THE RESULT was 1-0 to the Arsenal, and the three points lifted the Gunners into third, but this was far from convincing for Unai Emery’s side.
David Luiz’s early winner – his first goal for the north Londoners – was the game’s decisive contribution but the way Arsenal faded in the second half is typical of this team at present.
Liverpool and Manchester City, even after today’s reverse at home to Wolves, are streets ahead, but the clutch of teams in the their rear view mirrors, which include Arsenal, recognise that it may not take undiluted brilliance to claim a top-four spot this term.
Viewed through that lens, Arsenal just about did enough here, although they continue to look ponderous, lack cutting edge beyond Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and are far from secure in defence.
Bournemouth had their moments, particularly after the interval, but this was another defeat on the road for Eddie Howe’s men that brought their three-match unbeaten run in the league to a halt.
A familiar story began with Luiz’s header on nine minutes.
The Brazilian has been much maligned for his defensive work during his short Arsenal career to date but he was widely lauded here for rising to meet Nicolas Pepe’s corner at the near post.
Luiz took a running leap and bounced a header beyond Aaron Ramsdale at the Bournemouth goalkeeper’s far post.
It was not a particularly powerful header – his compatriot Gabriel Martinelli’s opener here on Thursday evening at home to Standard Liege was superior in every sense – but it bamboozled Bournemouth.
To say it had been coming must be balanced with the fact that for all their early dominance the Gunners mustered just eight first half shots against their beleaguered opponents.
Bournemouth came out for the second half with renewed vigour and purpose and there was a brief period when an equaliser looked possible.
Arsenal’s opponents understood that Luiz and Sokratis are not the most parsimonious of centre-back pairings and greater precision might have delivered the equaliser Eddie Howe’s Cherries craved.
A slew of second half substitutions had minimal impact on the ebb and flow of the contest, and beyond late chances for Calum Chambers at one end and Callum Wilson at the other, there was minimal meaningful action even if Arsenal were never able to relax.
Should Howe’s team match this second half performance in the weeks ahead then results away from the Vitality Stadium may be easier to come by.
As for Arsenal, there is the lingering sense that Emery, a coach beset by his innate caution, does not know his best starting XI nor the system that suits the resources at his disposal.
Time will tell if this harms his side’s top-four prospects but his job likely depends on it and even that may not prove enough if performances do not improve.