Written by Frankie Rudland (@RudlandFrankie)
Another weekend passes, and in tandem another chance for Bournemouth to propel themselves away from danger goes amiss.
Burnley were the latest team to condemn Howe’s side to defeat in a disastrous afternoon at Turf Moor, with the match dogged with VAR controversy.
Both Harry Wilson and Josh King had goals chalked off due to questionable handball decisions that were upheld by the video assistant referee.
In the absence of a legitimate effort making it past Nick Pope, Bournemouth’s goal tally remained on par with their accrued points at a meagre 26 for the season, just 2 more than Watford, who are the lowest scoring side in the top flight of English football.
Whilst the Cherries have never been renowned for their defensive solidity, they have historically had an attacking swagger to their game. Such an open and entertaining style has been the chief reason that both Bournemouth and Howe have amassed so many plaudits since their introduction to the Premier League.
However, regrettably Howe’s men have lost their way in front of goal, and the ‘we’ll score more than you’ game plan has been made redundant. But what went wrong, and how did a once potent force become toothless?
In short, almost everything possible. The talismanic David Brooks is yet to kick a ball this season as he continues his rehabilitation, whilst many others have joined the Welshman for stints on the treatment table as injuries continue to blight Bournemouth.
Even the players that are fighting fit are struggling to find last seasons rhythm. Ryan Fraser is on course to finish with less than half the assists that he did last term, with the Scotsman’s ongoing contract debacle a probably cause for such a nosedive in form.
Unfortunately Fraser’s dip in performance isn’t the only cause for concern for Howe, Callum Wilson and Josh King have also been off-piste. The usually reliable duo are currently sharing a humble 10-goal league tally between them, which by their standards is below par. This, coupled with a misfiring Dominic Solanke has often made for grim viewing for Howe and fans alike.
Yet unlike most in a similar predicament, the answer to Howe’s attacking woes could be at his fingertips. Academy prospect Sam Surridge impressed again on Friday night as he played a key role in Bournemouth U21’s Premier League Cup victory over fellow South Coast residents Southampton.
Surridge put in a fine all round display, setting up forgotten man Jordan Ibe to level the score to 2-2 after 85 minutes, before angling in a winner just moments later to secure the Cherries a place in the knockout stages in dramatic fashion.
It’s not the first time the youngster has shown an eye for goal in a cup competition either. The former Poole Town loanee almost sparked a late revival in the FA Cup against Arteta’s Arsenal back in January. Surridge calmly collected and distributed Simon Frances’ cross after coming on as a substitute to try and rescue a replay.
The Slough born striker displayed some of the attacking instinct that Swansea got a glimpse of in the first half of the season, with Surridge plundering 7 goals across all competitions for the Welsh outfit.
But since returning to the South Coast, the 6ft3 striker has made just one solitary appearance in the league, again being deployed as a substitute against Watford. Josh King’s return has since limited his opportunity with the first team squad further, with Solanke being Howe’s preferred back up option.
However, £19million man Solanke yet again drew a blank after coming on at Turf Moor. The former Liverpool forward has now been involved in 23 Premier League games without returning a single goal this season, which begs the question as to how long Surridge can be kept out of the Cherries side.
Howe himself stated on Friday that he is desperate for Bournemouth to produce Premier League players from their academy, and now may well be the time to blood the first one of them as goals will be needed to fight the drop amidst the Cherries hellish run of upcoming fixtures.
With no new faces coming through the door in January, the least the youngster will provide is a freshness to the squad. What else? Who knows – but if Surridge continues along his path of perpetual development, he could well be a hero in the making.