Bournemouth moved one step closer to clinching their Premier League status with a convincing 4-0 home victory over Middlesbrough.
The Cherries are now on 38 points and clear of the relegation zone by seven points. They have a few winnable games before the end of the season and it is looking increasingly likely that they will be playing top-flight football for the third successive season.
Eddie Howe has done an excellent job at consolidating the Cherries as a Premier League club, but their player of the season this year has been Josh King.
The Norwegian has been at the club since the beginning of last season, but it has only been in recent months that he has stepped up his game and become one of the most consistent attackers in the bottom half of the table.
Against Middlesbrough, he played behind Benik Afobe as a second striker. His pace and movement caused the visiting team problems all afternoon and it came as little surprise to see him move onto 14 Premier League goals for the season – a superb return for a player in the bottom half of the table.
His ability to beat players in the dribble, coupled with his cool finishing in front of goal have made him great to watch since the turn of the year. Howe has given him license to roam in the final third and it is a tactical move that has paid off, with him scoring goals in abundance.
The 25-year-old got the first goal of the game against Boro on Saturday, as he got on the end of a good cross from Marc Pugh. It was a relatively simple finish for the forward, but the movement to get into the position to score was impressive.
During the match, he attempted three shots on goal, but it was his runs off the ball that caused Middlesbrough most problems. After the visitors had a man sent off, the movement of King opened up space for others to exploit and the team benefited from that,
During the match, the forward completed three dribbles, which was the second most of any player on the pitch, with only Pugh (5) recording more. His agility, pace and ball control make him incredibly difficult to stop once he gets going.
The confidence is radiating from his game at the moment. However, one minor disappointment will have been his distribution. The 25-year-old ended the match with a 73% pass success rate. This was the lowest of any player in black and red. Although he isn’t in the team for his passing, his decision making was questionable at times.
The main reason for his success this season has been his work rate. King is a tireless worker off the ball and he plays an important role when his side is not in possession. He completed one tackle during the match and even made one clearance to relieve pressure on his defence.
This was a crucial victory for the Cherries, as a defeat would have increased the pressure on the players and dragged them closer to the drop.
King’s goals have been a huge reason for their success during the second half of the season. He only scored one of four on Saturday, but he netted the first one inside the opening minutes of the game. This strike immediately relieved the pressure and increased the nerves within the Boro side, which ultimately led to the Cherries running riot against their relegation threatened opponents.
Howe will be aware of the tremendous progress that King and he is a player they must keep this summer if they are to continue moving forward as a club.