O’Neil said he knew what was coming next: ‘Arsenal were going to come back.’ It took the 31st of 31 shots, in the seventh of six minutes added on, but the league leaders did it again.
The tracer bullet from Reiss Nelson’s left foot sparked a frenzy that is becoming more and more common to Arsenal fans.
Mikel Arteta’s team have won three matches this season with winning goals in the 90th minute or later, the most of any team and all coming in the last six weeks against Manchester United, Aston Villa and now Bournemouth.
It is no coincidence, and is a testament to their undying belief in the way they have gone about establishing a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Arsenal do not really have a plan B. They can, of course, change personnel or speed up play or switch from underlapping to overlapping but the idea stays the same.
Reiss Nelson scored with last kick of the game to hand Arsenal all three points at the Emirates
Cherries boss Gary O’Neil said he knew what was coming when Bournemouth lead 2-0
Arsenal have won three matches this season with winning goals in the 90th minute or later
In attack that means five players on the opposition’s defensive line, the full backs supporting a defensive midfielder and the centre backs as the last line.
Three players — usually Oleksandr Zinchenko, Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli — will rotate the ball and their positions on the left, and three team-mates — Ben White, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka — will do the same on the right.
Arsenal win because they are relentless, grinding opponents down by exerting 90 minutes-plus of intense pressure, zipping the ball around and looking for any weakness or numerical advantage to exploit.
Playing against them is not just a technical test but hugely draining both physically and mentally as teams try to hold out.
Sometimes, Arsenal’s strategy leads to an early breakthrough. But other times, especially recently, the goal does not come until late, or they concede and make their task twice as hard.
It is those moments, such as around the hour mark against Bournemouth when they had just gone 2-0 down thanks to Marcos Senesi’s header, that they could wobble, or conclude that the strategy is just not working. But this team has been drilled to keep passing, keep probing and pushing.
A pair of unlikely goalscorers, Thomas Partey and White, dragged Arsenal level but even then it seemed as though they had left themselves too much to do after they had gone behind when Philip Billing scored on 9.1 seconds.
‘We had to climb a mountain against 10 players behind the ball,’ said Arteta. ‘Suddenly we were 2-0 down, and after that it’s about don’t lose the shape, don’t lose the discipline, do the simple things right, score the first goal. We showed a lot of maturity and resilience to do that.’
Arsenal are set to be boosted in their title hopes with the return of Gabriel Jesus
The job of killing teams off earlier will get a boost in the next couple of weeks with the return of Gabriel Jesus. His knee injury at the World Cup was meant to be the death knell for Arsenal’s title charge. But three months and 12 league games later they are still five points clear of Manchester City, just as they were when Jesus went down.
Even that is a tribute to the system Arteta has built. A £45million, four-time title-winner can be replaced by an inexperienced, hungry academy product in Eddie Nketiah, or a part-time false nine who has just joined the club in Leandro Trossard, because the setup has been designed to get the best out of players, not the other way around.
It was revealed last week that Arsenal have the lowest wage bill of the Big Six clubs, and yet here they are, flying far higher than the sum of their parts.