Wilshere shows fight but Arsenal slip to terrible defeat at Bournemouth
Arsenal slipped to another damaging away loss in the Premier League after meekly surrendering the lead in Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth -- an indication that life without Alexis Sanchez could be rough for the Gunners.
Sanchez was left out of the squad completely as Arsene Wenger admitted that the Chilean's exit could be imminent, and Arsenal's attack badly struggled with Mesut Ozil also ruled out with a knee injury.
While Hector Bellerin gave his team the lead in the 52nd minute, Arsenal soon collapsed defensively as Callum Wilson levelled 20 minutes from time and Jordon Ibe netted the winner just four minutes later.
It was Arsenal's first ever loss to Bournemouth and leaves them stranded in sixth place in the Premier League, five points behind fifth-place Tottenham.
Wilshere's inclusion in the starting lineup was good news after he limped off with minor ankle sprain in midweek, and the midfielder was his team's lone bright spot on the pitch as well. Wilshere was excellent on his return to the club where he spent last season on loan, but clearly needs better players around him in order to make full use of his talents.
Where to start? Arsenal are still woeful on the road, falling increasingly behind their top four rivals and are losing their best player. And this attack is the most toothless Wenger has fielded in quite some time. Alexandre Lacazette is without a goal in nine games. Danny Welbeck hasn't scored in the league since September, while Alex Iwobi's last goal came on Oct. 1. The Gunners badly need reinforcements in this transfer window, or their season could quickly spiral out of control.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- Leaving Sanchez at home is understandable when the player's mind is already on his next destination. After that, this team picked itself due to injuries.
But this squad is much too weak for a club of Arsenal's stature and the team's defensive issues still rest on Wenger's shoulders -- as does the failure to close out games the Gunners should win.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 4 -- Misjudged his run off the line for Wilson's equaliser and got stranded. Let down by his defenders for the second goal but seemed to go down too early instead of waiting to see where Ibe was placing his shot. A disappointing display from such an experienced goalkeeper.
DF Rob Holding, 4 -- Out of position for Bournemouth's first goal and badly judged the offside trap on the second. Still showing too much inconsistency -- this was his second poor display in a week after having a nightmare in the FA Cup loss at Nottingham Forest.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 5 -- A good first half from the German but was part of a collective failure for the equaliser, where four Arsenal players chased the ball down the flank but still couldn't prevent the cross to Wilson.
DF Calum Chambers, 6 -- Vital block on Ryan Fraser's shot late in the first half and had played well until he let Wilson slip in front of him for the equaliser. Taken off for Aaron Ramsey as Wenger moved to a back four.
MF Hector Bellerin, 5 -- Scored with a bit of luck after an excellent run down the flank, but this was otherwise a poor game from the wing-back, who wasted a handful of other decent attacking opportunities with bad deliveries.
MF Granit Xhaka, 4 -- Completely neglected his defensive duties for Bournemouth's winner and didn't do anything to influence the game at the other end. It's becoming increasingly clear that he's not the player Arsenal need at the heart of their midfield.
MF Jack Wilshere, 7 -- Arsenal's best player and showed off both his improved ball-winning skills as well as his familiar qualities when in possession. Couldn't quite find a way to impact the result, though.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 6 -- Nearly scored in the first half when he rattled the crossbar with a good shot, then gifted Ibe a good chance when he sloppily gave the ball away as the last man.
FW Alex Iwobi, 5 -- Set up Bellerin's goal with a perfectly weighted pass and showed plenty of initiative and ambition throughout the match. Still lacked an end product in most other situations, though, and was lucky not to give away a penalty for handball late in the first half.
FW Danny Welbeck, 4 -- Worked hard as always, but had precious little to show for it. Unable to create chances for others, and unable to finish off the chances others create for him. He's not the player Arsenal need in attack.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 5 -- Much too isolated up front once again, with Welbeck and Iwobi struggling to pick him out in the box. Tried to turn provider instead in the second half, but his scoring drought is becoming increasingly worrying.
MF Aaron Ramsey, N/R -- Made his return from an injury in the 74th minute but couldn't prevent Arsenal from conceding a second goal.
FW Theo Walcott, N/R -- Another fruitless substitute cameo for Walcott, in what may have been his last appearance for the Gunners.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.