AFC Bournemouth continue to go from strength to strength, backing up their maiden campaign in the top flight with a ninth place finish last season. While it seems improbable that Bournemouth could go much higher, don’t write off the dark horses of English football.
Manager: Eddie Howe
First Team: Boruc; Daniels, Cook, Francis (c), Smith; Stanislas, Gosling, Arter, Pugh; Afobe, King
Strengths: Affectionately nicknamed the “Cherries”, Bournemouth suffered from a bad case of mid-table obscurity for a large portion of the 2016-17 season before finally settling into their stride in the final third, losing only two of their final twelve matches (against Chelsea and Tottenham). In that same period, they picked up points in draws against Liverpool and Manchester United. They also famously picked up 4-3 win over Liverpool in December 2016, proving they’re not pushovers. There’s nothing spectacular about Bournemouth, yet they continue to surprise us.
Weaknesses: While Bournemouth play attacking football, it comes at a cost. Last season they conceded 67 goals – the most bar Watford and Swansea out of the 17 teams remaining in the Premier League. While they also scored the most outside the top seven, Bournemouth would do well to learn an important lesson from last season – shut up shop against the bigger teams. While they claimed some memorable points against the big teams, they also suffered big losses against Tottenham and Manchester City, proving that the best defence is not always a good offence.
Opportunities: Bournemouth have bought well. In line with their defensive woes of last season, they have picked up Nathan Ake, a former loanee (for the not inconsiderable sum of £20 million – madness!) and his Chelsea compatriot Asmir Begovic, both of whom would be expecting to slot immediately into the starting 11. The addition of the evergreen Jermain Defoe might also prove to be a shrewd acquisition, being a standout performer in an otherwise truly awful Sunderland squad.
Threats: Bournemouth have bought well, yet their squad still seems a little lacklustre. Don’t expect them to get into a relegation fight this season, but we’d be surprised to see them get any higher. Their next objective should be targeting the Europa League places, but given the gap between the top six (or seven this season) and the rest, it seems unlikely Bournemouth will pick up the extra 15 points to make up the difference without some world class quality (especially given Everton’s outlay this summer).
So while Bournemouth are a smart, well-run club, with a great manager and a solid recruitment policy, don’t expect any miracles. If last year was any indication, Eddie Howe’s side will continue to excite and challenge the big boys in England’s top tier, but don’t expect a charge for the European places. For now at least, let’s forget about the possibility that Bournemouth might have plateaued in their league position, and instead focus on reliving one of the highlights of last season – the 4-3 win over Liverpool.
Do you think Bournemouth will end up challenging for the European places? Or end up in a relegation dogfight? Let us know your thoughts below!