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Being a football hipster is serious business with knowledge about the young starlet making waves for a mid table side in the Eredivisie a prerequisite rather than a feather in the cap. To further enhance your, perhaps, burgeoning reputation as a true hipster, Outside of the Boot is on hand to provide an in-depth guide to some of the less celebrated teams around Europe. In this edition of the series, Ross Bramble has a look at AFC Bournemouth.
Last season’s Premier League told numerous fascinating stories – from Leicester’s title win to Jose Mourinho and Chelsea’s ignominious descent towards the basement of the top flight (albeit for a few months), there was plenty for fans to get their teeth into. One story that may have gone missing in the mayhem, however, was AFC Bournemouth.
Not many gave them a prayer of staying afloat in their Premier League berth. But then again, not many had given them a prayer of escaping the Championship the season prior, let alone as Champions. Eddie Howe’s men proved a unit greater than the sum of their parts, finishing in a very respectable 16th.
While their first experience of life at the top was a success, questions will be asked once again of the Cherries this season, with an increase in competition across the board. “Second season syndrome” isn’t a myth, and despite their finish last season, Bournemouth are still a team largely comprised of young, Championship level talents. So how have Bournemouth prepared for chapter two, and can they do it again?
By now, everyone knows the name Eddie Howe. And once again, his name was never far from the headlines during this summer’s multitudinous managerial changes. Mooted as a contender for the Everton, Southampton, England and Arsenal jobs, Bournemouth fans could be forgiven for feeling a little jittery over the off season. However, since three of those jobs never came off, and the fourth isn’t even available, the much-loved Howe still holds the reigns as the Cherries enter their second season.
Exciting, young English managers seem to be rather fashionable in the current Premier League climate, and Howe has shown the qualities that demand he be a part of the conversation. His sides have a growing reputation for expansive, quick football, utilising the pressing style now universally adored by new age managers. Howe certainly prefers his squad to be youthful, brimming with potential, and it is the united desire to discover that ability which builds the chemistry that aided the Cherries last season.
Bournemouth’s season saw them experiment with a clutch of formations. Both of the famous wins against Chelsea and Manchester United came under a 4-5-1 formation, but the Cherries certainly saw out the season in a tried-and-true 4-4-2 formation, perhaps swayed by the players that were slowly returning from injury – most notably Callum Wilson. To that end, it’s not easy to accurately predict how Bournemouth will line up come the opening day against Manchester United. If their pre-season is anything to go by, however, it seems that Eddie Howe is favouring a 4-4-2.
The tactical approach shouldn’t be too great a departure from the style that secured their Premier League status last term. High pressing, quick counter attacking, solid shape and a whole lot of heart will likely be the key to keeping Bournemouth among the big boys for a third season. With that said, with Callum Wilson, Jordon Ibe and Lys Mousset to fit in to the side, a wider style may be adopted in a bid to utilise the pace and creativity Bournemouth have added on their flanks. With Benik Afobe up top, it’s equally as possible a more direct approach may be taken this term. Whatever way Eddie Howe decides to tackle Manchester United, the Cherries seem a lot more diverse than they were last season, with room to adapt to their opponents. So long as they can stave off another injury crisis, of course.
Considering the squad depth, a predicted starting eleven is an unenviable task, but after much deliberation, I’ve taken my guess.
PREDICTED ELEVEN (4-4-2): Boruc; Ake, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Ibe, Cook, Surman, Pugh; Wilson, Afobe
Nathan Ake – Chelsea, Loan
Most Premier League fans will be familiar with Nathan Ake after his successful season on loan at Watford. The Dutch wing back comes with a great deal of promise and, unlike some of Bournemouth’s other transfers, plenty of Premier League experience. With competition at full back fierce, Ake will have to find a new gear to be guaranteed of his starting place, and the Cherries will certainly hope to get more from this season’s Chelsea loanee, after Christian Atsu’s disappointing spell last season.
Lewis Cook – Leeds United, £6m
As a massive fan of the Championship, I was surprised to say the least when I heard that Bournemouth acquired Lewis Cook without competition from their rivals. A former winner of the Championship Apprentice of the Year and Young Player of the Year, Cook has a big future in the game ahead of him, and Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth is as good a place as any to realise that potential.
Emerson Hyndman – Fulham, Free
A young American winger with a bag of undiscovered ability, Hyndman found opportunities at Fulham few and far between as the Cottagers struggled against relegation. New coach Slaviša Jokanović clearly didn’t see room in his new squad for the youngster, and allowed him to leave the club on a free. Bournemouth were clearly impressed, though, and have shown a great deal of faith in bringing in him to the Vitality Stadium. It’s now up the Hyndman to show what he can do.
Jordon Ibe – Liverpool, £15m
Despite impressing in his run-outs for Liverpool, Ibe was always destined to be drowned out by Klopp’s midfield revolution. While Liverpool fans were disappointed to lose a promising young winger, the £15m move to Bournemouth represents great business for all parties, and now allows Ibe the platform to develop in way he may not have back on Merseyside. Expect to see Ibe featured heavily for the Cherries this season.
Lys Mousset – Le Havre, £5.4m
Not much can be said about Lys Mousset – primarily because hardly anyone in the UK knew who he was before his move to the south coast. However, Mousset is another classic Eddie Howe transfer – a young player with a bundle of pace and a hat full of tricks, capable of growing in a lethal winger, striker or number nine. Another move that could prove to be brilliantly astute in years to come, Bournemouth may have found a diamond in the rough in young Lys.
Brad Smith – Liverpool, £3m/6m
There seems to be debate over the exact fee Liverpool extracted from Bournemouth for this deal, but what is certain is that the Cherries have acquired another promising Liverpool youth talent. The Australian comes furnished with international and Premier League experience, and at the age of 22 is a more mature addition than his fellow summer recruits. Rumours persist about a Liverpool buy-back clause, however, so Bournemouth fans may hope that Smith can be brilliant, but quietly.
Tommy Elphick – Aston Villa, £3m
Bournemouth’s selling policy surprised on-lookers far more than their buying policy this summer. First to go was Tommy Elphick, a fan favourite on the south coast and a player with bags of experience in the red and black of Bournemouth. However, the defender was restricted to just 12 appearances in the Premier League last term thanks to an ankle ligament problem. Aston Villa will be delighted with their new centre back, but Bournemouth could miss Elphick’s experience as the season progresses.
Matt Ritchie – Newcastle United, £10m/£12m
Just as surprising a departure was the loss of talismanic midfielder Matt Ritchie, who had certainly won hearts and minds during his spell with Bournemouth. The Scot had scored some absolute rockets for the Cherries and was understandably attracting interest from around the league. When West Ham’s interest in both he and Callum Wilson culminated in a rejected £25m bid for the Cherries duo, it seemed as though Ritchie would be staying. That was until the Rafa-lution came calling. Newcastle have acquired a big game player, but Bournemouth may find his absence painful.
Jordon Ibe: When you invest £15m on a young player, you certainly anticipate that the club are prepared to give him a chance. Jordon Ibe impressed many during his brief stints in the Liverpool first team, but now dressed in the black and red of Bournemouth, he may finally be able to settle down and unlock his potential. With Wilson and Afobe to hit ahead of him, Ibe seems set to become an integral part of the new-look Bournemouth.
Callum Wilson: Wilson’s maiden season in the Premier League was dramatically cut short thanks in no small part to a devastating knee injury in the early part of the season. Back to full fitness and with an entire pre-season under his belt, the Englishman will be looking to take full advantage of his second bite of the cherry (pardon the pun), and could thrive beside Afobe and Ibe.
Lewis Cook: With his litany of Football League awards, big things are expected of young Lewis Cook. With Matt Ritchie departing for pastures new, Bournemouth will be looking for a new midfield regular, and someone that can change a game with any given pass or shot. Pugh and Surman may be turned to in an attempt to find the magic, and while it may be asking too much from Cook so early in his Bournemouth career, he’s as well placed as any to take up Ritchie’s mantel.
Considering the depth of young talent on the Bournemouth roster, it’s tough to pick just one youngster from the crowd that could do the business for the Cherries this term. The obvious choice is Jordan Ibe, but considering how much praise the former Liverpool winger has already received over the course of this piece, it would be wise to continue the search and keep things fresh.
In that vein, and in spite of the multitude of options that could have been selected for this honorific, Lys Mousset certainly represents one of the more interesting choices. It’s often said that it’s always the one you least suspect, and with so little known about Lys on this side of the Channel, it would be prudent for rivals to keep their eye on the Frenchman as the season progresses. There is no doubting the ability that lies in his boots, but he will need to take his chances when they come to maintain a starting place among Bournemouth’s impressive midfield.
As a long time viewer of the Cherries, I felt confident that Howe’s side could put up a convincing fight in their maiden season, and I certainly believed there were three teams in the Premier League worse than Bournemouth. This season is a little trickier, though, and the relegation places don’t seem as much of a lock as they were last year. With Hull, Middlesbrough, West Brom and Sunderland predicted to be in the mix, Bournemouth will need to be more consistent than they were last year to keep their heads above water – something they may find tough with a very, very young squad.
That said, the set-up at Bournemouth is their greatest asset. The Cherries will fight for each other far harder and for far longer than some of the other teams that will be in the mix this year, and their fans will be desperate to see their Premier League dream extend past two full seasons. Bournemouth will face another season of struggle and challenge, but that’s never stopped them before, and I doubt it will stop them again this year.
I can’t say with any real conviction that I believe Bournemouth are among the favourites for safety this year, but nor can I confidently say I believe Bournemouth will be back in the Championship for the 17/18 season. After all, if there’s one thing we should have learned by now, it’s that you should never bet against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.
Written by Ross Bramble
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