Connect in the back of the net

With the fairy-tale of Leicester justly dominating the Premier League spotlight, Bournemouth flew under the radar last season.

Dean Court, their home stadium, holds a snug 12,000 fans; more befitting of a mid-to-lower championship side.

There had been plans for an expansion, but talk on that front has gone quiet as the Cherries prepare for their second season in the Premier League.

Perhaps sensibly, the board are waiting to see if the coastal club can stave off the dreaded ‘Second Season Syndrome’.

So, can they? Will they be able to cement themselves as a top-flight side, or will they be drafted into a relegation battle.

 

Squad goals?

With seemingly every club in the Premier League having more money than sense at the moment, Bournemouth have found themselves in an unusual position of relevant financial comfort.

Unlike most clubs however, they have been shrewd in their dealings.

When necessary they have splashed the cash, notably on Jordan Ibe; the £15 million price tag proved too high for Liverpool to resist.

Largely however, Howe has kept spending reasonable, choosing to purchase players adapted to the English game for not unreasonable fees.

Lewis Cook and Emerson Hyndman were snapped up from the Championship for bargain prices by today’s standards.

Nathan Ake (on loan for the season) and Marc Wilson have been brought in to shore up the centre of the defence, a necessity if Bournemouth are to continue with their adventurous style.
Perhaps the best signing of all would be also the most surprising- Jack Wilshere.

Desperate for game time, the talented English midfielder acts as a welcome addition to the squad. If he can manage to stay fit, Howe will be delighted but he has clearly not lay too much hope on that unlikely eventuality.

The only blotch on the transfer window would be the sale of Matt Ritchie to Newcastle.

Whilst garnering a reasonable fee, roughly £14 million, the Scottish winger proved so instrumental in their promotion campaign and must have held a special place in the fans’ hearts.

After a season where Wilson and Gradel, the Cherries’ other two most prolific attackers, spent most of their time in the treatment room, Howe may regret losing the assists and creativity Ritchie provides.

 

Howe about that?

Perhaps the most important piece of the Bournemouth jigsaw is their manager- Eddie Howe.

Certainly the most promising English manager, the most encouraging thing about his development has been his style.

Throughout the divisions, Howe staunchly stands by his creative and fluid football, and it continued into the Premier League.

Despite only winning two games until December, the Cherries managed to rack up 17 goals in those 14 matches.

A poor record, but it came to fruition as Bournemouth climbed the table, undoubtedly thanks to Howe’s commitment to his style.

A newly promoted side could be forgiven for adopting a defensive style of play, Howe’s flagrant disregard of this convention is truly admirable.

Over the summer, the manager was linked to clubs of some stature, like Everton, and even nearby Southampton.

After the inevitable, and silly, England rumours were quashed with the appointment of Sam Allardyce, the most worrying rumours for Bournemouth fans are those linking their boss to Arsenal.

Circling for a while, persistent whispers that the Englishman is being lined up to replace Arsene Wenger at the Gunners will only be ramped up as the months roll on, and Wenger continues to refuse to commit to a contract.

Chuck in the fact that ‘Mr. Arsenal’ Jack Wilshere has praised Howe so highly, and everything seems to be in place for Howe to swap the seaside for North London.

The only thing that would be a stumbling block is his lack of higher-tier experience.

Given the Arsenal board’s commitment to Wenger has been solely based on his proven track record of top four record, installing Howe at the Helm would be a very risky strategy.

 

Final thoughts

Adding experience and youth, combined with their returning attacking talent- things are definitely looking more positive for Bournemouth.

Although it may be too optimistic to predict a mid-table finish for their second season, they will certainly benefit from the fact that there are a number of sides sizeably worse than them.

Undoubtedly, the likes of Sunderland, Burnley and Hull are the weakest of the sides in the League, and with the usual unpredictability of the League, Bournemouth should be comfortably safe of relegation.

Furthermore, providing they can hold on to their manager, things are looking bright for their future.

Add some extra seating, and the Cherries could be set to establish themselves as a Premier League staple.

 

Written by Adam Pritchard

Follow Adam on Twitter @DukeArsenal

Check out his fantastic football blog, Starting At Ten

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