After a solid start to the season, Bournemouth have suffered a downturn in fortunes as injuries have mounted up and results have soured.
A poor run of form since November has seen the Cherries slide towards the bottom three, with Saturday’s defeat to Brighton leaving Eddie Howe’s side hovering above the relegation zone.
Despite the concerning league position, there have still been positives for Bournemouth; impressive wins over Chelsea and Manchester United, and an attractive brand of passing football on display at the Vitality have provided light in the gloom.
As the dust settles on 2019, here’s 90min’s assessment of Bournemouth’s opening half of the season.
Bournemouth’s Premier League campaign got off to a promising start, with successive victories over Everton and Southampton at the start of September appearing to set their season alight.
However, since the Cherries’ win over Manchester United at the start of November, Eddie Howe’s side have managed just one victory in nine – an impressive 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge. If results go against them over the course of the weekend, Bournemouth could well find themselves finishing 2019 in the bottom three.
The Cherries have a habit of going through patches of bad form in the Premier League, but this run of results seems more prolonged than before. Since their promotion to the top flight in 2015, Bournemouth have never really found themselves in a relegation scrap. It will be interesting to see whether they are a side capable of doing the nitty gritty required to stay up.
Bournemouth suffered a shock third round Carabao Cup exit at the hands of League One Burton Albion, having scraped past Forest Green on penalties in the previous round. Eddie Howe opted to field a below strength side, and the Cherries limped out of the competition.
Such is the importance of Premier League survival, Howe will likely ring the changes for Bournemouth’s FA Cup third round tie at home to Luton. With the Hatters also struggling in the Championship, it is unlikely they will field a full strength side either, and Bournemouth will be expected to progress.
Bournemouth have always prided themselves on their style of football, and this season has been no different. The Cherries always try and play out from the back and are easy on the eye. When struggling towards the lower echelons in the Premier League, sides can so often revert to route one football, but you feel there is never a danger of Bournemouth doing this.
Their patient, passing style has always served them well, and they can be expected to try and pass their way out of the relegation battle they now find themselves in.
For all their passing football and patient build up play, Bournemouth have really struggled to put the ball in the back of the net from open play this season.
Set pieces have accounted for half of Bournemouth’s Premier League goals during the campaign, and this lack of cutting edge in the final third has seen them fire blanks against Brighton, Burnley, Watford and Norwich. If they are to maintain their Premier League status, those are the teams the Cherries have to be beating.
Only eight players have found the net for Bournemouth this season, while Ryan Fraser’s goals and assists have dried up following his prolific return last year.
Areas to Address in January
Injury to David Brooks has blunted Bournemouth’s attack, and is a pivotal factor in their lack of goals and creativity this season. The Welsh midfielder is expected to be out until at least the end of February after undergoing ankle surgery, so recruiting an attacking midfielder to add some creative spark is a necessity.
The fact that Bournemouth’s top scorer is midfielder Harry Wilson is a slight cause for concern. Bringing in a strike partner for Callum Wilson should be near the top of Eddie Howe’s priorities.
Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson has often provided the creative spark that Bournemouth are craving. The youngster has chipped in with some crucial goals for the Cherries this season, many of which have been superb strikes from distance.
Wilson hit Bournemouth’s crucial second during the Cherries’ first win of the season against Aston Villa, followed by a fantastic free kick against Manchester City the week after. Wilson has recorded six Premier League goals this season; an impressive return for a midfielder.
The Cherries have not had to show their tough side much during their four years in the Premier League, so whether Eddie Howe’s side are capable of fighting a relegation battle remains to be seen, particularly with the number of injuries they have to contend with. However, their win against Chelsea showed they are capable of digging in when they need a result, suggesting they do have the means to survive. It will be close, but Bournemouth should have the quality.
The Cherries will likely want to exit the FA Cup as soon as possible to pool all their resources into staying in the Premier League. Although they should navigate their third round tie with Luton, it is unlikely they will venture much further in the competition.
Premier League: 16th
FA Cup: 4th round
Although they have struggled with a selection of key injuries, Bournemouth would not have been expecting to find themselves in a relegation battle at the turn of the year. For a side renowned for their free flowing football, their lack of creativity has been hugely disappointing. However, ending their torrid run of form with a win at Stamford Bridge was impressive.