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Three things learnt from Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Bournemouth

Rob Meech

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Chelsea overcame a potential banana skin – and tightened their grip on top spot in the Premier League – with an impressive 3-1 victory at Bournemouth. The Blues’ advantage had been cut to four points following Tottenham Hotspur‘s thrashing of Watford earlier in the day, but they did not allow the pressure to affect them by making it back-to-back wins.

An own goal from Adam Smith set the visitors on their way before Eden Hazard added a second goal a few minutes later. Joshua King reduced the arrears before half-time with his 10th goal in 11 matches, but Marcos Alonso’s superb free-kick ensured the points travelled back to West London – ending the Cherries’ five-match unbeaten run in the process.

Here are three things we have learnt as Chelsea’s seemingly inexorable march to the title continued….

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Pressure not a problem for the champions elect

When Crystal Palace claimed a shock victory at Stamford Bridge last weekend, there appeared to be a chink in the Blues’ armour. But any hope their challengers had has been extinguished through back-to-back victories over Manchester City and Bournemouth. While the former may have presented a sterner test, the Cherries were no pushover. With Spurs having won their sixth straight Premier League match in the lunchtime kick-off, Chelsea could not afford to slip up at the Vitality Stadium.

Their first goal owed to a huge slice of luck, but from that moment on they never looked in serious trouble. They kept Bournemouth at bay when the home side threatened, and picked them off on the counter-attack. Eden Hazard, in particular, was the pick of the bunch. Even though Spurs are not throwing in the towel just yet, five more wins from their remaining seven fixtures will guarantee the title for Antonio Conte’s men. On this evidence, it seems a mere formality.

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King goes from strength to strength

The Norwegian striker cost Bournemouth in the region of £1 million when he joined the club from Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2015. It’s hard to estimate what his value is currently. King’s thunderbolt against Chelsea, which went in via a slight deflection, was his 13th of an impressive campaign. In the enforced absence of Callum Wilson due to injury, King has reveled in becoming Eddie Howe’s go-to frontman.

His partnership with Benik Afobe is also beginning to gel; both netted against Liverpool in midweek. King’s game is about so much more than goals, however. His work-rate is phenomenal and he runs defenders ragged with his movement. He has lightning pace and is deceptively strong. The 25-year-old gave David Luiz a torrid evening at the Vitality Stadium, underlining his rapid improvement as a Premier League footballer. The key for Bournemouth will be hanging on to him in the summer because he is certain to attract interest.

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Alonso has become a crucial component

Since joining Chelsea from Fiorentina for £24 million last summer, Alonso has become an influential figure at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s 3-5-2 formation demands a wing-back who can defend and attack – and the Spaniard has fitted the bill. He has the pace and stamina to carry out his manager’s instructions and, as he showed against Bournemouth, is a genuine threat from set pieces. Indeed, Alonso is something of a dead-ball specialist.

His 25-yard free-kick, which rubber-stamped Chelsea’ victory on the south coast, was delightful; managing to get the ball over the wall and down past Artur Boruc with no margin for error. It was his fifth Premier League goal of the season – the third highest by a defender. Alonso had previously spent time on loan at Sunderland and that experience of English football has served him well. He has certainly been an upgrade on Baba Rahman, who was unconvincing last term. He may still be underrated, but Alonso has been exceptional.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by indolivescore

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

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

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

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Eddie Howe
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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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Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook looks destined for a top-four club

The 21-year-old has been called up to Gareth Southgate’s squad as a reward for his recent form.

Rob Meech

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His form has largely gone under the radar, but Lewis Cook’s England call-up for the prestige friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy has brought him fully into the public consciousness.

The Bournemouth midfielder has been rewarded for his eye-catching performances since establishing himself as one of the first names on Eddie Howe’s team-sheet.

Keeping the likes of Harry Arter out of the starting XI, Cook has become a fans’ favourite at the Vitality Stadium.

With each appearance, the 21-year-old looks increasingly at home in the top-flight and is growing in maturity.

Cook had been enlisted as cover by Gareth Southgate during last November’s friendlies but didn’t feature. This time, however, he is in the 27-man squad on merit alone.

Despite being a newcomer, Cook has international pedigree.

He captained England at the Under-20 World Cup and followed Bobby Moore as only the second Englishman to lift a global trophy when the Three Lions defeated Venezuela in South Korea.

His progress has been tracked by Southgate, who wants to build a pathway from the age groups to the senior team.

It is a model that has proved successful in Germany, whose 2014 World Cup winners featured a nucleus of the dominant under-21 outfit.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Southgate has made it clear that, ideally, he wants to pick those who are performing regularly for their clubs.

With an increasingly shallow pool of players to choose from, this is not always possible.

But for the likes of Cook and James Tarkowski of Burnley, their call-ups are proof that you do not have to play for a so-called ‘big club’ to receive England recognition.

It gives hope to all those who harbour international ambitions.

Cook arrived in Dorset with high expectations after joining from Championship outfit Leeds United in the summer of 2016, but his maiden season was bedevilled by difficulties.

He lined up for his competitive debut in the 2016/17 Premier League curtain-raiser against Manchester United, only for a persistent ankle injury to sideline him for seven months.

He featured only sporadically at the back end of the campaign.

This season began similarly frustratingly for Cook, who failed to make the match-day squad for the opening fixtures.

However, he made his first Premier League start of the term against Leicester City last September and never looked back.

First, in partnership with Andrew Surman and latterly alongside Dan Gosling, it is no coincidence the Cherries’ revival has occurred with Cook at the heart of the action.

He has been instrumental in their improvement.

Cook’s style has been compared to Jack Wilshere, who spent last season on loan at Bournemouth.

Howe has credited the Arsenal man with aiding his protege’s development, culminating in this England selection.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Like Wilshere, Cook could not be described a prolific goalscorer. In fact, he has netted only two goals in 120 career appearances.

Where he shines is in possession of the football.

Linking defence with attack, Cook’s vision and ability to execute a pass are stand-out qualities. He rarely gives the ball away and always wants to move the play forward.

Occasionally he picks the wrong option, but at such a tender age mistakes are inevitable.

Despite the microscopic scrutiny involved in the top-flight, he can never be accused of hiding.

Cook always demands the ball from his team-mates, no matter how well he is playing.

Speculation has risen that Cook might be a target for some of the Premier League’s elite clubs, most notably Liverpool, who were reported to be targeting him to replace the Juventus-linked Emre Can.

Whether this interest materialises remains to be seen, but should Cook’s form continue then Howe may face a fight to keep his prized asset on the south coast.

There is little doubt from those who watch him regularly that Cook has the potential to reach the very top.

England recognition – and a spot at this summer’s World Cup – will only accelerate his rise.

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Junior Stanislas winner cliches Premier League survival for Bournemouth

The Cherries came from behind to beat West Brom on Saturday.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Bournemouth fought back from 1-0 down to secure a vital three points against West Bromwich Albion, as they took a huge step towards Premier League survival.

It wasn’t the best performance from the Cherries, but one player to standout was Junior Stanislas. The winger has been in good form during recent weeks and scored the winning goal on Saturday with a superb free-kick from range.

The 28-year-old is reaching the peak years of his career and he will want to be a regular starter in the top-flight. Bournemouth are a good fit for him, as there are no superstars and the team is greater than the sum of its parts. There are sprinklings of quality throughout and Stanislas is one of the players that can produce moments of brilliance on the pitch.

During the second half of the season, he has been one of the key attacking elements for Bournemouth. He has scored four goals in his last seven Premier League matches, but the one on Saturday was the most important of those as it was directly responsible for the win.

There were only minutes remaining and the chance came from a free-kick that was a long way out. Stanislas showed great confidence to take a shot and the resulting goal will go down as one of the best in his career to date.

(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

The overall performance from Stanislas was a positive one, as he worked hard and contributed in both halves of the pitch from the left wing. The 28-year-old completed two dribbles and made one key pass during the contest, while his pass completion rate was 80%.

He was effective in possession and rarely gave the ball away, which aided the team’s attacking play. In addition to his goal, the winger offered a threat for the entire game and had four attempts on goal. This was the joint-most of any player on the pitch.

Eddie Howe demands total commitment from his players and everyone is expected to contribute to the defensive effort. Stanislas certainly did that on Saturday as he completed both of his attempted tackles. It is important for the wingers to work back and help their full-backs in a 4-4-2 formation. Both Stanislas and Jordon Ibe did their bit for the team.

With their victory over West Brom, Bournemouth moved into the top ten of the Premier League and sit on 36 points. That should put an end to their relegation worries, as they are eight points clear of the bottom three with only seven matches left to play. Although the Cherries have been in the top-flight for three seasons now, it remains a huge achievement to stay in the division given the size of the club.

The success has been due to the team spirit and players stepping up to the highest level. Stanislas is a great example of that, as he has spent the majority of his career in the Football League. He helped Bournemouth get promoted and has continued to improve since the club arrived in the Premier League. Now he is one of the Cherries’ best players and moments like his goal on Saturday reflect that.

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