Deep in time added to stoppage time, Reiss Nelson gave us one of the great moments of the Emirates era, chesting it down and thwacking it home to seal a dazzling comeback win from two down.
Nelson’s goal sparked mass delirium, with the bench emptying onto the pitch, our captain collapsing to the turf, an inhuman howl issuing from the stands, and all of Arsenaldom sharing in a moment of rapturous joy. I have heard a crowd make such a ferocious noise, so loud it gave the commentators’ mics distortion.
It crowned the hardest of hard-fought wins, against an awkward team that was always elusive on the counter, and found innovative ways to defend with their arms while avoiding punishment.
Arsenal trailed for 70 minutes of the 98. This advantage played into Bournemouth’s hands, suiting their defensive gameplan and piling danger onto every turnover. Do not overlook the resilience and concentration to bring this back to 2-2 alone.
To start, Bournemouth turned the kick-off into an attacking set-piece by overloading the right side of the pitch, drawing our players to cover. The left was empty and they advanced to the corner of our box without facing a single challenge.
The cross snuck under Gabriel’s foot, though he can’t really be blamed for it, putting it on a tee for Billing who had an open goal. It was more clever from them than sloppy from us, but we didn’t come out looking good.
Our best chance of the first half came a couple of minutes later when Odegaard forced Neto to dive to the bottom right, and Saka followed up, striking the goalkeeper on the chest unawares.
The remainder was intermittent pressure on the Bournemouth box, alleviated by time-wasting and two or three troubling counter-attacks.
The most incisive of these drew a point-blank save from Ramsdale, although the replay showed that Solanke was probably offside when he broke, so it could have been ruled out.
After Saka’s chance, our best hope of a first-half goal was via a couple of penalty shouts. The first looked like a clear handball by a disoriented Mepham after a botched header.
Decisions like that make you doubt yourself, because I don’t know how it wasn’t given by VAR. I know even less now after the events of the second half.
The second big shout, just before half-time, looked innocuous in the moment, but the replay showed that Tomiyasu was first to the ball and was kicked by the defender. It might have been soft, but they have been called in the past, for teams that aren’t Arsenal.
Trossard went off with what looked like a muscle injury, leaving us with three forwards injured, and Emile Smith-Rowe coming on. ESR hadn’t looked fully fit before this game, and it was a bit troubling to see him on the pitch so early, knowing that we needed a contribution from him.
The second half was a harrowing blur of churning Arsenal possession, blocked shots, snuffled-out Bournemouth counters, wasted Arsenal corners, yet more potential handballs, and interminable time-wasting.
Every time we worked space for a shot it was straight at Neto, and as our corner count racked up did anyone else wonder that it would be typical if Bournemouth scored from their first one? That’s just what they did, when Senesi lost Partey and doubled Bournemouth’s advantage after an hour.
Partey had atoned within five minutes, seizing on the Cherries’ first moment of hesitation all game to get on the end of Emile Smith-Rowe’s looped header. Neto was booked in the aftermath, having successfully eaten into a big chunk of the game up to that point.
Bournemouth had looked less assured even before they extended their lead, and for the final half-hour we were able to put the squeeze on them without respite.
Smith-Rowe, evidently trying to find his feet, made way for Nelson, who has looked sharp when fit. The winger found space down the left, digging out a deep cross from the byline, met by White for his first ever Arsenal goal.
That was not an easy chance, but he adjusted his stride like a seasoned poacher, and the ball had already flown two feet across the line before Neto could paw it out.
I don’t have the energy to discuss all of the second half penalty claims. Maybe that’s how they get you, by grinding you down with confusion.
The biggest came on the back of the equaliser, when Saka’s cross was elbowed onto the post by Stephens, who leaned into the path of the ball. Looking back, it’s no wonder all of our other shouts were dismissed, if the claim had to be even more clear-cut than this one. I remain mystified.
With time ticking down, Martinelli went on a driving run from the halfway line, bursting into the box before blazing over. Saka, clearly flagging, then miscued.
More time was lost to delayed restarts and fake injuries, including a long one in the first minute of stoppage time, which is what gave us that one final chance, angled into the corner so adroitly by Mr Nelson.
With injuries and fatigue accumulating, who’s to tell what other contributions he might make before the season’s up?
As the ecstasy softens into a happy buzz—had anyone else forgotten about the power of back-to-back wins? I know I had. Because in two weeks we’ve put together 12 points. It took us three months to amass fewer in the winter of 2020-21.
A final thought for rival fans, squinting at spyware-riddled streams to witness Reiss Nelson blasting the ball into the net and the deranged catharsis that came with it.