Earning a place in the English top flight, the Premier League, was no mean feat for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth at the end of last season. However, although hiccups were anticipated, it could be proving too tall an order to retain dignity in such a division of giants.
Desperate to showcase their ambition to succeed and attack each game on full throttle, Tottenham Hotspur emerged onto the green turf of the Vitality Stadium on Sunday to run riot against Bournemouth. The fixture finished in a crushing 5-1 defeat to the home side, Bournemouth, casting doubts upon their place within the league, and whether they can retain their spot once more when the 2015/16 campaign is put to rest.
Although Spurs tallied a handsome five goals, the Cherries weren’t without decent attempts of their own; they just emerged the weaker club in many areas. So, in light of the weekend’s trampling, it’s worth a glance further into how Bournemouth might progress as the season continues, and whether they will grapple with relegation.
Sour Cherries for Bournemouth
Can Bournemouth Survive?
At this stage, with the Christmas period almost upon us, it is prime time to beg some questions. Firstly, is the problem solely that Bournemouth aren’t a strong enough side, or should their opposition’s gusto and calibre be considered? Bournemouth’s extensive list of injuries isn’t aiding their present performance either; should they be expected to play equally as well, with the likes of Callum Wilson, their leading striker, for instance, out with ailments? These are queries I will explore throughout, but the ultimate question remains: Can Bournemouth truly survive in the Premier League?
Meeting Spurs: What Went Wrong
Within the first minute of action, and probably that first minute only, Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs hadn’t quite gathered their thoughts or assembled their defensive line. Matt Ritchie was able to cash in on their dwindling structure in the box and net a goal within 60 seconds of play. Impressive indeed. This was simply good fortune deriving from shoddy defending. However, from that moment on, time dragged for Bournemouth as they watched Spurs soar past Simon Francis, Charlie Daniels and co. at almost every opportunity.
Artur Boruc, the Southampton loanee, was a shambles throughout – this is no understatement. His performance as a whole was wildly littered with errors, clumsy blocks and tackles, and he didn’t seem to compose himself at any point. In all honestly, this 90-minute dire display was tantamount to evidence that fellow south-coasters, Saints, had royally stitched Bournemouth up by loaning him until January.
Boruc showed an overall lack of strength and was wholly unreliable in goal, with flailing feet and a penchant for bad positioning. However, if Bournemouth’s defence had been watertight, the Pole would not have had to make so many attempts to block shots. Due to said scrappy defending, the home club left themselves vulnerable and totally open at several times.
So, at this point, it’s fair to say that Bournemouth aren’t a strong enough side to face whatever’s thrown/kicked at them. Fact.
However, underestimating their opponent’s tenacity and skill would also be an error; Spurs were the ideal opportunists on the day, and Harry Kane was able to terrorise Bournemouth repeatedly. Pochettino’s outfit took advantage of Boruc’s shambolic blocks and tackles, and so they did deserve to grab the 5-1 result.
Despite the many, many negatives, there did remain a handful of promising runs and shots in Hugo Lloris’ general direction. Matt Ritchie was pacing up the field whenever he could, with Charlie Daniels linking with Josh King to produce a very near call. The woodwork was the unfortunate obstruction denying the goal, but at least Bournemouth showed that they weren’t just trying to place one ball and not bother after that.
How Can Bournemouth Improve?
From the errors made by the Cherries on Sunday, it seems quite clear that they can’t assume full form from the general starting eleven that Eddie Howe selects. The trouble also stands that they are a squad riddled with prior injuries and, as mentioned earlier, their star player, Callum Wilson, is out. Perhaps their current situation suggests that they have solely relied upon Wilson to clean up, which indicates that they just won’t be tough enough to survive in the Premier League on that merit. By the time Wilson is fit and healthy enough to enter the pitch again, Bournemouth might have forfeited too many important points, so relegation isn’t a far cry.
However, there is still hope. Eddie Howe must regroup with his team and boost morale. Bournemouth must stop simply playing it Howe’s way and pushing forth with their typical style of football; they are the underdogs and they are being challenged, game-upon-game. Howe needs to be strategic with the starting eleven and adapt his line-up for each fixture, on the basis that each team in the division have certain players, tactics and tricks up their sleeves that must be counteracted by some sort of method that Bournemouth can employ. This is precisely how they can neutralise a threat, and must do so if they want to progress with a place in the league next season.
For now, though, feedback will be useful and they must build from there, as well as knowing that meeting new criteria each game is a must. Eddie Howe stated in the post-match interview that he understands Bournemouth “can’t give teams goals”; they must battle with opposing strikers and eradicate any chance of conceding, whilst making runs to achieve goals against the other team for their sake (quote via the interview screened on Match of the Day 2). Oh, and with Spurs’ crippling victory in mind, Artur Boruc simply must stop throwing his feet around.