Arsenal mark Mikel Arteta’s first game in charge with point at Bournemouth
Mikel Arteta was forced to settle for a point from his first match as Arsenal head coach after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang salvaged a 1-1 draw at struggling Bournemouth.
The Spaniard received a swift reminder of the sizeable job facing him in north London when Dan Gosling’s first-half opener threatened to ruin his managerial debut.
But the Gunners dominated possession at the Vitality Stadium and prevented a sixth Premier League defeat of a dismal season as captain Aubameyang slotted home a deserved 63rd-minute equaliser.
Despite some encouraging signs on the south coast for the former Manchester City assistant coach, his side were unable to force a winner and far tougher tests than facing out-of-form opponents ravaged by injury lie ahead.
Arteta’s primary task is to spark an immediate upturn in results by arresting a wretched run of form which has now brought just a solitary win from 14 matches in all competitions.
Meanwhile, his long-term objectives include rejuvenating an under-performing squad and appeasing an increasingly frustrated fanbase.
After watching Saturday’s dour goalless draw at Everton from the stands, he was eager to be involved as much as possible in Dorset.
He made three changes from the team held at Goodison Park, including bringing back the peripheral figure of Mesut Ozil and striker Alexandre Lacazette.
Arteta did not sit down for the entirety of the contest as he animatedly encouraged his players and passed on instructions from the technical area.
The visitors enjoyed greater first-half possession but squandered a series of half chances and failed to hit the target before the break.
Recalled Frenchman Lacazette was twice snuffed out before he could unleash a shot, while Reiss Nelson and Aubameyang were each denied by last-ditch blocks at the end of the same move.
Unai Emery’s final league victory as Gunners boss had come against the Cherries on October 6.
Aside from a win at West Ham under interim manager Freddie Ljungberg, the 13-time English champions have endured a miserable 10 top-flight fixtures since, taking only eight points from the 30 on offer.
When the opening goal did arrive, Arsenal were guilty of contributing to their own downfall.
Left-back Bukayo Saka conceded possession deep inside Gunners territory, culminating in Jack Stacey being released on the right by Callum Wilson and producing a low cross for the onrushing Gosling to poke home his second goal in three games from inside the six-yard box.
The 35th-minute breakthrough was the Cherries’ first attempt on target in three home matches and came after England striker Wilson – without a goal in 10 matches ahead of kick-off – earlier whistled a powerful volley over.
Arsenal’s lengthy recent slump had left them languishing in the bottom half of the table at Christmas for the first time since 1983.
Arteta’s half-time team talk almost became more difficult when Joshua King was narrowly unable to squeeze the ball beyond Bernd Leno at the end of a powerful surge down the left wing.
The former Gunners captain had swivelled to puff his cheeks at his backroom staff following Gosling’s opener but resisted temptation to make changes at the break.
His patience was rewarded with 27 minutes remaining when the Gunners levelled with their first shot on target.
Nelson’s attempt from the edge of the box was tame but it deflected perfectly into the path of captain Aubameyang, who slotted his 14th goal of the campaign into the bottom left corner.
On the balance of play, it was a well-deserved equaliser and would have been followed by a swift second had Lacazette been able to finish when through on goal.
The Cherries, once again without a host of first-team players because of injury, plus the suspended Diego Rico, were forced back for much of the second period, relying on the pace of King and the fit-again Wilson to push them forward.
Wilson had the ball in the net with nine minutes remaining, although it was quickly ruled out for offside after Leno saved Harry Wilson’s initial shot.
Substitute Joe Willock could have won it for the away side in added time but his low shot was comfortably saved by Aaron Ramsdale, leaving Arteta with plenty to ponder.