Thursday, 23 March 2017

Missing Arter did not slow Cherries progress

One look at the team sheet last Saturday might have had a few fans fearing that AFCB were going to be stretched when the ever energetic Harry Arter was missing from the list. Still, there was no reason to get too stressed though as AFCB had an able and ready-made midfielder to do an excellent job and I'm among those who believe Dan Gosling should get more appearances than he does.
It's been good to Dan Gosling get some games. 
The job Gosling does often goes fairly unrecognised any yet he hardly ever disappoints. It was a compliment to how well he played that Arter was nit missed. Dan stuck his foot in to win challenges and was excellent in his passing. It showed a lot of what he was thinking as well when he saw a good shot from distance saved by Fabianski. He was gutted not to have scored and I tend to feel that he almost thinks he has to score to keep his place in the side.

While Edie Howe likes to play Surman and Arter when he can, there can't be much to choose between the three players. Eddie likes to play a system that sees Surman start moves off more often than not while Arter is the greyhound who chases down everything. But what we have with Gosling is an intelligent player that finds pockets of space and is usually available to take a pass. He reads the game very well and while he might not appear to dominate a game, he does influence the way others work around him and I thought some of the play with Adam Smith and Ryan Fraser was much more powerful when Dan also got involved.
In many ways, AFCB are really lucky to have such a talent to draw upon. He could fit into many Premier League sides and when you look at his stats it comes as a bit of a surprise that he has played in 23 games this season, 12 of which have been sub appearances. Last season it was 34 appearances and only six as sub. So I guess I might be on the right lines that Gosling has been used more sparingly than he might have this season.

In other news, I was sad that Ryan Fraser had a tight hamstring and did not make his full international debut for Scotland yesterday, but he has plenty of time to make his mark.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Bournemouth's back four stood up to the Swansea challenge

There was no place to hide for Bournemouth's back four against a Swansea City side looking to halt their slide back towards the relegation zone. Paul Clement was satisfied that the dead leg that Llorente had picked up against Hull City was fine to play on and Steve Cook and Simon Francis immediately knew when they looked at the team sheet that this would be a tough afternoon for them.

The Cherries find some defensive qualities.
The Swansea attack would also have Gylfie Sigurdsson on the wing and he was perhaps the most active player they had going forward, but even he had few chances to make Artur Boruc get his shirt dirty. The only reason for that was the excellent closing down by the Bournemouth players and their determination to stop the crosses coming in. The back four managed to keep the clean sheet in large part because Surman and Gosling were winning the second balls in midfield and along with Josh King they were excellent at robbing Swansea players of the ball.

There were still times when the heart missed a beat with Boruc and Steve Cook both going for the same ball and neither of them making a good contact with it. Why they don't always shout for the ball in such situations is staggering when most of us can remember to do that from the school yard. Still, AFCB had some luck in this game and there was also a real intent to keep a clean sheet.
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Some of Simon Francis' tackles did make me think that he was a second away from a yellow card or even a red if he was going to keep going in with his sliding tackles and the studs showing, but he managed to always win the ball which was just as well. Charlie Daniels and Adam Smith were also managing to press up field while getting back well when Swansea had a break on.  It all meant that Boruc only had to save a few shots from distance and it is hopeful that AFCB can continue to defend like this in future games.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Afobe and King are looking very strong together

The calls for Afobe and King to play together have been loud at times and while Callum Wilson has often had first nod, there is a message that is coming through from the pitch that the partnership of King and Afobe is a profitable one. The main reason I see for this is the work rate of Josh King who is like a busy bee in his desire to get on the ball to hurt teams.
Afobe was unfortunate not to have two goal to his name against Swansea.
I said last week that Afobe would score goals and Benik has been lacking in confidence, but will now see that his persistence is coming off. The first goal against Swansea was taken away from him because of the deflection, but just for him to see the ball hit the back of the net is the boost he needed. Benik did make himself available when AFCB had the ball in the box on the day and he might have done better with his finishing at times. The second goal though was extremely well taken as Benik had almost lost his balance, but kept his cool to aim at the foot of the far post.

It's the partnership that I'm particularly interested in. Josh King does not mind to play Benik in when he is on the last man and when he sees a killer pass he has made it as easy as he can for Benik. Benik himself has been concentrating more of hitting the target from what I can see and although the power is sometimes reduced in his shots, just making the keeper work is going to bring rewards in some games.

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With King playing in behind Afobe, there is the chance for King to come back and win balls in and around the midfield and he picks off players so well that it is probably King's strongest position. I have also said that Howe might consider that he needs to build the side around King if he is going to be the man that he always now looks to start. I see every need to get the best out of Josh and if that means playing Afobe in front of him in the number nine slot, then so be it. Of course, that is a hinderance for Jack Wilshere, but I also believe Eddie Howe has one eye on next season and what's best for the overall development of the team.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Back-to-back wins have made life more comfortable for the Cherries

The Premier League table certainly looks a lot more healthy for the Cherries than it did before their recent two home fixtures, but back-to-back wins for the first time in a year have propelled the Cherries back up the table to relatively safety. It is the home form that has been especially impressive this season, unlike in 2016/17 and the Cherries we must remember are still learning to play in this league and are gaining experience all the time.
The Cherries are on the move up the table.
There has been a good atmosphere at Dean Court and this must have helped the team. It was like a carnival on Saturday with the players from 1986/87 coming back to see the crowd acknowledge their involvement in getting the Cherries promoted some 30 years ago. It is today's players though that make the headlines these days and to see the sudden improvement in results is very satisfying as thoughts turn not to staying up but how many more points can the side get?
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It must have been baffling for Eddie Howe to ponder why the back-to-back wins just have not been coming in the last year. The fixtures are varied enough to provide times where you are not playing the top six every week, and no team faces a run of three or four away games in a row, so there is ample opportunity to build on results. It just hasn't happened though as the inconsistencies and individual errors have held the team back. 

Now there is a short break when AFCB can re-charge their batteries to see if they can go on a run, and while the first test will be a South Coast derby, this will add even more spice to the players' desire to keep the run going.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Afobe hits form to sink Swans 2-0

Match Report
18 March 2017
AFCB 2 v 0  Swansea City 
Attendance: 11,240
The teams are led out.
This was a vital victory in the Cherries' campaign and the 2-0 scoreline did not reflect how nervy and tight this match was, particularly in the first half an hour. Still, Swansea City found it hard to create any clear openings and when Benike Afobe saw his shot deflect off Alfie Mawson on the half hour, the Swans began to drop from their high pressing game. Bournemouth took an even firmer hold of the game in the second half when Afobe again broke through and on the angle slipped the second goal past an unprotected Fabianski. The Cherries could have made it an even bigger win, had Jack Wilshere hit his injury time shot to either side of the Swansea keeper, but the importance of the win was certainly noted by Eddie Howe and the players as they celebrated at what looks increasingly like a third season to come in the Premier League.


It's a six pointer all right.
What kind of Swansea would turn up?
The Cherries made an enforced change with Harry Arter unable to play a part in the game with his calf injury, so Andrew Surman started in midfield as his one-match suspension had been served. AFCB also had Lewis Cook brought into the subs bench ahead of his U20 England squad call up.

More pictures can be found on Match Day Gallery.





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Swansea sought any advantage they could by switching ends at the start, but it was the Cherries that had the early pressure with attacks coming down both wings. Josh King was the first to fire high and wide.

A Bournemouth corner soon followed but Fraser over hit his cross. Simon Francis managed to get caught in possession by Gylfi Sigurdsson and Swansea put a good free kick in that was only just to high for Alfie Mawson.

The Cherries were getting Ryan Fraser on the ball early and he took aim on nine minutes, hitting his shot narrowly wide of the left post.

Both teams were pressing high up and tried to force errors at the back. A quick Swansea throw for the right was headed on by Llorente and gave Sigurdsson a half volley chance that he hit too high.

Another attack from the right saw Francis win the ball back for the Cherries and Fraser put in a curling cross that Afobe headed just wide with a diving effort.

Swansea were defending well with their two lines and Surman at one stage had his arms up asking Bournemouth players to find space out wide, when they had all been sucked into the middle and he couldn't get a pass away. 

Referee Mike Dean was letting rather a lot of fouls go unpunished with any cards, and Gosling was on the end of a sharp challenge from Jordan Ayew. Steve Cook came forward and made a crafty chip for Daniels to chase but he just ran out of pitch before he could cross.

Adam Smith then made a foul on Swansea's left wing and the free kick almost brought the first goal, as Josh King's defensive header just skimmed past the far post with Boruc a bystander.

A corner for Swansea led to Tom Carroll having a shot blocked by Pugh and any calls for a penalty were waved away.

AFCB's first goal came after Gosling had had a shot blocked by Ki Sung-Yeung. King and Pugh made a good one-two and King was about to pick the ball up again, when Afobe took it off his toe and ran with it to the D when he hit a shot that deflected off Mawson and left Fabianski stranded as the ball past him to his left.

Swansea were down, but AFCB were giving them rather too much hope that the lead was fragile at times. Steve Cook and Artur Boruc went for the same ball and Boruc flattened Cook and had to quickly recover the ball that had escaped them both in Bournemouth's box. Cook was left rubbing his back, but the lack of communication between the two players was worrying.

Sigurddson then had a shot from 30 yards or more out that Boruc scrambled away to his right for a corner on 36 minutes. Ki Sung-Yueng finally made the referee get out his yellow cards after Fraser was sent flying. Adam Smith's free kick was fairly central following this, but he hit it right down the keeper's throat.
One up at the break.
The 1987 brigade.

Second Half
Swansea came out trying to get back on terms with the Cherries with an early cross from Sigurdsson missing everyone.

The Cherries started to get back on top though with a free kick for a foul on King. Gosling took a long shot that was saved well low down to Fabianski's right. 

Swansea brought on Luciano Narsingh on the right wing and subbed Ayew on 58 minutes. Bournemouth were in the passing groove now and King had a strong shot blocked before Fraser saw his shot low to the right well saved.

Gosling was winning a lot of the balls in midfield and Bournemouth would just release Smith and Fraser on the right who were having a lot of success. Fraser also put in a fabulous tackle coming back on Sigurdsson.

Gosling and Surman then gave a free kick away for fouling Tom Carroll. This was Sigurdsson range all right but he hit the five man wall, much to the delight of AFCB fans.


Ki Sung-Yueng had a shot was deflected for a corner. Boruc then punched the cross clear. Ki Sung-Yueng then found he was to be subbed for Wayne Routledge to play on the left wing as Sigurdsson was moved to the number 10 role, behind Llorente.

Narsingh was doing well on the right wing for the Swans, but Daniels was doing enough to stop his run for a corner. Swansea's pressure resulted in Steve Cook volleying clear before Francis had to head away. Luckily Carroll could not keep his shot on target from range.

Gosling made a good interception in the middle of the park that King took up and passed to Afobe and the Cherries' front man steamed in on the angle, from the right side of the box, and kept his feet to finish clinically in the left corner, off the post, to make it 2-0 on 72 minutes!

Routledge brought a save out of Boruc before Jack Wilshere was introduced to let Fraser come off. Jack immediately caused problems and was fouled by Cork who was carded. Then Wilshere got in around the back of the Swan's defence only for King to see his header saved at the foot of the far post. 

Llorente was subbed on 82 minutes for Borja Baston, but Swansea just couldn't make any headway against Bournemouth's defence.

In added on time it was a great run from Wilshere that had AFCB fans wondering if this was the moment when he would score, but he fired his shot right into Fabianski's mid-rift. Meanwhile, AFCB eat up time by introducing Gradel for Josh King and Jordan Ibe for Marc Pugh. But by the time Ibe got his first touch the final whistle blow.

We like that 2-0 - a rare clean sheet.
Gosling shakes Paul Clement's hand.
Summary
A super day for the Cherries. The mood had been good all afternoon with the anniversary of the 1987 promotion well served by a walkabout by the players of that year taking to the pitch at half time and they would have been delighted to see Bournemouth's present day Afobe strike well and effectively to earn AFCB three valuable points. But the big statement was the clean sheet and the back to back wins at home. It underlined just how well the back four played and how well they were protected by Dan Gosling. AFCB also had too much for Swansea going forward with Fraser and Smith doubling up well and Josh King bossing the play in and around the Swansea box. This was a very satisfying win as Swansea had tried very hard to get something from the game and AFCB had stood firm, something that they have not always done from winning positions in games.
What a big result.
Happy days!

AFCB

Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Fraser (Wilshere), Surman, Gosling, Pugh (Ibe),
King (Gradel), Afobe

Cherries' Subs
Allsop, B Smith, Cargill, L Cook, Wilshere, Ibe, Gradel

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 6, Smith 8, Francis 7, Cook 8, Daniels 7, Fraser 8, Surman 6, Gosling 8, Pugh 7,
King 8, Afobe 8

Swansea City
Fabianski, Fer, Fernandez, Mawson, Kingsley, Cork, J Ayew (Narsingh), Ki Sung-yueng (Routledge), Carroll, Sigurdsson, Llorente (Bastón)

Swansea City Subs
Roberts, Amat, Britton, Nordfeldt, Routledge, Narsingh, Bastón,

Ref Watch: Mike Dean - 5/10 not always kind to AFCB Dean had a reasonable game, even if the cards were a bit slow to come out and we know it's always hard to get many decisions from him.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Swansea will be the hardest game for AFCB so far in 2017


Don't think that AFCB have done all the hard work yet. Their next game against Swansea will be their most tricky game that they have faced in 2017 in my mind, as the need for both teams to get the points is bigger than ever. While AFCB have just beaten a team higher up in the league it is the lower half teams that are really scrapping for everything, and this game might not be pretty, but neither team can afford to lose at this stage of the season.
AFCB have to be ready for this massive game before the international break.
Swansea may be slightly weakened not only because they had a disappointing defeat against relegation rivals Hull City last week, but because they also suffered two injuries to key players in the first half with Angel Rangel and Fernando Llorente having to come off and Martin Olsson had to play on with his injury. Rangel is out for the season, while Kyle Naughton, the right back, is recovering from a hamstring pull that he had against Burnley. Can AFCB exploit these problems? Eddie Howe will have to consider what the injuries might mean to a Swansea side that is desperate to pick up points. Paul Clement has given Swansea fans fresh hope though and with Gylfi Sigurdsson on the pitch they always have a punchers chance of coming up with something special.

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Swansea have scored in four of their last five away games, but they have won just two of those games against Liverpool and Crystal Palace. Like AFCB, they tend to leave the back door open and this game has the likelihood of being quite a high scoring affair. Just like AFCB they also have eight wins now which is a tremendous recovery from where they were before the New Year. But if Llorente is not fit, the goals for Swansea may dry up a little. They can't play safe and while AFCB have been finding it hard to keep clean sheets, Swansea will not sit back. Wayne Routledge got himself into the scoring positions against
Hull City, even if he did not manage to put away his early chance - AFCB must be mindful of players like him.


The Swans will have highlighted this game as one in which they must pick up something. It is that prospect which might actually play into AFCB's hands if they can remain patient. UTCIAD.

Swansea Away Form
WWLLL

AFCB Home Form

DDLLW

You can also read some views I gave to Read Swansea and another piece on SOS Swansea before today's game.

Friday, 17 March 2017

How do the Cherries attack the rest of the season?

Eddie Howe has mixed up his starting 11 a bit since the injury to Callum Wilson, and he has had to find a balance at the back that forms a good basis for launching attacks. While we now have the back four that have played the most games together back in place, it is this stability that Howe will hope to keep until the end of the season if the Cherries good form is to continue.
Stability man - Andrew Surman.
Stability makes me think of another man in particular who missed the last match - Andrew Surman. Does Surman walk straight back into the side having been sent off at Man Utd's ground? Eddie won't have been pleased with the vice captain's second yellow and I can't say that Dan Gosling has done much wrong since filling in for Surman. It will be a matter of whether Howe sees the match against Swansea as one that will be easiest won with most of his regular starters on the pitch, or if he feels that those that have come in are best to stick with. 

No doubt Jack Wilshere is also now pressing for a midfield role and yet the option to play Afobe and King together has been a key ingredient of recent success. It is not that Afobe has been hot with his finishing, but it has meant that King has been able to find the spaces to exploit. As Charlie Nicholas recently said on SkySports - Afobe doesn't get in the areas that often to hurt teams. The good thing is that King has been doing this and scoring as well.
So Eddie has some options as to how he sees the best chance of gaining more points in the remaining games, but most of these decisions will be in midfield and in the forward lines. Lys Mousset is still looking like a lost sheep when he does get a few minutes and while it is good to see Max Gradel and Brad Smith making up the numbers on the bench, it's hard to see them getting many minutes.

I'd expect Jordan Ibe and Junior Stanislas to be pushing to get into the team after the international break, but by playing near enough the same players, such as Fraser and Pugh, it has been easier for AFCB to find their lost rhythm once again and maybe the side is still six months or more away from having players that can easily make more of an impact from the bench.


What I would like to see is what Eddie Howe is going to start thinking about is how this side progresses without Jack Wilshere? If Jack is not around next season then there is a big hole to fill and are Dan Gosling, Lewis Cook or Emerson Hyndman at Rangers getting enough exposure at present to fill Wilshere's boots when he departs? 

You can also read some views I gave to Read Swansea and another piece on SOS Swansea before Saturday's game.
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