Premier League 17/18 Week 37: Bournemouth vs Swansea City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Swans face the first of their three cup finals with a visit to an out-of-sorts Cherries side attempting to avoid a connect-four
15:00 BST, Saturday 5th May, Vitality Stadium (Bournemouth, England)
With the Cherries sitting on 38 points and close to mathematical safety, Bournemouth come into this game with relatively little at stake. Defeat at relegation-threatened Southampton last weekend was their 3rd consecutive loss and added fire to the belief they are a team now coasting towards their summer break. With only 2 clean sheets kept at home all season, the main worry for Howe is that the Cherries appear to need more focus in their efforts, not less.
Like Bournemouth, the Swans too are amid a six-match run without a win. The problem for Carlos Carvalhal, however, is that Swansea can ill-afford this sequence to continue. With only a one-point advantage over the rejuvenated Saints, Swansea are still flirting dangerously close to danger. Having never beaten Bournemouth in a Premier League match (L3, D2), now would be a good time to break both trends that threaten their chances of survival.
Last Time Out
Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth (Premier League)
The Cherries failed to win at Southampton for the 14th consecutive match as the Saints nervously defeated their South-coast neighbours. Bournemouth started the match as marginally the better side before they fell behind in the 24th minute after the Saints gained control.
Bournemouth failed to respond and were lucky not to be trailing by more before Josh King restored parity on the stroke of half-time. Nathan Aké was unlucky to see his snap-shot saved but the resulting corner was powered home from close range by King for his 4th goal in 8 games.
The second half continued in much the same vein as the first, Southampton playing with more urgency and creating more chances. The Cherries again fell behind soon after the break but this time couldn’t find the fortune to restore parity. The defeat means they remain 6 points clear of relegation but the nature of the loss will be of greater concern to Howe than the overall picture.
Swansea City 0-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
Swansea battled in vain to overturn an early lead by the blues but failed to trouble the scoreboard for the 16th time in the league. It was never likely to be an easy game for the Swans with Chelsea on the scent of a top-four finish, however, they went about their task admirably. A poor first half was encapsulated by the terrible start as Chelsea took the lead in only the 4th minute of the game but the visitors only managed 2 more shots on target during the match.
While Swansea’s defence was well organised their attack also showed promising signs although both Ayew brothers and Sam Clucas could not complement their direct running and non-stop efforts with the required finesse in finishing.
The main problem stemmed from midfield. Both Andy King and Ki Sung-Yeung lacked the pace and precision to control the match and this area allowed Chelsea some respite on the pitch. An improved second half was a welcome sight for the home fans but it didn’t quite improve enough, leaving the visitors heading South the happier team.
Adam Smith (knee) Harry Arter (Achilles) and Junior Stanislas (knee) are all unavailable for this match, however, Tyrone Mings has been declared fit from his long-term back injury. Having tried a 3-4-3 formation last weekend, Howe may continue with that experiment this weekend in search of answers to help him prepare for next season.
Swansea City Lineup
Leroy Fer (Achilles) Kyle Bartley (knee) and Wilfried Bony (ankle) all miss out for the Swans but Carvalhal will welcome back Federico Fernández for this game after a knock ruled him out of the Southampton match, while Renato Sanches, Tammy Abraham and Luciano Narsingh are all available too.
Key Battle: Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) vs Carlos Carvalhal (Swansea City)
The Bournemouth manager had to fight against an apathetic start to the season by his players and it seems the final games will present him with a similar challenge. Having conceded 2 or more goals in each of the last 5 games, and a total of 23 goals from the last 10, the Cherries are struggling with their defensive discipline. Howe has never backed away from his core philosophies in football but must find a way to inspire a more stubborn approach from his players if they’re to improve their recent results.
Carlos Carvalhal has also watched over his side hit a slump in form but he has been left to deal with the opposite problem. After a swashbuckling start in South Wales, the emergency handbrake has seemingly been pulled. The overly-defensive tendencies which blunted Sheffield Wednesday earlier this season have reappeared to leave Swansea without a goal in 5 of their last 7 games. While nerves will be running high among his players, he will need to transform that energy into positive, attacking football if the Swans are to keep themselves floating above the relegation zone.
Masking a major problem
Nathan Aké is the hot favourite to win this season’s internal player of the year award at Bournemouth’s end-of-season awards ceremony next week. The £20m signing has played consistently well in the Cherries defence since sealing his move to the South coast last summer. This feat is made even more impressive by the fact he’s featured in every league game this season, playing the full 90 minutes in all but 2 of these matches.
Despite Aké’s fine form, the Cherries defence has been the weakest aspect of their season. Whether using a back-three, four or five, Howe’s side have rarely looked stable for a whole match. With the major problem arguably lying with the full/wing-backs rather than the central area of defence, this is something that Howe needs to address with a matter of urgency during this summer.
Home is where the hope lies
Swansea’s away form has been of particular concern to them this season, their only two wins coming in August and December, respectively. While they have the joint-worst attack (27 goals scored) in the Premier League along with Huddersfield, they have seen glimmers of improvement since Carvalhal assumed control. His first game in charge also brought the 2nd away victory of their season, however, since then Swansea have slipped back into old habits and now have 3 consecutive defeats on their travels and a record showing 0 goals scored in 50% of away games.
With Swansea’s final two fixtures being in South Wales, this might help them avoid a championship fate next weekend. That those two games are against sides below them in the table adds to the complexity of the situation. But having not dropped any points at home against the other 3 sides placed 15th or lower, they will feel confident of picking up at least some points from those last matches.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-3 Swansea City
Bournemouth have looked both good and bad in recent weeks but unfortunately for Eddie Howe, the Cherries have been achieving this during each match rather than week-to-week. While Swansea have also become stunted, they have a healthy habit under Carvalhal to produce when it really matters and this could be one of those times when they beat adversity to secure their first away win of the year to leave their manager quoting some new gems in his press conference.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/David Klein)