Premier League Preview: AFC Bournemouth
Posted by Kieran Cross | Published on August 2, 2016
It is probably fair to say that Bournemouth caught a lot of teams by surprise in their debut season in the Barclays Premier League. With shock victories against Manchester United and Chelsea combined with good results against some of the other big boys of the league, Bournemouth survived fairly comfortably. This is quite the achievement considering that many pundits wrote them off at the start of the season, and frankly, who could blame them for doing so? Much of the starting eleven came directly from the lower leagues, and the whole squad cost less than individual players from the “bigger” teams in the league. However, Eddie Howe got the most out of his team and showed that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With this being said, how will the Cherries fare this season?
With the transfer window in full swing, it is hardly surprising that Bournemouth have already brought in a number of players. With the additions of Nathan Ake (on loan), highly rated English midfielder Lewis Cook, rapid French forward Lyss Mousset, American midfielder Emerson Hyndman and young Aussie full back Brad Smith, it appears that Howe is looking towards the future. This is a positive thing to see from the perspective of a Bournemouth fan, as it shows that the club is not looking to just survive in the Premier League, but build and become a top team in the league. I still believe that we need a midfielder capable of chipping in with a decent goals return, but overall I feel that the transfer window has gone very well so far. On top of this, we haven’t lost any of our top players. Admittedly, Matt Ritchie is a bit of a loss, but the player couldn’t buy his way into the starting eleven towards the end of the season, and I would’ve taken Newcastle’s reported £12 million offer without a second thought. On top of this, Lee Tomlin has left to Bristol City, a departure that no Bournemouth fans will disagree with. However, the loss of club captain Tommy Elphick will be a loss in terms of leadership, although it looked like Tommy wasn’t quite cut out for the Premier League.
Three players that neutral fans should keep a keen eye on are full back Simon Francis, winger Maxi Gradel and striker Callum Wilson. Francis was recently made club captain following the departure of Tommy Elphick following great shows of leadership during Elphick’s absence due to injury. Moving out of his natural right back position into a central position and taking temporary control of the captain’s armband, Francis showed that he is a great defender, although his natural attacking instinct had to be curbed slightly. Bournemouth should be getting a new center back in this transfer window, allowing “Franno” to return to his favoured position on the right. Watch out for his powerful, driving overlapping runs down the right which make him a potent attacking weapon. Maxi Gradel is something of a fan favourite following his decision to turn down big money moves in order to return to the club which gave him his first proper chance in professional football. I highly recommend watching his interview with Sky Sports in which he tells the story of why he returned to the Cherries. With his incredible pace and trickery, Gradel poses a threat to any defence in the league. If he didn’t suffer a long term injury near the beginning of last season, I’m confident that Bournemouth would have finished several positions higher. Expect a lot of assists from Gradel this season. Finally, Callum Wilson, who is easily Bournemouth’s most potent goal threat. Pace, strength and clinical finishing makes Wilson a deadly striker. This is shown by his incredible goal scoring record at Championship level. He also bagged 5 goals in 13 appearances in an injury hit first season in the Premier league, which is a ratio that many strikers would be proud of. If he avoids injury this season, expect 15+ goals from Callum, which should be enough to fire Bournemouth to a successful season.
So, what can we expect from Bournemouth this season? For a start, I’d expect the same entertaining brand of football that manager Howe swears by. Many neutrals began to like Bournemouth last season, mainly because they survived a relegation battle without resorting to the medieval football that many teams use in order to survive. In terms of how I expect Bournemouth to finish, I predict a finish around 15th place. I don’t believe Bournemouth will be truly struggling in terms of a relegation dogfight, and I also don’t expect them to “do a Leicester”. A finish above 15th will be a nice bonus, but 15th place sounds about right. I don’t think many Bournemouth fans would complain about a 15th place finish either, ensuring another exciting season of Premier League football.
Written by Kieran Cross (@KCross1798)