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Can Bournemouth continue to defy expectations in 2017/18?

Rob Meech

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Bournemouth

After surviving their first campaign of Premier League football against all odds, many observers expected AFC Bournemouth to suffer from the dreaded ‘second-season syndrome’.

It didn’t materialise. Under the stewardship of Eddie Howe, the Cherries finished in the dizzying heights of ninth place – closer to a European spot than the relegation zone. As a result, expectations have never been higher at the modest south coast club.

As they prepare to enter their third campaign in England’s top-flight, it is fair to claim that Bournemouth are now an established Premier League outfit, something that would have been unthinkable just a handful of years ago.

They may be small in stature, but the Cherries are big on ambition. This summer, they have smashed their transfer record with the £20 million signing of versatile Dutch defender Nathan Ake, who enjoyed a fruitful loan spell from Chelsea last season.

Also arriving from the reigning domestic champions for £10 million is goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, keen to play regular football having spent several years on the bench as Thibaut Courtois’ understudy.

If that wasn’t enough, Bournemouth have secured the services of Jermain Defoe on a free transfer from Sunderland. The 34-year-old, a current England international, put pen to paper on a three-year-deal at the Vitality Stadium. He is the most high-profile signing in the club’s history and is reunited with Howe, alongside whom he played for the Cherries as a teenager when he famously scored 10 league goals in successive games.

Howe has performed miracles at Bournemouth and the story of how he masterminded the club’s rise from the bottom of the Football League to the Premier League is well known. Strengthening the spine of the team was a priority and having landed his top three transfer targets, he will go into Saturday’s curtain-raiser at West Bromwich Albion with cause for real optimism.

Among Howe’s greatest strengths is his ability to keep his players on an even keel, in good times or bad. A top class man-manager, the 39-year-old always speaks with a calm authority. He has a very specific way of working, which has proved to be successful. Those who fully commit to his methods are rewarded, while those who don’t find themselves marginalised.

Joshua King is a perfect example of Howe’s skill for identifying, trusting and maximising talent.

Snapped up from Blackburn Rovers in 2015, for a fee of around £1 million which had been decided by a tribunal, he looked totally out of his depth and completely shorn of confidence during his initial appearances for Bournemouth. He was even dubbed by some fans as the worst player ever to wear the red-and-black shirt. But Howe had seen raw potential in the Norwegian and, over a period of time, unlocked and harnessed it.

King scored 16 Premier League goals last season and is arguably the first name on the team-sheet. His current value is estimated at £25 million and despite admiring glances from Tottenham Hotspur, as reported by the Telegraph, he is expected to remain at Bournemouth, who have no need or desire to sell. The secret to King’s transformation? Hard work on the training pitch.

Surely, not even Howe could have imagined that his squad would finish ninth last season. A by-product of success is growing expectations and the Bournemouth boss will manage them by insisting that, once again, avoiding relegation is all that matters.

As the elite clubs continue to splash an extraordinary amount of money on players, so the gulf between the top seven and the rest is likely to widen. For that reason, improving on last season in terms of league position would be monumental achievement. But then this is AFC Bournemouth – the football club that doesn’t follow the script.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Bournemouth

West Ham should bring Jermain Defoe back to East London

The 35-year-old made just 11 appearances in the league this season.

Josh Kerr

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Jermain Defoe
Photo: Getty Images

Despite a truly disappointing and underwhelming season for West Ham, the club managed to restore some pride when they finished the season with a 3-1 win over Everton at the London Stadium.

However, one result doesn’t shy away from a season of turmoil and rebellion from Hammers fans, as the club finished 13th with the toxic atmosphere in East London directed towards the owners.

The future is also uncertain for David Moyes but, if the Scotsman is to start thinking about potential transfers, the 55-year-old Scot should consider bringing former West Ham forward Jermain Defoe back to East London.

The 35-year-old hit 37 goals in 93 games for Sunderland before re-signing for Bournemouth on a free transfer last summer, a move that seemed a brilliant piece of business from the Cherries.

However, Defoe has been restricted to just 11 Premier League games this campaign, scoring just four goals. And, while the Englishman hasn’t hit the highs of last season, he is still a goalscoring threat to be reckoned with.

Despite Rangers being labelled the bookmaker’s favourites to sign the former Tottenham striker, according to Paddy Power, West Ham should definitely consider swooping for one of the Premier League’s ultimate poachers.

(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for Premier League)

West Ham have struggled with their forward options this season with Javier Hernández becoming frustrated on the bench, whilst Andy Carroll has also failed to hit the mark having struggled with injuries.

Defoe scored 18 goals during his time at Upton Park, quickly becoming a fans favourite, so should the Hammers bring back one of their former club heroes?

Considering Bournemouth have the likes of Joshua King and Callum Wilson in their forward line, they may be interested in offers for the 132-time Premier League scorer.

West Ham struggled for attacking firepower this term, with Marko Arnautovic largely relied upon upfront. Therefore, reinforcements are likely to arrive at the London Stadium during the summer.

When a player like Jermain Defoe shows even a slight sign of being unhappy, in this case, due to a lack of game time, it should then become the club-in-need’s priority to swoop.

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Bournemouth

Wolves must ensure Benik Afobe stays at Molineux next season

Josh Kerr

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Afobe
Photo: Getty Images

Wolves have secured their promotion to the Premier League in emphatic style. Registering 99 points as champions is a fantastic achievement for the Midlands side.

However, there is still business that needs attending to before returning to the promise lands of England’s top division.

Wolves striker and Bournemouth loanee Benik Afobe’s future is still undecided and the Wanderers have to act fast if they are to make the deal permanent.

According to the Birmingham Live, there are terms of their loan agreement with Bournemouth that state the club have until May 31st to decide on whether they will make the deal permanent.

The Bournemouth Echo have also reported that Wolves will get first choice as to whether they sign the £12 million-rated striker on a permanent deal.

Despite not being a regular feature in the Championship all season, Afobe still boasts six league goals from nine appearances proving he could have more to offer next season.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Also, considering his experience in the Premier League, the 25-year-old would be a useful addition as they prepare for life in the top flight.

Afobe endured a successful first spell at the Molineux Stadium before his move to Bournemouth, reported by BBC Sport to be in the region of £10 million.

His initial two years at the club saw 23 goals in 48 appearances and the former England under-21’s star quickly became a fan favourite before leaving for the Cherries in 2016.

He rejoined Wolves in the January window, on loan, leaving the striker “crying in his car with happiness”, according to BBC Sport.

The 6ft striker has 63 Premier League appearances under his belt, and for £12 million it is surely worth the expenditure to have Afobe leading in the dressing room next season.

The move would be ideal for both parties as Afobe has failed to establish himself as Bournemouth’s first choice striker, falling behind the likes of Joshua King, Callum Wilson and Jermaine Defoe in Eddie Howe’s side.

Wolves supporters were delighted to see their former hero return home, and with a full season ahead of him, Afobe could be the man to help fire the goals that could keep the Midlands outfit in the division next season.

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Bournemouth

Can Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe become Everton’s next ‘David Moyes’?

Eddie Howe could follow in the footsteps of former Toffees boss David Moyes.

Max Cohen

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Eddie Howe
Photo: Getty Images

On Wednesday night, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side were unlucky to fall to a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United, as the Premier League 11th ranked club gave the Red Devils a torrid time.

The remarkable success of the young English manager at Dean Court bears an uncanny resemblance to the career path of David Moyes. Just like Moyes, Howe would be a perfect fit at Goodison Park.

In 1998, Moyes began his managerial career at the tender age of 34 at Preston North End, who were then struggling at the foot of the third division of English football. The Scot proceeded to engineer a fantastic turnaround at the club, avoiding relegation in his first season and achieving promotion just two years later.

Moyes brought Preston within inches of promotion to the Premier League the very next season, but the Lilywhites were defeated in the play-off final by Bolton.

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League

(Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)

In 2002, the Merseyside club came knocking, signing Moyes in March with the club in the relegation dogfight. The Glaswegian kept the Toffees up that season, and the rest is history.

11 years at Goodison Park brought unprecedented success, with Champions League qualification, a string of top-seven finishes, and even finishing above dreaded rivals Liverpool on occasion.

Just like Moyes, Eddie Howe started his career in coaching in his early thirties, and has enjoyed immense success in lifting a lower-league club up the English league system.

Howe took over at Bournemouth when he was 31, steering them clear of the League 2 relegation places in 2009, gaining promotion to League 1 in 2010, going up to the Championship in 2014, and reaching the Premier League in 2015.

If anything, Howe has experienced more success than Moyes before joining Everton, as his Bournemouth side have tremendously overachieved in the top flight and look set to secure their Premier League status for the third consecutive year.

Everton would do well to acquire the services of the youthful English manager in the summer, as his arrival just might spark a similar revival to that of David Moyes.

With his incredible knack of getting the best out of his players, Howe would revitalise the Toffees and breath fresh life into a directionless club; just like the Scot did 16 years ago.

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