Bournemouth: Premier League Season Preview 2018/19
Can the Cherries improve on a 12th-placed finish and break the top half this season?
Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Nobody disappears quite like Bournemouth. The Cherries have mastered the art of mediocrity, finishing mid-table in each of their three seasons in the Premier League.
Mediocrity for some, but it’s a testament to Eddie Howe’s ability that a club of this stature find themselves woven into the fabric of the league. It takes a great deal of work to be this humdrum, especially for a side that was staggering around League One less than a decade ago.
2017/18 Season Review
Six losses in their first eight games had many Bournemouth fans fearing the worst. Safety was assured, however, with a fine run between matches 20 and 26, with four wins and two draws allowing Howe’s men to saunter daintily away from the relegation zone.
Asmir Begovic was the headline recruit last summer, and he was typically reliable in a team full of solid performers. Lewis Cook’s form in midfield prompted calls for his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, whilst Nathan Ake continued to give Chelsea reason to rue his departure from Stamford Bridge.
Early exits in the domestic cup competitions, however, meant there was precious little excitement at the Vitality Stadium. Callum Wilson’s paltry nine goals might have made him the club’s top scorer, but the tally was indicative of a campaign devoid of dazzle.
Fee: £25 million
Signed from Levante for a club-record £25 million fee, Jefferson Lerma will most likely come straight into the starting XI as a defensive midfielder. “Jefferson is an extremely talented player and a very good athlete who will bring a different type of play to our midfield,” Howe said.
Fee: £10 million
A rangy, technical midfielder, David Brooks will compete alongside Cook, Lerma and Harry Arter in central midfield. The fee might be excessive, but the Welshman’s penchant for dribbling and through balls should give the Bournemouth midfield more creativity and verve.
Fee: £10.7 million
Another low-profile signing, but one that reinforces Howe’s options on the left flank. Charlie Daniels has been tremendous and ever-present, but he lacks a serious competitor for a starting place. Tall and technical, Diego Rico will push the Englishman all the way for a berth in Bournemouth’s XI.
The Benik Afobe experiment has failed, as the former Arsenal striker departs for deep-pocketed promotes Wolves, who then sold him on to Stoke City.
Lewis Grabban returns to the Championship with Nottingham Forest, whilst Max Gradel leaves for France. Adam Federici, the long-serving Aussie stopper, also departs.
Howe’s playing style is as suave as he is. Pressing, possession and pace all reign supreme, with quick wingers expected to raid forward in support of midfield runners and a mobile central striker.
Lining up with an ostensible 4-4-2, the formation can fluctuate to a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 depending on the opponents. Howe also made considerable use of a 4-2-3-1 system, as well as three-man defences.
Lewis Cook is the undisputed star, a nascent talent with an eye for a pass and excellent movement, and he will be central if Bournemouth are to have a successful year.
Rico could come in at left back, which would see Nathan Ake take up a central defensive role again, whilst Lerma provides competition in central midfield.
The Key Question: Can they get into Europe?
The lustre of Bournemouth’s ascent to the Premier League is slowly beginning to fade. Last year’s 12th-place finish was something of a mis-step at a club that has become synonymous with progress and stability.
The Europa League is a realistic target. Burnley proved that last year, with an even thinner squad and less of a budget. Howe needs to grasp the nettle, and beat out the likes of Everton and Sean Dyche’s charges for a place in continental competition.
Qualification for the Europa League and a decent cup run.
Relegation. Bournemouth showed last year that they are capable of extended, hopeless slumps.
Bournemouth have a nice stadium, a nice manager and some very nice players. Their transfer business has been unfussy, and the necessary departures have been managed skilfully. It’s hard, however, to be too optimistic given last season’s disappointments.
If Cook continues to progress, and if the squad stays fit, then Cherries fans can be hopeful of another uneventful year in the Premier League, finishing tenth or thereabouts.
It might not be exciting, but it’s better than League One.
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