A stirring comeback from Arsenal saw the Gunners wipe out a 3-0 deficit in the last 20 minutes after playing some awful football for the better part of the match, to pick up a point from their trip away to Bournemouth.
Goals from Charlie Daniels and Ryan Fraser either side of a Callum Wilson penalty had given Bournemouth a 3-0 lead before the hour mark, but Arsenal fought back with goals of their own from Alexis Sanchez and Lucas Perez before Bournemouth were reduced to 10-men with Captain Simon Francis sent off for a foul on Aaron Ramsey.
Olivier Giroud completed the comeback for Arsenal, netting the equalizer in the 92nd minute to help the Gunners salvage a point when all looked lost at the Vitality Stadium.
Bournemouth made a bright start to the game, getting into some good positions as they looked to run the channels, starting with an attacking 4-4-2 formation. Josh King had the hosts’ first shot of the game, while Junior Stanislas also had a speculative strike from distance that was easily gobbled up by Petr Cech.
Cech had been kept busy in the early exchanges, racing out to deny Callum Wilson a strike on goal, narrowly beating the Bournemouth striker to the ball before cleaning him out. The home fans predictably went up for a penalty, but the referee rightly gave the decision Arsenal’s way.
Charlie Daniels, who had won Bournemouth a corner in the early exchanges, had looked lively at left back, and gave the hosts a deserved lead in the 16th minute as he took advantage of some poor defending from Hector Bellerin to leave the Spaniard in his wake and then comfortably beat Petr Cech at his near post.
Daniels had been fed by an excellent cross field pass by Junior Stanislas and made the most of the space left to him by Bellerin, who over ran the ball. A composed finish made it 1-0 to Bournemouth.
Arsenal’s woes were compounded moments later as Granit Xhaka’s ordinary start to life in England continued as the Swiss international pushed Bournemouth’s promising youngster Ryan Fraser in the back as he was running down the left hand channel to gift the hosts a penalty. Fraser did make the most of it as the contact was minimal, but Xhaka really shouldn’t have touched the player when he was heading out of the box and away from danger.
Wilson didn’t strike his effort particularly well, but Petr Cech, who has saved none of the penalties that Arsenal have conceded this season, dived to one side as the ball went straight up the middle.
To make matters worse for the Gunners, they lost Francis Coquelin to what looked like a hamstring injury midway through the first half, and with Mohamed Elneny having already left for the African Cup of Nations, it appears that they will be short in the middle of the park for the month to follow.
Coquelin’s injury did give Manager Arsene Wenger an excuse to throw on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain before the half hour mark, resulting in a reshuffle in Arsenal’s midfield with Aaron Ramsey dropping in alongside Xhaka as the Gunners looked to find a way back into the game.
Ramsey tried to engineer something from nothing for Arsenal, but his well worked effort was deflected wide for an Arsenal corner. The set piece though came to naught as Arsenal continued to look off colour.
Instead it was Bournemouth who almost grabbed a third with the recalled Shkrodan Mustafi producing an excellent tackle to deny Wilson, who took just a bit too long to settle himself before pulling the trigger. The follow-up by Harry Arter went well wide.
Arsenal should have reduced the deficit before half-time, but Alex Iwobi, who has been in good goal scoring form of late, showed a lack of composure as his first time attempt to meet Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross went wide. The Nigerian had time and space available to take a touch and finish, a learning that will probably come with time.
The last effort of the half went Bournemouth’s way as Stanislas continued to shoot on sight, not missing by much as the Cherries went into the break comfortably 2-0 ahead.
Arsenal started the second half by dominating possession, but created little of note with Olivier Giroud flashing a header wide from Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross, the Gunners only chance of note in the opening 10 minutes.
Arsenal were handed a reprieve when Bournemouth had a goal disallowed after Arter’s sweet strike struck the arm of Wilson on its way past Petr Cech.
The Gunners’ joy though was only shortlived as Ryan Fraser did his burgeoning reputation no harm by using all of his 5 foot 4 inch frame to outmuscle Hector Bellerin before passing the ball into the back of the net through the legs of Cech to make it 3-0 on a dream night for Bournemouth. It was absolutely awful defending from Arsenal, with Cech making a hash of keeping his legs closed, and Bellerin allowing himself to be bullied off the ball.
On another night though, Arsenal would have got a freekick for what appeared to be a slight push on Bellerin from Fraser, but you really have to be stronger than that to survive in the Premier League.
Arsenal got one back with their first shot on target, Alexis Sanchez heading home from point blank range at the far post after Olivier Giroud had knocked on a right wing cross from Oxlade-Chamberlain in his direction.
And there was genuine hope of an Arsenal fightback when substitute Lucas Perez showed why he should never have been dropped for this game, scoring a gorgeous second for Arsenal.
The Spanish striker latched on to another quick flick from Giroud and produced an absolutely stunning volley in the 75th minute to reduce the deficit further to 3-2.
It was Bournemouth though who came closest to netting the next goal as Arsenal fell asleep at the back again, allowing Dan Gosling a clear run through on goal, and the former Everton man should have done better as he fired his effort wide.
Arsenal’s hopes of a grandstand finish were boosted when Simon Francis was shown a straight red card in the 82nd minute for a tough tackle on Aaron Ramsey. On first viewing the decision did appear a bit harsh, and maybe a yellow would have sufficed.
Arsenal showed hunger in the closing stages but the ball wouldn’t drop for them as Giroud and Ramsey failed to find the target.
The third goal did eventually come for the Gunners as Olivier Giroud headed home the Gunners equalizer with an excellent improvised finish from Granit Xhaka’s speculative cross.
Bournemouth weren’t done yet either though and Petr Cech produced his first quality save of the night to keep Arsenal level, denying Harry Arter’s shot from a tight angle.
There was to be no winner on this night though for either side as Bournemouth held on in the end with 10-men to grab a point.
While Arsenal’s comeback will be talked about with much excitement in the local press, the fact that the Gunners have dropped two crucial points in the title race should not be forgotten.
Up next for Arsenal is an FA Cup game away to Preston North End before another game on the road takes them to Swansea City for Manager Paul Clement’s first game in charge.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Francis (sent off 82′), Cook, Ake, Daniels, Arter, Gosling, Stanislas, Fraser (A Smith 68′), King (Surman 63′), Wilson (B Smith 90+1′)
Subs: Surman, A Smith, B Smith, Federici, Mings, Ibe, Mousset
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Monreal, Mustafi, Koscielny (Gabriel 64′), Coquelin (Oxlade-Chamberlain 28′), Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi (Perez 63′), Sanchez, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Perez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Holding, Rene-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles
Final Score: Bournemouth 3-3 Arsenal (Daniels 16′, Wilson pen 20′, Fraser 58′, Sanchez 70′, Perez 75′, Giroud 90+2′)