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11th-20th: Reviewing the 2016/17 Premier League’s bottom-half of the table finishers



After the final fixtures of a gripping Premier League season came to an abrupt close on Sunday afternoon, fans up and down the land discovered their final league standings.

There was sheer glee for some, whereas others ended their year with despair etched across their faces.

The season has been full of twists and turns and with just the small matter of the FA Cup, Europa League and the Champions League to be settled, we can finally look back and review the domestic league season for each club.

Having already focused on the top half of the league, we now move on to look at the lower end of the table and what turned out to be a thrilling and extremely tense relegation battle…

West Ham United

League Position: 11th (PTS: 45, GD: -17)

Top Scorer: Michail Antonio (9)

Player of the Season: Michail Antonio

Moment of the Season: Beating Spurs 1-0 at the London Stadium to effectively hand Chelsea the title and end Tottenham’s.

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The London Stadium has seen ups and downs this year. Granted, it is never easy to move into a new ground having been at your last one for so long, but West Ham fans are slowly adjusting to the change.

It’s been by no means easy for Slaven Bilic this year. After such a promising year last year it was never going to be easy to replicate the feat. The Croatian head coach has done well to guide the Hammers to an eleventh-placed finish, ending level on points with West Brom. What with the Dimitri Payet saga and the injury crisis that has ravaged the club, it has not been so bad. At one point looking doomed for relegation, West Ham managed to secure another season in the top flight and will hope that their second season in their new home is more promising than this campaign.

It’s not been all doom and gloom though. Manuel Lanzini has thrived in Payet’s departure, and West Ham have found themselves a real gem in Michail Antonio. Andy Carroll’s wonder-goal against Crystal Palace got the home crowd bouncing, (and the bubbles blowing), and Hammers fans will hope to see more of the big Englishman next season, after another injury-hit campaign. If anything, the London Stadium natives will remember this forgettable campaign for their effective termination of Tottenham’s title surge, and take great pleasure from it as the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli trudged wearily from the pitch.

David Gold and David Sullivan will likely invest heavily in the squad over the summer, in order for the club to get back to where it was this time last year. Overall, not too bad, but could do much better.

Leicester City

League Position: 12th (PTS: 44, GD: -15)

Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy (13)

Player of the Season: Kasper Schmeichel

Moment of the Season: (Controversy warning) Winning the first six Premier League games of Craig Shakespeare’s tenure, after Claudio Ranieri was sacked.

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It’s fair to say that a lot of people fell out of love with Leicester City this season. What a difference a few months make in the world of football. Just a year ago the club was basking in the glory of arguably the most remarkable achievement in sporting history and yet just nine months later Ranieri was giving his marching orders.

Whether you consider it genius or extremely harsh, it was effective and Leicester found themselves catapulted away from the relegation zone and eventually landing in twelfth place. Jamie Vardy struggled in the first half of the season but found his scoring touch to tally thirteen for the season and drag the Foxes clear of danger.

But the stars of the previous season couldn’t quite seem to find the same mojo which turned dream into reality. Saying that, Kasper Schmeichel stood firm in the Leicester goalmouth and was deservedly honoured with Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year at the annual awards night. Leicester’s summer recruitment was borderline abysmal, but the January signing of Wilfred Ndidi certainly made a real difference to the club’s strong finish.

Leicester’s twelfth place finish is commendable when you consider the 3-0 thumping they took from Manchester United in February. An embarrassing 6-1 loss to Tottenham in their penultimate Premier League fixture summed up what has been an odd campaign for the former champions. No doubt there will be many fans glad to see the back of this campaign.

The Foxes journey to the last eight of the Champions League was certainly memorable, but their reign as Premier League Champions is well and truly over. Whether Shakespeare stays on permanently or not, there will be new faces at the King Power next season.

Stoke City

League Position: 13th (PTS: 44, GD: -15)

Top Scorer: Peter Crouch (7)

Player of the Season: Marco Arnautovic

Moment of the Season: Peter Crouch scores his one-hundredth Premier League goal against Everton, before pulling out his trademark “robot dance” to celebrate.

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Stoke City have had an indifferent season this year. Usually so secure at the Bet365 Stadium, Mark Hughes’ men have struggled to pick up points this term. The Potters amassed forty-four points this season, consisting of eleven wins and eleven draws, but finished below Leicester on goals scored. However, saying that, Stoke finished only four points ahead of seventeenth placed Watford.

Xherdan Shaqiri had his annual flashes of brilliance, most notably with a 30-yard strike against Hull City. Marko Arnautovic was the best of what was a relatively average bunch, netting six times and assisting five other goals. Stoke’s capture of Joe Allen from Liverpool was a decent piece of business in the summer window, but his form was a little inconsistent as the season wore on.

It is slightly concerning for fans of the Potters when they have been reliant on 36-year-old Peter Crouch as their main source of goals this year, and this must change next year if they are to start climbing the table again. Mark Hughes will surely be a busy man in the next couple of months.

Overall, a totally average, but steady season from the Staffordshire club.

Crystal Palace

League Position: 14th (PTS: 41, GD: -13)

Top Scorer: Christian Benteke (15)

Player of the Season: Wilfried Zaha

Moment of the Season: Palace stun Chelsea, winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to take a huge step towards survival.

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He wasn’t smiling in September, but he’s definitely smiling now – Sam Allardyce really is a survival specialist. As impossible as it seemed earlier in the season, Crystal Palace will be a Premier League team next year. After Alan Pardew’s shock departure many will have been expecting Palace to have been one of the three that dropped at the end of the season.

Damaging defeats such as the 3-0 rout away to West Ham, and the 5-4 loss to Swansea City, seemed to be damning, but magnificent victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool meant the Eagles lived to fight another day in England’s top flight.

In what has been a difficult season at Selhurst Park there have been some reasons to be positive for Eagles fans. Wilfried Zaha seems to have finally discovered his potential and has become a driving force for the team, both in creating and scoring goals. Christian Benteke managed fifteen league goals this year as he made some inroads into the £32 million that Palace paid for him. Palace will do well to hold on to the pair during the off season, and doing so may prove vital for the club’s ambitions next year.

Mamadou Sakho was an inspired loan signing in January, drastically improving the club’s fortunes before a knee injury prematurely ended his season. It would be a great piece of business for the Eagles to negotiate a permanent deal for the Liverpool outcast.

Crystal Palace, and Sam Allardyce should be commended for their efforts in surviving this season. But, with Big Sam surprisingly exiting the club, it looks as though it will be a new manager that will need to take on the task of considerably improving the squad if they are to survive again next year.

Swansea City

League Position: 15th (PTS: 41, GD: -25)

Top Scorer: Fernando Llorente (15)

Player of the Season: Gylfi Sigurdsson

Moment of the Season: Swansea beat Sunderland 2-0 at The Stadium of Light, before Hull City lose 4-0 to Crystal Palace to confirm Swansea’s top-flight status for another season.

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Swansea City stayed up due to their tenacity and desire. Paul Clement deserves full credit for inspiring the fight back from the brink. The Swans actually took thirteen points from their final five games and climbed to a very respectable fifteenth place in the final standings. With form like that, Clement and Swans fans, alike, will be hoping that they can have a much more successful campaign next time round.

Keeping hold of leading scorer Fernando Llorente will surely be key, as well as their talisman and star man, Gylfi Sigurdsson. There will surely be a fair few clubs sniffing around the two.

Whilst Swansea relied on a late resurgence to climb free of the drop-zone the Welsh side did enjoy a 3-0 win over Sunderland, a 2-0 win over Leicester and found themselves on the right side of a 5-4 score line against Crystal Palace. Needless to say, fans will be keen to forget embarrassing losses, conceding three, four and five against Middlesbrough, West Ham and Tottenham, respectively. Paul Clement will surely be attempting to make his defence much more watertight in his first full transfer manager as Swans boss.

Not a great season, but not a horrendous one either, as Swansea pulled off the great escape.


League Position: 16th (PTS: 40, GD: -16)

Top Scorer: Sam Vokes (10)

Player of the Season: Michael Keane

Moment of the Season: Beating Liverpool 2-0 at Turf Moor, in August.

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Sean Dyche has done an unbelievable job at Burnley. Not a particularly glamorous or attractive club in terms of footballing style, but gritty and determined nonetheless. Burnley may have only finished six points of the relegation places, but the Lancashire club has never really looked under threat of going down.

The Clarets will have likely been many people’s pick to go down at the start of the year, but their ability to turn Turf Moor into a fortress was undoubtedly the key to the club’s survival, having claimed just one win away from home all season.

Instrumental to this was Burnley’s backline, possessing the impressive Michael Keane and ever-consistent Tom Heaton, the former of whom just nabs the Player of the Season for me. It will be a sad day for Clarets supporters when Keane inevitably leaves the club in the summer, and he will be no doubt difficult to replace. Either way, both were rewarded with England caps for superb seasons. Dyche will also need to recruit upfront where leading man Sam Vokes has struggled at times.

Overall, a good year for Burnley considering their small transfer fund compared to other clubs. Steady.


League Position: 16th (PTS: 40, GD: -28)

Top Scorer: Troy Deeney (10)

Player of the Season: Etienne Capoue

Moment of the Season: If you’re a Hornets fan then it will probably be Walter Mazzari’s departure, but in terms of the playing side of things, beating Arsenal 2-0 at The Emirates will have put smiles on many Watford faces.

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Indifferent. Watford started OK, taking seven points from their opening five fixtures, including a shock 3-0 win over Manchester United, but like so many, they faded away as the season wore on. Captain Troy Deeney led the way, as Odion Ighalo was packed off to China, unable to replicate his form of the previous season.

Several unsuccessful signings for Watford didn’t help the cause, Stefano Okaka and Isaac Success were particularly underwhelming for large parts. Like their manager’s interviews, Watford’s play seemed to be lost in translation as the year wore on, and the fans will no doubt be thankful for survival. Hornets legend Graham Taylor’s untimely death in January didn’t help the mood at Vicarage Road.

The January arrival of Tom Cleverley didn’t really make much difference, as the Hornets just about clawed their way to safety. Etienne Capoue gets the Player of the Season award for carrying Watford’s midfield and helping them to secure another season of top-flight football.

A narrow survival in the end, and the Golden Boys will need to drastically improve next time round to survive. Perhaps a new manager will bring a fresh approach to the Hertfordshire club next year.

Hull City

League Position: 18th (Relegated) (PTS: 34, GD: -43)

Top Scorer: Robert Snodgrass (7) (Now at West Ham)

Player of the Season: Harry Maguire

Moment of the Season: A 4-2 win at home to Middlesbrough was about as good as it got for Hull this year.

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It’s not been a great year for Hull City. The season started badly with the departure of Steve Bruce, the club couldn’t sign the players it desperately needed, and they sold arguably their best two players in Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass.

The Tigers were actually top of the league for a time, after winning their first two games, but they were soon hit hard by reality. Hull’s goal difference speaks for itself, with the club conceding ten more goals than any other side this season. Despite this, Harry Maguire turned out some leading performances, and there was a sense of genuine hope when Marco Silva won two and drew one of his first five games in charge. Hull will do well to keep him on next year but the KCOM crowd may feel they’ve seen the last of the Portuguese. It will be just as crucial that Hull keep as much of their squad together as possible.

It will be tough on Humberside next year but I would still suspect that Hull City will be in amongst the Championship contenders, and making an immediate return to the Premier League.


League Position: 19th (Relegated) (PTS: 28, GD: -26)

Top Scorer: Álvaro Negredo (9)

Player of the Season: Ben Gibson

Moment of the Season: Boro fans didn’t have many goals to cheer, but a 3-0 win at home to Swansea was a rare highlight for the club.

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Not good from Middlesbrough this year. Goals came at a premium for the North Yorkshire club, scoring just twenty-seven goals all year. The majority of the burden fell on former Manchester City and Valencia striker Álvaro Negredo, but he never really got going.

Aitor Karanka was sacked in March, and his departure summed up Boro’s torrid season. Failure to convert draws into wins cost the club and as a result, they will now spend at least one season trying to fight for promotion back to the top.

Ben Gibson, who was arguably the best Middlesbrough had to offer, was drafted into Gareth Southgate’s England squad but will likely leave Middlesbrough, after stating he would depart should they succumb to relegation.

The Teesside team’s difficult campaign was summarised as they suffered relegation at the hands of Champions Chelsea, with Brad Guzan nutmegged three times in a 3-0 whitewash.

Not good enough from Boro who will need to have a re-think after an eye-opening season back in England’s top flight.


League Position: 20th (Relegated) (PTS: 24, GD: -40)

Top Scorer: Jermain Defoe (15)

Player of the Season: Jordan Pickford

Moment of the Season: Sunderland beat former manager Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace 4-0 at Selhurst Park.

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They say to save the best till last, but this is simply not true for Sunderland. Relegation has been calling the name of the Black Cats for many years now, and finally, the club has succumbed. There is nothing really to say about Sunderland’s last placed finish, except that they deserved it. Not enough effort, poor football and a genuine feeling that the players were quite simply lost at times, are just some of the reasons the club now find themselves in England’s second tier.

One player who has made a real fight of things this year is young Jordan Pickford, who wins Player of the Season for me, despite Jermain Defoe’s fifteen-goal haul. Called up to the senior England side this season, Pickford has ensured some form of damage limitation and without him, Sunderland may have finished even further behind the rest of the pack.

With regards to Jermain Defoe, who now finds himself re-joining former loan club Bournemouth, it has been a decent season for a striker stuck in a team lacking any sort of real quality.

With David Moyes now gone too Sunderland face a massive rebuilding job over the summer and it is likely to be a real uphill struggle to bounce straight back to the big time.

If you ask me, it could be a long time until we see the Black Cats back in the Premier League – sorry Sunderland fans.


Burnley 0-1 Manchester United: Three talking points from Turf Moor

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

Anthony Martial scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United recorded their third consecutive victory by seeing off Burnley at Turf Moor. In a game devoid of end-to-end entertainment, the Frenchman struck in the 54th minute when his right-footed shot found the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Burnley tried in vain to force a leveller but could not find a way past David de Gea, as their winless run extended to seven Premier League matches. United, meanwhile, have maintained their grip on second spot but remain 12 points drift of runaway leaders Manchester City. Here are three talking points…

United pass another away-day test

Despite rumours of unrest at Old Trafford, United are now unbeaten in eight Premier League matches. While their hopes of reeling in Manchester City may be remote, Jose Mourinho’s men are red-hot favourites to finish as runners-up. That would be a huge improvement on last season – their first under Mourinho – where United finished sixth. It was only their success in the Europa League that guaranteed them a place in the Champions League.

The Red Devils are definitely progressing and the expected arrival of Alexis Sanchez would give them another dimension. In particular, their away form will please Mourinho. This was United’s fifth victory in their past six Premier League games on their travels, a run that is helping to keep the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool at bay.

Burnley is a notoriously tricky place to visit, but United withstood the physical threat of the hosts and just about had enough to claim all three points.

Burnley are feeling the effects

When looking at the table, Burnley’s position appears to be very comfortable. In eighth place and with 34 points to their name, the Clarets are all but guaranteed to be playing Premier League football again next season. That would have been manager Sean Dyche’s priority and he can feel satisfied with the job he has done.

Nonetheless, this is a difficult period for Burnley, who have not tasted victory since they beat Stoke City on December 12. Scoring goals has been their biggest problem, having drawn a blank in four of their seven-game winless  run. The Clarets are not renowned as being free-scoring – they have found the net only 19 times this season – and rely on a solid defensive foundation.

Perhaps the exertions of their promising start have taken their toll on a settled side. The challenge for Dyche, who had been linked with the Everton job during the height of Burnley’s success, is to ensure his players do not fall into the trap of thinking they have nothing to play for.

Martial is making rapid progress

The Frenchman began the campaign out of favour at United, but he has regained his place in the side thanks to a series of consistent performances. His output has been productive, too. His goal against Burnley was his third in a row, taking him to 11 for the season. Allied to his seven assists, Martial is beginning to fulfil his immense potential.

He cut a frustrated figure at being kept out of the starting XI by Marcus Rashford – there was even speculation he might be on his way out of Old Trafford. But Martial said all the right things publicly and is no longer in the ‘supersub’ category. Competition for places will only intensify if and when Sanchez’s switch from Arsenal is completed.

But the former Monaco starlet should not fear the Chilean’s arrival, but relish it. He has proved he can be a trustworthy player for United. Like Luke Shaw, he is another to have benefited from some stern words from Mourinho, who will soon have an embarrassment of attacking riches to call upon.

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Manchester United 2-2 Burnley: Three talking points from Old Trafford



Photo: Reuters

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to strike deep into injury-time as Manchester United came from two goals down to salvage a dramatic point against Burnley at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

Going into the match with the chance to close the gap to Manchester City at the top of the table to ten points, the hosts got off to the worst possible start when Ashley Barnes poked home with just three minutes on the clock after a melee in the box.

And it went from bad to worse not long after when Steven Defour struck a superb free-kick out of the reach of David de Gea to leave the visitors dreaming of a first victory at Old Trafford since 1962.

Jose Mourinho rang the changes at half-time and it was Jesse Lingard who, just moments after missing a sitter from a yard out, hauled his side back into the match with a delicate back-heel finish.

United piled on the pressure as they went in search of an equaliser but they were met with typically determined defending by Burnley, until the ball dropped to Lingard in the second minute of time added on to fire home a shot into the corner and break Burnley hearts in the most dramatic of ways.

The result will do little to increase United’s title diminishing title hopes though, who now sit 12 points behind their rivals and have a game in hand against Newcastle United, whilst Burnley move to within a point of the top six.

United falter again as title drifts further away

For the second time in just a matter of days there was injury-time drama for Manchester United after substitute Jesse Lingard tucked home in the 92nd minute to salvage a late point for the hosts.

Whilst Boxing Day’s draw will leave a slightly better taste in the mouth than their one against Leicester City at the weekend as this time it was them who came from behind to claim a point right at the death, it does little to detract from the fact that the Premier League title is now all-but lost.

The gap between United and rivals Manchester City was reduced to 12 points on Tuesday but, considering City play a lowly Newcastle United later today, it’s likely to be up to a huge 15 points by Thursday morning.

Whilst Burnley were well-regimented and showed the defensive prowess that has become accustomed with Sean Dyche’s side this season, there was an all-too similar feeling of déjà vu from last season as the hosts failed to truly test Nick Pope despite amounting over 75% possession.

Jose Mourinho’s experiment with both Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic starting failed to produce any meaningful impact and, until Lingard’s intervention, they were staring an unlikely defeat in the face.

The Portuguese boss claimed post-match that there is ‘not enough’ funds being given to him to improve his squad – despite spending nearly £300million since taking over as manager – in comparison to Manchester City, but on the day there’s no debating they have the resources to beat a side like Burnley at home.

Surprise package Burnley continue to ruffle feathers

In a week that saw people tuck into turkey across the country for Christmas Day, Burnley continue to ruffle some feathers of their own after coming agonisingly close to claiming a first win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 55 years.

After being convincingly beaten by Tottenham at home last time out, it was the perfect response from the Clarets in a match that proved they have the temperament to battle with the best teams in the league.

It was arguably a classic snatch and grab performance from the visitors, taking their two chances from set-pieces with their only two shots on target of the game, but their fast start enabled them to soak up pressure inside their own half and get ten men behind the ball.

Whilst a point will come with mixed emotions due to the manner in which they were pegged back during injury-time, it maintained their mightily impressive run on the road against the top six sides.

This season Dyche’s side have already beaten Chelsea and drawn with Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United, picking up more points (six) than any other team in the Premier League so far.

Not many would have expected Burnley to be able to continue their fine start but, with over half of the campaign done and dusted, there’s a real possibility that they could achieve something miraculous this season, and the likes of Arsenal will now be nervously looking over their shoulders.

Lingard to the rescue as substitute continues purple patch

Whilst Manchester United may be in the midst of what some would call a ‘slump’ having won just two of their past five Premier League matches, one positive to come from their run is Jesse Lingard.

The 25-year-old has quietly gone about his business this season under the radar, slowly becoming one of the first names on Jose Mourinho’s team sheet and ousting the likes of Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford.

And after being a squad player for the best part of the last few seasons at Old Trafford, every now and then popping up with a vital goal – such as the FA Cup final winner in 2016 – he has suddenly taken his game to the next level as a result of playing in a more free, central role behind the strikers.

Deployed behind Romelu Lukaku his pace can turn defence into attack in an instance for United as shown against Watford and Arsenal, and it was his impact from the bench that earnt his side a point.

Some may question why he didn’t start considering his prolific recent form but he made up for lost time once introduced at half-time, producing a sublime back-heel flick into the far corner to reduce the home side’s arrears before being in the right place in the 92nd minute to fire a half-volley home.

It could have been an even better afternoon for the England international too had he not been denied from a yard out by Nick Pope but, on the day, his manager will be thankful for his exploits.

For a man that has rarely been spoken about as a future first-team player he’s certainly giving people something to think about, and his brace – the first to be made by a United substitute since 2015 – now means that he’s been involved in more goals this season (six goals, four assists) than the likes of Eden Hazard, Dele Alli and Alexis Sanchez, and that’s not bad company to keep.

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Three talking points as impressive Burnley downed Bournemouth

Rob Meech



Burnley climbed to sixth in the Premier League thanks to a thoroughly deserved 2-1 victory away to Bournemouth. Goals from Chris Wood and Robbie Brady either side of half-time put the Clarets on course for all three points. And although Joshua King halved the arrears 10 minutes from time, the Cherries could not force an equaliser as they slipped to their first defeat since October.

With their seventh win of the campaign, the Lancashire outfit have moved above Tottenham Hotspur in the table, while Bournemouth dropped to 15th after an off-colour performance. Here are three talking points to emerge from a bitterly cold evening at the Vitality Stadium.

Sean Dyche triumphs in battle of the English managers

This game was billed as a contest between two of the brightest young managers in England – and there was a clear victor. Burnley dominated the 90 minutes and perfectly executed Sean Dyche’s game-plan. They never let Bournemouth get a foothold on proceedings and capitalised on the break.

The Clarets are often described as a long-ball side and dull, but the football they produced was far superior to that of Bournemouth, who are renowned as an attractive team to watch. Meanwhile, Dyche’s opposite number Eddie Howe – celebrating his 40th birthday – was left scratching his head after his side’s insipid display.

The Cherries headed into this clash three games unbeaten, but the worrying signs that appeared during the goalless draw with Swansea at the weekend were magnified here. There was precious little creativity and too much sideways passing. Tellingly, the midfield two of Harry Arter and Andrew Surman were completely outnumbered and outplayed.

Burnley’s remarkable transformation on their travels

Much was written about Burnley’s poor away form last season, which was in stark contrast to their results at Turf Moor. But from the moment they shocked Premier League champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season, the Clarets have looked perfectly at ease on their travels.

This victory over Bournemouth followed wins against Everton and Southampton, as well as draws with Liverpool and Spurs. Burnley’s only away defeat came at table-topping Manchester City. These 14 points are double what they earned in the entirety of last season. It is a remarkable turnaround and testament to the work Dyche has done with his well-drilled squad.

Each player knows his own role inside out. In truth, they never looked in any trouble against Bournemouth once Wood had opened the scoring. On this evidence, it is no surprise to see Burnley riding high in the table – they are there on merit and will continue to succeed if taken lightly.

Goals are in short supply for timid Bournemouth

In their first two seasons in the Premier League, Bournemouth entertained audiences with goals aplenty at both ends of the pitch. The dramatic 4-3 victory over Liverpool and 3-3 draw against Everton spring to mind. This season though, excitement has been replaced with pragmatism.

The Cherries have become harder to beat, but the trade off has been that, despite the arrival of a striker of Jermain Defoe’s pedigree, they have found goals tougher to come by. Bournemouth have scored 12 times in 14 matches so far, with a third of those coming in the 4-0 thumping of Huddersfield Town earlier this month.

The challenge facing Howe is to get the best of both worlds. In a division as competitive and unforgiving as the Premier League, that is no easy task. But the consensus is, currently, the Cherries have compromised too much on the brand of football which has made them so watchable.

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