Thursday, 30 March 2017

What's the next step for AFCB?

This season has tested the Cherries perhaps more than last season in many ways, but if the Cherries stay up there will have to be a reckoning of how they can achieve even more in the coming seasons. I start to wonder what fans would be happy with now that the club has been battling in the Premier League and whether the initial pride and joy of just being apart of this fabulous league has been satisfied, or if the club can really deliver more for its fans that dare to ask what is the next level?
AFCB need to get more of their players up to high international quality to climb the table.

For the moment that next step up is probably a strong mid-table finish between 8-12 in the table. But looking at it from another angle it would be starting to not see wins against the top eight sides as totally unexpected and I already see that wins that have come against teams like Everton, West Ham and Leicester are games that are pleasing to win, but not so shocking that we don't think they can't happen again. In short, AFCB are starting to belong amongst such company and if they can maintain that on the pitch I do believe the club is already getting towards taking that next step.
The outward view of the club by fans all across the world is certainly now of a club that is friendly and can hold its own against some of the teams that have graced the Premier League for a much larger time. Much of the way the club is perceived is by how well Eddie Howe carries himself and there are probably elements where other aspects of the club need to catch up with his high standards. I am sure we all want some things to be better around Dean Court and while the club looks to work with organisations like the Cherries Trust and Fan groups on a regular basis, some of our views and suggestions will be taken on board.

I don't just think that it is on the pitch that things matter though. We have heard about problems over availability of places for disabled supporters, failures to meet FA anti-doping rules and I know the points system for games is a solution for ticketing that will continue to upset many. But not even Man Utd and Arsenal are clubs that run smoothly and they have plasters to stick over things when they don't quite work out as expected, just like AFCB. Getting to the next level will come with challenges and disappointments and yet if fans and the club keep striving for better, I don't see too many barriers to seeing it happen and we all know that the stadium is the big obstacle on the horizon, so I'm hoping for some good news about that this summer now that the decision not to stay at Dean Court will have started minds working towards something more fitting for the next level.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Can AFCB take Jordan Ibe's game on over the summer?

If fans thought that Jordan Ibe's £15m signing would see him be the player to light up AFCB's season and take them to a new level, they might have underestimated what the competition for wingers is like at the club. Jordan has not managed to move his game on that much yet since his move, but I imagine that this summer he will be one of the players that Eddie Howe will want to do some of the most work with. 
Ibe still has to find a way of releasing more of his talent on the pitch.
Jordan can improve I am sure ,and he has looked better in my opinion when he has come on as a second half sub. He became kind of used to seeing 60 minutes in games before being pulled before Christmas, but of late the form of others have kept him out of the limelight. He is the kind of player that would frustrate me as a manger, as you can see how easily he finds it to be a couple of players in a row, but then he loses his decision-making at the vital moment, when he either needs to play someone in, get a cross over or drive a powerful shot that is on target. It is the final part of Jordan's game that has to be worked on, and I imagine Steve Fletcher might be the coach that can start giving Ibe the confidence to try a few new things to add to his game.


While Steve Fletcher is a number nine in the old fashioned sense of the word, we have already heard how he has helped the defenders work better at defending set pieces, and I bet he has a few masterclasses on striking the ball that would be a boost to Ibe's game. We know Ibe is quick with his feet and an energetic player, but making him get his head in the right place and to think quickly when in that last third of the pitch is what he needs to gain. Steve Fletcher was an instinct player who usually chose the right decision near goal and I'd like to see Ibe see if he can pick things up from such people at the club who have been through tough goalscoring times.

Far from being disappointed with Ibe though, I see a player who may well reinvent himself in the coming months, and he may well feel that with 12 months under his belt at Bournemouth that he is finally going to find it easier to express his 'A game' on the pitch.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Is Tyrone Mings potentially the best defender on AFCB's books?

Tyrone has time on his side.
The enforced suspension of Tyrone Mings got me thinking about what we have seen this season of the defender and how good he just might become. In the early games he had that started with the FA Cup defeat to Millwall, he seemed a long way short of where he would need to be to really have an impact on the position of central defender in this team, but in just a few games we saw him not only get his tackles in and position himself better, he really started to command the defence and not too unlike Nathan Aké had done earlier in the season.

It may be premature to see Tyrone as the best defender at the club, but from what I have seen I would not be surprised if he does achieve that in the coming seasons. He was absolutely superb at Old Trafford and showed that he could handle a world-class attacker in Ibahimovic, and, leaving out the infamous foot on head incident, I liked the way that AFCB had a player that was prepared to battle to stop such a player have it all his own way.

You also notice with Tyrone that he talks to players when he is on the pitch. He is going to become a leader and will speak up if things are not being carried out to plan. While he has the highest price-tag of all the defenders at the club, he has not just slipped into the first 11. It has taken him some time having had a bad injury last season and a change of position. Eddie Howe clearly sees him as a versatile player when he was bought, but Tyrone now seems to like playing in central defence and it could be quite a battle come the last few matches as to who starts there and going into next season.

The other feature that I have enjoyed about Tyrone's game is his calmness when in possession. He really does not get overly stressed when being pressed and seems to enjoy the responsibility. I'd like to see the Cherries also explore the option of playing three at the back a bit more often, as I see Mings, Cook and Francis very able at playing that system. Eddie will have to decide who to leave out at times when he just plays two central defenders, but why not play all three in some games? Eddie also still has the option of Baily Cargill to come in and in future years, Baily and Tyrone could be the pick of AFCB's defenders as potentially they are the two that have the years ahead of them to progress the most.

Monday, 27 March 2017

How important is it for Lewis Cook to get game time now?

Injury and the use of Jack Wilshere this season has perhaps mean tat we have not seen as much of Lewis Cook as we might have. Lewis was great in pre-season last summer and it was a bit of a shock that he did not get a good run in the team and came back from an England U21 international with an ankle injury. Since then, it has been a real struggle for him to get up to the level that would see him included in match day squads, but we saw him again as an unused sub for the Swansea City game and the likelihood is that we may just see him get some time playing before the end of the season.
Lewis Cook has been rarely seen at Dean Court.
That possibility may depend largely on whether there are injuries or suspensions to other central midfielders, but when Surman, Arter and Wilshere start games there is a good chance that both Gosling and Lewis Cook would find a place on the bench. Finding time for Lewis though I think is crucial for him now. He has missed most of the season and he is not going to be taking his game on if he does not get some time now. It is all the more important if you consider what AFCB may have in terms of central midfielders next season. Will Emerson Hyndman be pushing for a regular place? Will Jack Wilshere no longer be at the club and does Lewis Cook have to get ahead of Dan Gosling?


The difficulty I see or Lewis is that he has not yet been given the chance to build a partnership with any other midfield player in the centre of the park. Would he be best playing with Arter or Surman or could he even be filling the place where Jack Wilshere has been involved this season? Lewis would need to be played in a few of games to really see what he can do in the Premier League and I'm like many who would not mind him being given a game or two if there is a chance to do this.

Eddie usually plays safe in picking his team and is perhaps now going to try and keep the two up front option going for a while, and with Jack Wilshere not sneaking into the team at the moment, this makes it hard for Lewis to even do some stretches on the touchline, let alone get on the pitch. 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

What does the team's change of fortunes say about the Cherries?

The draw against Man Utd has revitalised the team and the treatment of Tyrone Mings by the FA has only pulled the squad closer together. There is a great belief that the Cherries can climb higher in the league and it tells me that the lads are enjoying their football and will probably be disappointed in some ways when the season comes to a close, even if they will look forward to a few weeks off.
Eddie Howe has found the solutions to pull AFCB out of its dip.
Being in the Premier League is all about improvement. Eddie Howe gave a great interview on BBC's Football Focus last weekend that explained how much he sees his job as getting improvements in every aspect of the club. So when the lows come and the wins seem a million miles away, I look at Eddie and try to work out how he is going to turn things around. He admitted that he sees his job as a task of finding solutions, whether in training or how he approaches a subject with the players and being brave and confident in what he is doing I believe rubs off on his players.


The fans might have been panicking a little, when the points had dried up in January and February, but it is clear that Eddie turned this around in his mind as a chance to find some new ways of getting better performances from his players. He has had to switch and mix and match when it has come to his centre-backs, and I think this is a major reason for why the team suffered such a tough period at the start of 2017. Having a regular starting 11 makes all the difference. Like Leicester City last season, they hardly had to use more than about 15 players all season. If players keep injury-free and out of suspension, it is a good basis for having a good season.

Now, AFCB's fortunes look much more rosy. But they are still the same squad, it is just that the balance and the rhythm of the team has hit a new and higher level which is bringing results again. I do believe AFCB also have a very honest set of players who can operate at levels that are as high as any of the teams in the Premier league on their day, and it is trying to keep these peak periods going for longer that Howe will have to try and get to grips with in future seasons - future seasons that we hope are in the Premier League.  

In other news - Emerson Hyndman has been nominated as Rangers' young player of the season just two-months after joining them on loan from AFCB.

Eddie Howe is among the six contenders for Manager of the Month - vote here!

Josh King and Artur Boruc are also in contention for Player of the Month - vote here!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Wilshere's period on the bench will benefit him and AFCB

There were probably a few surprised glances to see Jack Wilshere kept on the bench for the third game in a row last weekend. Rio Ferdinand for one was quick to say, Jack didn't come to Bournemouth just to sit on the bench, but the strength of the Cherries squad does not give Jack an automatic place when he himself is recovering from an ankle knock, and Eddie Howe is mindful that Jack has to be more careful than most when he needs to work his way back to full match fitness.

Jack's not an automatic starter, especially when he has been carrying an injury.
I am beginning to like some of the comments that Jack has been making about his fondness for the team at AFCB and his continued enjoyment of Dean Court and the opportunity he has been given. Jack certainly has not been outwardly moaning or saying anything about his absence from the starting line ups, and he would find it hard to argue about in in any case with the Cherries taking seven points out of their last nine available points. 

I do see that Jack has become very good for the team in coming on late in the second half when both West Ham and Swansea were pushing the Cherries back and the side was coming under pressure. He was a great release valve if you like, taking the ball back up the pitch and importantly, keeping hold of possession. That is his experience and talent being used to benefit the side, and while Jack might hope to play more minutes, when it comes to getting the best out of the team we have to remember that some of the other players have been together for a long time now. It's hard for Jack to pick up  everything that Eddie Howe wants him to do immediately, and I think there is a good balance to the side at the moment and the opposition is made to think twice when they see Jack coming on late on in a game for Bournemouth. 
The other point is that Jack will be eager to do his utmost to get back into the side and we have seen him raise his game in the last few sub appearances. At some point, I'm sure Eddie will give him another start, but the standards that are being set by Wilshere's team-mates is very high at the moment and the King-Afobe partnership is working well, so there should be no hurry to change things at this point.

At least with no England call up Jack can spend a bit more time with the Bournemouth squad and the more he likes being with his team-mates, the better I'm sure he will play with the Cherries.

Eddie Howe is among the six contenders for Manager of the Month - vote here!
Josh King and Artur Boruc are also in contention for Player of the Month - vote here!

Friday, 24 March 2017

How high can the Cherries finish?

The test now for the Cherries is to finish as high as they can to gain funds for development of the squad and facilities at the club. If we look back to last season and see where the team was as we came round to the first match in April, the Cherries had already played 32 games and were considered safe with 38 points, but this season the matches are slightly behind with 29 games played. AFCB might wish to beat last season's total of 42 points, but is it realistic for the Cherries to gain another 10 points?
The Cherries still need a few more points.
Well if AFCB stay on their current course of gaining an average of about a point per game they will just scrape about 10 points to give them a total of 43 points! Would that be considered  good value for what was spent last summer? Some would say it is hardly progress but more like stagnation, and yet I think the second season was always going to be more difficult as teams would know much more about how Eddie Howe[s team likes to attack. Of course the Cherries have not got the points they need yet and any forecast of where the Cherries might finish is just that. However, the total is unlikely to be much different from last season and yet I'd expect most fans to accept that as being acceptable, even if not as good as we might all like.
Broom Hill Garden Buildings

The Premier league finances though are given out to final position places and whether a low 40s point score will get the Cherries a better finish than the 16th place of last season is quite possible. At the moment they sit in 11th with only Leicester and Watford with a game in hand that could see them overtake the Cherries. So with five points ahead of 16th placed Crystal Palace, the Cherries go into their last batch of fixtures knowing that they can reach some of their pre-season targets. At this stage of the campaign I'd say that is pretty good that they are still in sight of those aims.

The upcoming fixtures may be the hardest run of games that the Cherries have had and yet it is the lower positioned clubs that have been harder for the Cherries to get points from and AFCB will need a good run in April if they are to beat expectations and end the season in top half - that would be something worth celebrating in my view.