The fall of A.F.C Bournemouth has come later into their Premier League life than I expected. With the Premier League Match Week 23 having just ended, in which Bournemouth lost 3-0 to fellow strugglers Watford.
The Cherries sit in 19th place with 20 points. Sitting just above a worrying Norwich City and only a point adrift of Aston Villa who occupy 18th. Eddie Howe for the first time in his reign at the club is facing some crunch talks with the heads of the club.
Eddie Howe just reached his 11th anniversary with the club he finished his playing days at. Having finished playing to some a young age, 31. He took the reins of the then League One side. Experimenting early on with a move to Burnley, to only come back to the South coast. The fairytale of top-flight football was achieved in the season of 2014-15 with Bournemouth.
The club has achieved decent seasons over the past four years in the Premier League. Including a 9th finish in their first season in the Premier League. Although, according to the script written out by Eddie Howe and chairman Jeff Mostyn, the club shouldn’t be in the position it is in.
So Howe did this all happen?
On the surface level, it is hard to analyse why the club is struggling this campaign. In-form frontman, Callum Wilson has been in decent form with 6 goals. Not quite the same blistering form of last season, but not terrible either. They have attractive flair players in the ranks through Harry Wilson, Ryan Fraser, David Brooks and Joshua King.
In the middle of the park, Jeffrey Lerma, Lewis Cook, Philip Billings and Dan Gosling all show their worth and value at this level. But, is it enough? If you look at those four midfielders, only one really scores, with Gosling not scoring frequently at all.
AFC Bournemouth lack that creative spark running through the spine of the club. That player that links Nathan Ake with Callum Wilson. Sure the sparkly wingers do supply some of the demand but they struggle at times too. If you look at the clubs around them, they all, except Norwich, have an electric midfielder.
Aston Villa have their captain and soon to be an international player, Jack Grealish. West Ham have Manuel Lanzini. Southampton have James Ward-Prowse and Watford have George Deulofeu. Bournemouth have who?
To be fair, David Brooks would be my pick to fit this starring role in the side. He settled in nicely last campaign after his move from Sheffield United. The Welshman scored 7 goals across 30 appearances. Brooks had ankle surgery in August 2018 and again in December, it is predicted he will be out for the whole season. A huge loss for the Cherries.
When it comes to the defence, having Simon Francis in the centre who surely is the slowest man in the competition is not going to work. Nathan Ake is class and will be snapped up by a Big 6 club at the end of the season if the unthinkable happens.
Steve Cook is a stalwart in the backline but has had his own niggles of late. When you combine that with slowing full-backs in Adam Smith and Charlie Daniels, who are past their bests. Spanish Diego Rico has stepped in admirably at left-back.
Inexperienced at this level Jack Stacey, Lloyd Kelly and Chris Mepham are long term projects. All turn out to be fine players. But not in the next 4 months. In some ways, the club still play with a very similar backline to that of the one they were promoted with four years ago. Unheard of in modern football. However, a true example of Howe’s faith in his group.
In between the sticks, Adam Ramsdale has taken the gloves off Asmir Begovic, who has now moved on AC Milan on loan. Leaving, promising young Irishman Mark Travers as the understudy. Travers did play in the pummelling loss to Watford, the young man showing plenty of nerves in his distribution. Another project who does represent another long term option.
Similar to the demise of Burnley, Bournemouth’s game plan and style have been unlocked by the opposition. The opposing sides are now able to match up against the strengths of the Cherries and suppress any surprise packets for goals. The pace that Bournemouth broke off with in counter-attack is not there as much this season. The ball is slower coming out of the back or it comes out with no direction. Ownership of the distribution problems needs to happen now.
For the remaining 15 games in the season the Cherries are facing an interesting period. They have been in the ‘relegation scrap’ before but this time it seems to be tougher. The club is languishing in 19th and playing ordinary football. The fans are getting frustrated at their great manager Eddie Howe for the first real-time. The rumbles are leaving the confidential walls of the board room. Howe will this all end? Maybe in relegation.