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AFC Bournemouth: Season Preview 2017/18

The Cherries are about to play their third season of Premier League football. Can they have another successful campaign?


2016/17 Season Recap

They say the second season is always the hardest. Bournemouth were expected to struggle last season, having far fewer resources than some of the other sides in the Premier League and playing an albeit attractive and attacking football system, that can leave them open at the back.

However, Eddie Howe and his side had a superb Premier League campaign to finish in the top half of the table in ninth, only behind South Coast rivals Southampton on goal difference. They scored 55 goals, 14 more than Southampton, but conceded 67, with only four teams in the league conceding more.

They disappointingly lost in the third round of the EFL Cup, 3-2 at home to Preston North End. They also bowed out in the third round of the FA Cup, in an extremely poor 3-0 loss away to League One Millwall.

Bournemouth, whose aim at the start of last season would be to avoid relegation, had a very good campaign, and did so playing attractive football.

Transfer Activity

Incoming

Nathan Ake, CB (Chelsea, £19m)

Asmir Begovic, GK (Chelsea, £9.7m)

Connor Mahoney, RW (Blackburn Rovers, Free transfer)

Jermain Defoe, ST (Sunderland, Free transfer)

Outgoing

Ryan Allsop, GK (Blackpool, Loan)

Lewis Grabban, ST (Sunderland, Loan)

Most Important Player: Harry Arter

The Republic of Ireland international typifies everything good about Bournemouth. An honest, hard working player who isn’t a big name and is very good and tidy on the ball.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was caught at the end of their game away to Bournemouth last season in deep conversation with Arter, saying how highly he rated him and how the Spaniard loves how Arter presses the ball.

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With Bournemouth playing a traditional 4-4-2 most of the time, Arter in central midfield has a lot of work to do, making sure he can support the attack, as well as protest the defence. The 27-year-old does so exceptionally well.

He is a tireless worker who doesn’t give the opposition any time on the ball. When the midfielder, who has been with Bournemouth since 2010, gets the ball, he is extremely composed and is often the fulcrum of the Cherries’ attack.

Arter is one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the Premier League, and although he may not get the recognition he deserves, is crucial to Eddie Howe’s side.

One to Watch: Jermain Defoe

Who else? Bournemouth’s new star striker returns to the South Coast, having had a very successful loan spell at the club back in the 2000/01 season, where he scored 18 league goals in 29 games as a youngster.

Despite being 34-years-old, the England international proved he could still score on the big stage, netting 14 league goals last season for a horrific Sunderland side who finished in last place.

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Defoe still has that killer sharpness and speed of thought that sees him score so many goals. The former Tottenham Hotspur striker should now score plenty goals in a side that will be creating many more chances for him than his Sunderland team mates.

A successful season could even see him picked for Gareth Southgate’s 2018 England World Cup squad.

Biggest Weakness: Leaky defence

The attacking and attractive brand of football Bournemouth play has so far proved successful and seen them gain many admirers. Unfortunately, that comes at a price in the form of a leaky defence. 

Eddie Howe’s side conceded 67 league goals last season, 16 more than anyone else in the top half of the table. This is downside to the system Howe plays. He insists on his defenders playing out from the back, which has led to many errors, losing the ball in dangerous areas before conceding.

Due to playing with an attacking style in a 4-4-2 formation, they can often leave large gaps in between the lines which teams can expose, due to that flatness of the formation. Bournemouth don’t have bad defenders, they are simply exposed by the system.

If Eddie Howe wishes to either push on, or even cement Bournemouth in the Premier League, they must find a way to become a more solid unit, otherwise it could turn into a very sour, and possible relegation season.

Best XI

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New signing Begovic should be a more solid option in goal than Artur Boruc, and a lot of Bournemouth’s attacking quality comes from their full backs Adam Smith and Charlie Daniels.

Ake is a good young defender who was very good on loan at the Cherries last season and will improve their back line.

Fraser and Ibe are two young, tricky wingers who should only get better and better and Arter and Cook in the middle are two technical footballers who are excellent on the ball and work tirelessly. 

Joshua King up front scored a very impressive 16 league goals last season and could form a lethal partnership with Premier League legend Defoe.

First Five Games

West Brom (A)

The Cherries start the season away to Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion, who finished one place below the South Coast side last season. Both sides will have similar expectations of the season, hoping to secure a top half finish with the possibility of a cup run. The Baggies will prove a stern test as always, ensuring it will be difficult for Bournemouth to break them down. This has draw written all over it.

Watford (H)

Watford, despite surviving last season, were a bit of a mess. It led to a change of manager and in Marco Silva have an extremely bright, young coach who gets the best out of what he’s got. The Hornets have had a good summer, signing young English talent in Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes. However, it may take Silva a few games to get his ideas across and Bournemouth should be able to take advantage of any indecision to win their first game of the season.

Manchester City (H)

The first of the big boys that Bournemouth have to face, City are expected to have a much improved season this year. They have addressed the areas that needed strengthening with big many purchases, and will probably sign even more. They are going to be frightening in attack and unless the Cherries are a much more solid unit this season, Pep Guardiola’s side could run away with it to claim a handsome victory.

Arsenal (A)

Two extremely hard games in a row for Bournemouth. Arsenal had a poor Premier League season last year, though are still one of the top sides in the league who will believe they can win the title. Arsenal are often flat track bullies and can rip any side that gives them space apart. However, they tend not to like it when teams press them which Bournemouth will certainly do. However, it would be a shock if it was anything other than an Arsenal win.

Brighton (H)

A new South Coast derby for Bournemouth to contest in the Premier League. Chris Hughton’s side are extremely well coached and finally secured promotion last season after threatening to do so for a number of years. However, Brighton haven’t added much quality to a squad in desperate need of freshening up and may struggle to stay up this season. It will be a hotly contested affair, but Howe will be extremely disappointed if he doesn’t pick up all three points in this fixture.

Season Expectations

Bournemouth survived the dreaded second season syndrome last year and ended up finishing in the top half of the table. Anywhere similar to that will prove to be another successful campaign for the South Coast side. Howe will want to see the same attacking verve, swagger and quality, but will expect a much tighter defence.

However, such is the competitiveness of the league, any one of 12 teams could get dragged into a relegation fight, with Bournemouth being one of them. If that exposed back line isn’t fixed, Bournemouth could be one of them.

It would be a surprise, though, if they were to be relegated and anywhere between 10th and 14th is where we expect the Cherries to finish. The South Coasters were terrible in the cups last year, and if they can steer well clear of the relegation places, would love a cup run.

RealSport prediction: 10th

The Cherries have signed well, with former Chelsea boys Ake and Begovic set to make a massive difference to the Bournemouth defence, the issue that undermined their season somewhat. With some consistency in their campaign, there’s no reason why Howe can’t guide Bournemouth to the top half once more.

They haven’t lost any of their swagger in attack -the loss of Jack Wilshere won’t make a massive difference- whilst they’ve added Defoe’s goals to compliment King. It’s only up from here…

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Harry Brooks

Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!

AFC Bournemouth: Season Preview 2017/18

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