After finishing ninth in the Premier League last season – the highest position in their history – expectations were high for Bournemouth heading into the new campaign. High-profile incomings, including Jermain Defoe, suggested that the south coast club had reached a new level.
However, having amassed just four points from seven fixtures, alarm bells are starting to ring for manager Eddie Howe, whose side sit above only Crystal Palace in the table. Here are five reasons why Bournemouth supporters should be concerned.
The Cherries have been figured out tactically
Now in their third season in the top-flight, Bournemouth are no longer an unknown quantity. Opposing managers know what to expect when they face Eddie Howe’s side and that is being reflected in their tactics. Particularly at the Vitality Stadium, they are happy to let the Cherries dominate possession and challenge them to break down a resolute defence.
The recent goalless draw against Leicester City was a pertinent example. Bournemouth controlled the game against a team that were happy to sit back and play on the counter-attack. Despite creating a host of chances, the Cherries could not find a way through and had to settle for a point.
New signings have failed to shine
Howe landed his three main transfer targets in the summer window and on paper they looked like excellent additions. England international Jermain Defoe brought a rich Premier League pedigree, while versatile defender Nathan Ake and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic were big-money signings from Chelsea. At this early stage though, the newcomers have not had the effect Howe would have hoped for.
There is no doubt that individually they are three top-class players, but the dynamic of the team has not looked the same as last season. Defoe and Joshua King have yet to hit it off up front and Ake has not found a reliable partner at centre-back. Begovic’s role in several conceded goals has also been questioned.
Goals are in short supply
Matches featuring Bournemouth are usually entertaining affairs, with plenty of goals at both ends. The thrilling 4-3 victory over Liverpool and 3-3 draw against Arsenal last season spring to mind. Goals at the right end have been in short supply in the early stages of this campaign, however.
On only one occasion have the Cherries scored more than once – the 2-1 win over Brighton. For a team that traditionally concedes plenty, Bournemouth cannot afford to misfire in front of goal if they want to compete. Howe has plenty of attacking options at his disposal but the slow start of King, who netted 16 times in 2016/17, has magnified their problems.
Three defeats from three on the road
Although Bournemouth have generally been competitive at home – they very nearly held Manchester City to a draw back in August – they have yet to open their account on their travels. A 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion on the opening day preceded a 3-0 reversal at Arsenal and, most recently, a 2-1 loss to Everton.
Too often, the Cherries have been the architects of their own downfall and made it far too easy for their opponents. The defeat to Everton, a game they really should have won, was a case in point. No team can rely solely on their home form to survive and Howe needs to figure out a way of being more resilient away from the Vitality Stadium.
Upcoming fixtures do not bode well
The schedule should not matter, but Bournemouth supporters will be looking at October’s fixture list with a great deal of trepidation. Next up on the calendar is a trip to Wembley to face in-form Tottenham, before the Cherries hit the road again the following week to lock horns with Stoke City. Bournemouth conclude the month by hosting reigning champions Chelsea.
The Premier League is unpredictable, but it is entirely possible that Howe’s troops could still be sitting on four points with more than a quarter of the season completed. By then, what is now a concern could be a full-scale crisis.