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.
Bournemouth move may help to get Danny Ings’ career back on track
The past few seasons have been full of frustration for Liverpool centre-forward Danny Ings, with injury set-backs continually hampering his progress after derailing his Anfield career only months after it began. Now, it looks as though he may have a chance to revive it with a move to Bournemouth.
The 25-year-old has made only three starts in 2017/18 and even in a campaign where Liverpool were overloaded with fixtures thanks to a Champions League cup run, he barely featured and at times was below even youngster Dominic Solanke in the pecking order, casting an unfavourable forecast for his Anfield career.
That could make a season, or more, at Dean Court an appealing proposition. Ings has shown that even when he is struggling for fitness and game time, he is still an efficient finisher.
With pace and strength, he certainly fits into the tactical mould that Eddie Howe likes of his strikers, much like Callum Wilson, Josh King and Jermaine Defoe.
Given that there are reports from The Scottish Sun saying that Defoe may well be on his way out after a single season back at the club, and a disappointing one too, there could be a spot in the Cherries’ squad for a player like Ings to get the game time he needs.
Stagnation is a real risk for Ings career after such a promising few years at Burnley before moving to Liverpool and picking up two serious knee injuries, but if he can find form whilst with Bournemouth it could be his ticket back to the top of the game.
West Ham should bring Jermain Defoe back to East London
The 35-year-old made just 11 appearances in the league this season.
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.
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.
Wolves must ensure Benik Afobe stays at Molineux next season
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.
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.
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.