Quick start and away form are keys for the great Dorset defiers


Jefferson Lerma is Bournemouth’s record signing
Photo: AFC Bournemouth

Quick start and away form are keys for the great Dorset defiers

by Steve Clare

Premier League 12th
FA Cup Third round (eliminated by Wigan)
EFL Cup Fifth round (eliminated by Chelsea)

The club with the lowest attendance in the Premier League continued to be the great defiers last season with a highly impressive 12th placed finish. 10.640 walked through their gates on average, half the number of the next lowest supported side Watford.

Having avoided the drop three times already since their promotion in 2015, Eddie Howe’s side have finished 16th, 9th and 12th and avoided the spectre of perennial relegation fights. It’s worth reminding ourselves that these three seasons are the only ones ever in the English top flight for the seaside club.

More satisfying last year was the fact they finished above Southampton, making them the highest placed south coast club for the first time ever in their history following a lifetime of looking up at Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton.

Avoiding injury and suspensions was key to their defensive effort last year. Goalkeeper Asmir Begović and four defensive players;  Charlie Daniels, Nathan Aké, Steve Cook and Simon Francis all played over 30 league games meaning they developed a consistency and understanding lost on sides with more regular changes. Where one was missing, Adam Smith was a regular replacement. All are returning.

The core of the midfield is also back although Irishman Harry Arter has been loaned out to Cardiff.

Still, the English core of Lewis Cook, Dan Gosling, Andrew Surman, Marc Pugh and Jordon Ibe remains along with Scot Ryan Fraser. Up front Callum Wilson was top scorer with nine league goals last year. Francis at 33 and forward Jermaine Defoe at 35 are really the only ones who do not have a few more years at least of playing together before they start to slow down.

Two new additions from Spain will inspire optimism. Colombian Jefferson Lerma is just 23 and has arrived from Levante. He is a central midfielder. Diego Rico is two years older and plays at left back. How quickly they adopt to a new league, language and country will affect how quickly they are able to make an impact into what is one of the more English squads in the EPL. Lerma has been signed for a record fee and Rico is on a four year contract, so Howe must be very confident they can be useful.

Only denied a top half place by goal difference, 45 goals scored was a reasonable return for last year although the 61 conceded was a bit high, especially the 30 shipped at home.

They only scored the first goal at home 37% of the time, the joint lowest in the division. Only Watford with 31 conceded more home goals. On the upper side, their nine away defeats was only bettered by Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Burnley, and on away results alone, Bournemouth were 8th in the league.

So any talk of Fortress Dean Court is laughable. It’s away from home where this team has beaten the odds.

Cardiff, West Ham and Everton, are the Cherries’ first three fixtures. That’s one promoted side, one side with a new manager and a third with a host of new players. That might bode well for Howe to pick up early points to get some momentum. Next is a visit to Chelsea, early in their new manager’s tenure, before some more winnable games against Leicester, Burnley, Southampton, Watford, Crystal Palace and Fulham.

In short, the opening ten games provide Bournemouth with a chance to put space between themselves and trouble very quickly unlike last season’s disaster where they lost their first four games, and had just four points from their first eight, and seven from the first ten.

There remains also the threat of the manager being poached. They did well to hold on to him last year but he bolted once before, to Burnley, and despite his extreme loyalty, there could be an offer neither he nor the club can refuse.

If however, that does not happen, the hardcore of the squad can stay fit, and the new arrivals acclimate early, there is no reason why Bournemouth should not replicate their impressive 44 point total of last season.

Prediction 16th

Players in:
MID David Brooks (Sheffield United Undisclosed)
DEF Diego Rico  (Leganés Undisclosed)
MID Jefferson Lerma (Levante Undisclosed)

Players out:

FWD Benik Afobe (Wolverhampton Wanderers £10,000,000)
GK Ryan Allsop (Wycombe Wanderers Free Transfer)
GK Patrick O’Flaherty (Free agent Released)
GK Adam Federici (Stoke City Undisclosed)
DEF Baily Cargill (Milton Keynes Dons Released)
DEF Rhoys Wiggins (Retired)
DEF Ollie Harfield (Dagenham & Redbridge Released)
MID Sam Matthews (Bristol Rovers Released)
FWD Joe Quigley (Maidstone United Released)
FWD Lewis Grabban (Nottingham Forest Undisclosed)
FWD Max Gradel (Toulouse Undisclosed)

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