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Bournemouth’s Andrew Surman proving influential in the Cherries bid to climb the table



It has been a difficult restart to Premier League life for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth in 2017/18, and the gaffer himself will have needed no telling.

The Cherries went into their weekend clash away at Stoke City with a meagre four points from their opening eight top-flight matches, having netted just four times, with an away record of one win in 13 away matches stretching back to last season.

With both Joshua King and Jermain Defoe – the duo who had provided two of their four goals up to that point in the current campaign – were ruled out through illness and injury, the travelling contingent of Cherries supporters, just shy of 1000, must have feared the worst.

Instead, their side mustered up a sensational first-half display to stun Mark Hughes’ Potters with two goals in 133 seconds, with Andrew Surman curling home a wonderful 16th-minute opening goal, before Junior Stanislas slotted home from the spot after Benik Afobe was upended in the penalty area by Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross.

Mame Biram Diouf made the away supporters slightly hotter under the collar in the second-half after pulling a goal back for the hosts, but Howe’s men dug in for a priceless second win that leaves the South Coast club a point shy of Stoke, and of safety, with the Potters only out of the bottom three on goal difference following Everton’s 5-2 defeat to Arsenal the following day.

Defeat at the Bet365 Stadium would have equalled Bournemouth’s worst ever start to a league campaign, but Surman’s beautifully taken strike – coming at the end of a wonderful team move involving Adam Smith and Junior Stanislas – did much to settle any early nerves, as well as sending the travelling Bournemouth supporters into raptures early on.

Surman’s curling left-footed effort beyond the despairing dive of Jack Butland marked the former Southampton and Norwich midfielder’s second goal in his last five Premier League matches – as many goals as he has netted in his previous 81 top-flight matches.

Even when not on the scoresheet, he has proven a consistent performer for the Cherries thus far this season, and may well prove an influential part of the equation if they are to steer the ship clear of relegation trouble.

In fact, Surman’s goals are proving something of a lucky omen for Eddie Howe’s side, with his last strike coming in their only other win in the campaign so far: a 67th minute leveller against South Coast rivals Brighton, in a match they would go on to win 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium, thanks to Jermain Defoe’s winner.

In that game, Surman proved his worth to the Cherries as a presence in the centre of the park, linking play by completing 85% of his passes, winning 50% of his tackles and 67% of his aerial battles, besides creating one key opportunity and putting in one crucial block to help his team.

Even in Bournemouth’s only other positive result of their league season thus far, a goalless draw with Leicester City, the midfielder still completed an impressive 83% of his passes, won an improved 67% of his tackles and also managed to come out on top in 25% of his aerial battles. He also gave a helping hand to his defence with two clearances from inside his own box to help secure a point.

The statistics suggest that he is growing in influence for Bournemouth game by game, with the away victory at Stoke his most impressive overall performance yet.

Although he only managed to complete 71% of his passes during their battle in the Potteries, he created ten chances, made 34 crosses, managed ten interceptions and a whopping nine clearances from inside his own penalty area. Meanwhile, he succeeded in 38% of his attempted tackles, and won 48% of his aerial duels as the Cherries were made to dig in as the match wore on.

With an ability to contribute going forward, as well as having an aptitude for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to defending, Surman is undoubtedly becoming one of Eddie Howe’s more important players, and he has stepped unto the breach particularly well since being made to fill the void vacated by Harry Arter in two of the last three games.

With Lewis Cook occupying the centre-midfield spot alongside him in those games, Surman has been given greater licence to support the attack and operate as the primary playmaker, whilst also dropping back when required to help out the back four.

With Arter now fit for action having come on as a substitute at Stoke, it remains to be seen as to whether Bournemouth can continue their form with both Arter and Surman operating in midfield, with greater defensive responsibilities likely to fall the way of the latter.

Surman’s form during his absence, however, has certainly been of encouragement. It has also meant that Bournemouth haven’t suffered too greatly without a player whom many supporters will perceive as their most important midfielder, Based on current form, Surman may well be in line to usurp that accolade.

The conundrum that Eddie Howe will need to solve is how to get the best out of his midfield and ensure that it remains well balanced. Surman and Arter as a duo has worked over the previous two seasons, but with the Cherries having so far struggled for momentum, the inclusion of Cook next to Surman in Arter’s absence may have given Howe reason to re-think his starting line-up.

The fast start they made at Stoke suggests that the Surman-Cook partnership can complement the side well.

However, considering Arter’s importance, it is down to the manager as to whether he opts to upset that balance and persist with the Ireland international in the hope that the combination works as effectively as previous seasons, or continue to go with what has become a seemingly successful formula so far this campaign.

With the Surman and Cook duo bringing about Bournemouth’s three best results so far, some may think Howe a fool were he not to omit the club’s fan favourite once again.

Considering Surman is now the Cherries top scorer for the season, with two, his inclusion is a must. He will undoubtedly prove critical in weeks to come in order to help Bournemouth put breathing space between themselves and the relegation trap door.

With Chelsea next on the agenda, another stern test is sure to come, and Howe will certainly be scratching his head over his team selection in order to coax the best from Surman and the rest of his squad.

Scott is a Port Vale fan who writes regularly for The Boot Room as a freelancer. He is a fan of several sports but most of his experience in journalism comes from football and volleyball. He has produced several works on major Championships for both the FIVB and CEV in the volleyball world out in Switzerland, and is currently studying for a BA Hons in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford.

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Huddersfield Town 4-1 Bournemouth: Alex Pritchard steals plaudits after running the show

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Huddersfield Town took a huge leap in the race for survival with a 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

Huddersfield Town produced a four-star performance to brush aside Bournemouth and move out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Junior Stanislas quickly cancelled out Alex Pritchard’s seventh-minute opener, but from that moment it was one-way traffic as the Terriers showed their bite on a freezing afternoon in Yorkshire.

A Steve Cook own goal made it 2-1 at half-time before Steve Mounie and a stoppage-time penalty from Rajiv van la Parra completed the drubbing.

Huddersfield climbed to 17th as a result of this much-needed victory, while Bournemouth’s excellent recent form came to an abrupt halt with their first defeat of 2018.

Here are three talking points…

Huddersfield breathe new life into survival bid

Boss David Wagner had highlighted his side’s upcoming run of fixtures as crucial to their ambitions of avoiding relegation back to the Championship.

On the back of five consecutive defeats, Huddersfield had free-fallen into the drop-zone.

Although the win over Manchester United will take some beating in the eyes of the fans, given their predicament this was arguably their most important three points of the campaign.

It was a crushing triumph and one that the Terriers fully deserved.

Yes, they caught the visitors on a bad day, but much of that was due to the nature of Huddersfield’s display.

They gave Bournemouth no time on the ball to play their natural passing game and took their chances when they came along.

Especially from set-pieces, Wagner’s men looked dangerous and exploited the Cherries’ weakness in the air.

The bottom half of the table remains incredibly congested, but this result gives Huddersfield genuine hope that survival is possible.

Bournemouth’s unbeaten run comes to a crashing end

Entering this match at the top of the form table, this was Bournemouth’s worst result of the season.

From the first whistle they were out-battled by a Huddersfield side that were fighting for their lives.

Perhaps an air of complacency had surfaced following the Cherries’ unbeaten sequence, which had stood at seven games and included victories over Chelsea and Arsenal.

Talk of qualifying for the Europa League can now be parked to one side.

Despite being in 10th position, Bournemouth are not assured of survival just yet.

Boss Eddie Howe will back his troops to get the three wins they need to reach the 40-point mark, but this was a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted in the Premier League.

He will be thoroughly bemused by this showing.

It was a day to forget for the Cherries and their dedicated supporters, who had left in the very early hours to embark on the long journey north for this lunch-time kick-off.

Pritchard brings ingenuity to the Terriers’ ranks

Although Huddersfield’s win was a by-product of a real team effort, one player that deserves special praise is new recruit Pritchard.

Signed from Norwich City in the January window, he ran the show in midfield, making the Terriers tick with crisp passing.

Pritchard opened the scoring in the early exchanges with a well-taken finish for his first ever Premier League goal, at the seventh attempt.

He had previously played in the top-flight with Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

There is always a risk attached to any new signing from a lower division, but Pritchard had demonstrated enough class for Norwich to indicate he would be able to make the step-up.

The 24-year-old will face tougher challenges in his midfield role, but he has brought a touch of guile and class to Huddersfield.

Pritchard’s teasing run that induced the foul for a penalty in added-time underlined his capability to make things happen.

Wagner will hope it is a positive sign for the run-in.

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What is behind Bournemouth’s dramatic upturn in form?

Bournemouth fans would have sitting uncomfortably throughout the opening half of the season but, in typical fashion, Eddie Howe has turned the tide for the south coast club.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

On Christmas Day, Bournemouth were sitting in the relegation zone.

Winless in more than a month, their slide from the relative comfort of mid-table had been alarming.

The doubters were chirping and the pressure mounting. Was this the beginning of the end of the Cherries’ unexpected stint in the Premier League?

Fast-forward six weeks and the landscape is altogether different.

Bournemouth, in ninth position, are on their longest ever unbeaten Premier League streak, currently standing at seven games.

In fact, they currently top the form table.

In their past six matches, the Cherries have claimed 14 points – the highlight undoubtedly being their stunning 3-0 triumph over Chelsea, which Eddie Howe described as the ‘best result’ since his appointment.

It has been an astonishing turnaround and one for which Howe deserves immense credit. Modest as ever, however, he would accept it only begrudgingly.

Despite increasing criticism from pundits who urged him to revise his philosophy or risk relegation back to the Championship, from where they were promoted as champions in 2015, the 40-year-old has steadfastly stuck to the approach that has brought him such unprecedented success.

Many managers may have panicked and gambled on new signings during the January transfer window, but Howe resisted, with a couple of outgoings the only business done on deadline day.

He has always favoured a tight-knit squad over a bloated one and improving the players at his disposal, rather than relying on recruitment.

Perhaps this stems from when the club was cash-strapped during his formative years as boss and he had no alternative.

Despite being the only Premier League club not to strengthen their resources, Bournemouth’s progress has been unchecked.

The recent sequence of results has not been plain sailing, though.

Controversy kick-started the run when Callum Wilson equalised against West Ham United on Boxing Day, despite strong suspicions of handball.

Other late goals against Everton and Arsenal have underlined the character in the squad.

In previous seasons, the Cherries’ fast starts were often the prelude to collapses in the final stages, but no longer is that the case.

In light of Chelsea’s recent troubles, Bournemouth’s performance in that game has largely and unfairly been overlooked. Victory was no fluke.

The visitors were magnificent and not flattered by the three-goal margin of victory.

Intricate passing and movement, solid defending and predatory finishing were all on display at Stamford Bridge, which amounted to make the reigning champions look very ordinary.

Although his philosophy has remained unaltered, a tactical switch has paid dividends.

Howe experimented with three at the back earlier this season, especially against the top sides when he felt outnumbered in midfield.

This has evolved into a 3-4-3 that maximises Bournemouth’s strength of pace down the flanks, while also offering more protection in central defence, an area in which they have traditionally been vulnerable.

By luck or judgement, Howe has identified his preferred front three of Junior Stanislas, Jordon Ibe and Callum Wilson.

Stanislas is prone to muscle strains but is a creative fulcrum.

Ibe’s transformation from the timid, indecisive player of last season whose confidence looked shot has been remarkable. He now has more assists than any other Cherries player this term.

With eight goals to his name, Wilson is the club’s leading scorer and has benefited from Jermain Defoe’s enforced absence.

After suffering two cruciate knee ligament injuries, Wilson is back to his fearsome best and speculation of an England call-up is growing.

Now seven points clear of the drop-zone, three wins from their final 12 outings should guarantee Bournemouth extend their Premier League stay for at least one more campaign.

As ever, Howe, who has been nominated for the January manager of the month award, will not get carried away.

His focus will be devoted entirely to Sunday’s televised encounter away to Huddersfield Town.

Win or lose, one thing is for sure; Howe’s demeanour and belief in his methods will not change.

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Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City: Three talking points from the Vitality Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the Vitality Stadium as Bournemouth recorded a 2-1 comeback victory over relegation rivals Stoke City.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

Bournemouth extended their Premier League unbeaten run to seven matches as they came from behind to complete the double over Stoke City.

Following their tremendous victory over Chelsea in midweek, the Cherries started with a hangover and conceded in the fifth minute when Xherdan Shaqiri – one of the smallest men on the pitch – headed past Asmir Begovic.

The hosts looked transformed in the second half and equalised through Joshua King on 70 minutes. The Cherries then continued to dominate and struck the knockout blow when Lys Mousset nodded in his first top-flight goal for the club.

This was Stoke’s first defeat under new manager Paul Lambert as they slipped back into the relegation zone.

Here are three talking points…

Cherries’ character again comes to the fore

A feature of Bournemouth’s impressive recent form, which has seen them climb out of the drop-zone and up to the dizzying heights of ninth place, has been their ability to overturn a deficit.

It started on Boxing Day when Callum Wilson’s controversial injury-time goal rescued a point against West Ham United.

Twice they came from behind to earn a draw with Brighton & Hove Albion on New Year’s Day and now in their past two home matches, the Cherries have recovered from an early setback to register victories over Arsenal and Stoke.

In their previous two seasons in the Premier League, Bournemouth were renowned for making fast starts, but they often struggled to hold on to a lead.

Eddie Howe will be pleased with his side’s never-say-die attitude, particularly at such a crucial stage of the campaign.

Only a month ago, the Cherries were in real danger of being caught up in a relegation dogfight. Now, with 15 points from their past seven games, that threat has been alleviated.

Lambert suffers his first setback as Stoke boss

With four points from his first two games in the hot-seat, Lambert had made an impressive start following the demise of his predecessor, Mark Hughes.

His troops started well again on the south coast, as Shaqiri was somehow left unmarked to head home a cross from new signing Badou Ndiaye.

The Potters pressed their opponents high up the pitch and gave them little space or time on the ball, but perhaps their endeavours contributed to a sloppy second-half performance.

The visitors retreated under intense pressure from Bournemouth, who capitalised with two goals inside nine second-half minutes to claim all three points.

With the lower half of the table incredibly tight, this was a real blow to Stoke’s ambitions.

Victory would have seen them climb as high as 14th, but instead they have plummeted into the bottom three on goal difference. Currently, Stoke are one of three teams locked on 24 points.

The battle for survival is going down to the wire.

Substitutes make the difference for Bournemouth

A hamstring injury to Steve Cook in the 13th minute disrupted Howe’s plans.

With his side already 1-0 down, the Bournemouth manager decided to unleash striker King instead of replacing like-for-like.

This prompted a change in formation, with the hosts ditching the 3-4-3 system that worked so well against Chelsea in favour of a 4-4-2, with Ryan Fraser dropping into an unfamiliar right-back position.

The results were not immediate and the Cherries struggled to adapt, with Stoke enjoying large spells of possession. However, the second half was one-way traffic as the hosts peppered Jack Butland’s goal.

King netted his fourth of the campaign after finding himself in space before Mousset, another substitute, scored for the first time in the Premier League since his move from his native France in the summer of 2016.

For Howe, the result was justification for his early tactical change and he deserves immense credit. Modest as always, he will deflect it to his players.

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