There must have been many Cherries fans who felt that the loss to Manchester United, thanks to the last minute winner from Marcus Rashford, was an unjust result – although by no means an unknown phenomenon for the side. After all, Bournemouth had dominated the game for much of the 90 minutes and could even have taken an early lead just four minutes from kick-off had Ryan Fraser’s shot hit the target.
If there’s one consolation to be had for Eddie Howe and his team, it’s that, despite the loss of a potential three points, Bournemouth still stay ahead of their opponents in the table, if only by goal difference.
What made it a more bitter pill to swallow was that it was the first home defeat at the Vitality Stadium since April when it was Manchester United, again, who inflicted the damage. But, unlike that more decisive defeat, in this case, it could almost be considered as a moral victory which could build on the momentum that the team is showing and which is even starting whispers of the prospect of a sixth-place finish. This would correct the blip, and improve on it, that saw the team finish 12th last season, a three-place drop from their 2016-17 position.
It’s hard to say what exactly has helped the team to come out looking so rejuvenated this season, right from their initial 2-0 beating of Cardiff to get the ball rolling. It could have been the paddle boarding in La Manga or just the new sense of purpose that Howe has started to instil into the team that may still have memories of the time that they were perilously close to total liquidation.
Even though there were only three signings over the summer, they’ve already started to make their presence felt by galvanising all those around them. Joining from Leganés, Rico brings La Liga experience, and it’s easy to see just why he caught the eye of Howe and Jason Tindall. The (almost) homegrown talent of the Welsh international David Brooks has helped to bolster the midfield considerably and against Manchester United also showed some pretty good defensive skills as he blocked at least one shot from the line.
Top scorer so far this season is Callum Wilson, and it looks like this is a trend that could well continue – and many also hope that Joshua King will soon be challenging him for that title.
In terms of just how well the team are really doing it’s probably enough to note that last season they only won one of their first eight matches but so far, the corresponding figures are six from eleven. They’re yet to meet four of the five teams ahead of them in the table but there’s every reason to suppose that at least some of these results could go their way. In the more immediate future, it’s new-look Arsenal who are next up as opponents – surely an appealing prospect for anyone with a taste for Premier League betting.
As to whether that elusive top-six finish could become a reality, we’ll just have to wait and see. But one thing that’s for certain is that Eddie Howe’s men will certainly be up for the challenge.
Howe’s got a serious schedule in the Premier League after the international break. After playing host to Arsenal at Dean Court, the Cherries travel to Manchester to play current league leaders Manchester City before their two home PL fixtures against Huddersfield Town and Liverpool. After these two games, their next one will be away against Wolverhampton Wanderers before their quarter-final clash against Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge.