Problems continue mounting up for Arsene Wenger. Embarrassed by Championship side Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup last weekend, Wenger’s Arsenal side lost more ground in the race for the top four on the day the manager admitted Alexis Sanchez’s future will be determined in the next 48 hours.
Having forced a 52nd- minute lead through Hector Bellerin, Wenger’s team were undone by two goals in five minutes from Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe.
Defeat means they are without in a win in five games in all competitions, four since the turn of the year, making it the club’s worst start to a calendar year since 1995, the year before Wenger took charge.
The Frenchman’s side have now won just three of their 12 away games in the Premier League this season and remain in sixth place and in serious danger of missing out on a Champions League place for a second successive season.
To add to Wenger’s concerns, Arsenal arrived at the Vitality Stadium without Alexis Sanchez who was left at home because of continuing uncertainty surrounding the player’s future.
Wenger insisted no decision has been taken on the Chile international who is a target for Manchester United and Manchester City, with United apparently favourites because of the terms they have offered the player and their willingness to meet Arsenal’s £35m (€39m) asking price for a player who can leave as a free agent next summer.
But Wenger made it clear he does not expect the saga to rumble on for much longer.
Explaining his decision to omit Sanchez from his squad, the manager maintained the player had not refused to play, insisting circumstances made it difficult to select him.
“Alexis would have played,” he said. “But it’s a difficult period for him. He’s always been committed until now but he could have moved yesterday, today or not.
“It will be decided in the next 48 hours. It was a bit difficult for him because he was on standby, a little bit. That’s why I decided not to do it. He did not refuse to play.”
Asked whether the matter would be resolved imminently, he added: “I don’t master the rhythm of that but it could happen today, tomorrow or not at all.
"That’s why I didn’t take a decision [to select him] … I didn’t want to travel with him and suddenly he goes somewhere.”
Wenger prepared the ground for Sanchez’s departure by confirming a replacement would be brought in if Chile international does leave. Bordeaux’s striker Malcom is a target although Wenger refused to confirm his interest in the Brazilian who is rated at £35m.
“Look, if Sanchez goes we need to replace him,” said the Frenchman. “I say when you look at today, we missed many players in our squad.
"And you say that they have a weight in the team. If players like Sanchez go, we have of course respond to it. Will he go or not, I don’t know, but at the moment, it’s transfer period and in this kind of periods, you try to use the players who are completely focused on being at the club.”
It didn’t help that Mesut Ozil was also missing, with the Germany international ruled out with a swollen knee, but it was clear Arsenal missed Sanchez’s direct approach in a game they dominated for long periods without creating enough chances to win.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Wenger. “It’s a very disappointing result for us. especially when you’re 1-0 up and we made mistakes in areas where you wonder where they come from.
“Overall we come out of the game and you think ‘how did we lose the game?’ and that’s basically it. By being very harsh, I would say as well we haven’t created enough with the possession we had.
"And we looked a bit lacklustre in the final third, and not sharp enough to create chances. That’s why as well, when you’re 1-0 up, you should create more to be dangerous and we paid for that. The combination of the two made us pay a heavy price.”
Ainsley Maitland-Niles struck the bar early on and Danny Welbeck was denied by a good save from Asmir Begovic before Bellerin produced the opening goal seven minutes into the second half.
The wing-back raced on to Alex Iwobi’s through ball and drilled the ball past Begovic.
In the corresponding game last season, Arsenal recovered in the final 20 minutes after trailing 3-0.
This time it was the home side who fought back, first through Wilson who nipped in ahead of Petr Cech to turn home Ryan Fraser’s 69th-minute cross.
Then five minutes later, Wilson teed up Ibe for a winning goal that should have been saved by Cech.
Victory moves Bournemouth up to 13th place, four points clear of the bottom three, but manager Eddie Howe warned: “That’s the danger isn’t it? One win and everything looks different and people around you can relax.
“It’s very important we keep in this moment, keep the momentum we’ve built if we can. And continue to produce the performances we have of late because I think the last five or six performances have been very good.”
Begovic 7; Francis 7, S Cook 7, Ake 7; A Smith 7, L Cook 8, Gosling 7, Daniels 6 (Mousset 63); Ibe 8 (Pugh 86), Wilson 9 (Afobe 90), Fraser 7.
Boruc, Surman, Arter, Simpson.
Cech 5; Chambers 6 (Ramsey 74), Mustafi 5, Holding 6; Bellerin 7, Xhaka 6, Wilshere 8, Maitland-Niles 5; Iwobi 6 (Walcott 76), Lacazette 5, Welbeck 5.
Ospina, Mertesacker, Kolasinac, Elneny, Nketiah.
K Friend 6.