Callum Wilson’s recent return from injury will aid the Cherries’ success this season, but a recently promoted side’s second term in the Premier League can often go one of two ways.
Teams will either fall short of survival, suffering from the infamous ‘second season syndrome’; QPR, Birmingham City, and Reading all acting as recent victims, or they will use the togetherness in their squad to build on the success in their debut season ala Swansea City.
Seven games in to the 2016/17 Premier League calendar, there’s enough evidence to warrant claims that AFC Bournemouth can achieve the latter this season.
Things are already looking rosier than last season as the Cherries are performing better than they were at this stage in their well-documented first season in the top division, albeit by a single point.
There are a number of factors for this short-term stability, perhaps none more predictable than the return of Callum Wilson.
The striker’s long-term knee injury last season, side-lining him for six months, was always going to be detrimental to Bournemouth’s chances. But having survived without relying on him, Wilson now adds the threat that fans – who saw him score 23 goals in Bournemouth’s promotion winning season (working out as a goal every other game) – know he can provide.
Having now made his return to first team action, Wilson has scored twice in the last four league games, already making him the club’s joint leading goal scorer with Joshua King.
Despite this, the fact that the top scorers are only sitting on two goals apiece after seven games is something that should be addressed.
It doesn’t take a genius to spot that Bournemouth haven’t been scoring bucket loads of goals this season, but so far a watertight defence has done enough to ensure that it doesn’t matter.
How long The Cherries can depend on their back five remains to be seen.
If there’s one thing Eddie Howe and his scouting network looked to improve on in the recent Summer transfer window it was strength in depth.
So far, it seems to be paying dividends. Jack Wilshere, who admittedly should have tucked away at least one goal in the game against Watford, has otherwise played well, showing off the creative spark we’ve seen from him during his time at Arsenal.
The Gunners saw Wilshere to be surplus to requirements, but Wenger’s loss could be Howe’s gain.
Whilst Howe recently suggested that there’s only a slim chance of the Cherries holding on to Wilshere at the end of his loan spell, the team will undoubtedly do what they can to make the most of his time in Dorset.
The hope is that Wilshere can provide the service that the likes of Wilson and King need to start scoring goals more regularly, whilst grabbing a few goals for himself from midfield.
Meanwhile, fellow Premier League signing Jordan Ibe is yet to impress when it matters.
He showed signs of what he is capable of in pre-season, finding the back of the net on more than one occasion, but hopefully that’s not the sign of a continuing trend.
At Liverpool, Ibe was always a player who played well in pre-season and less so in the more important fixtures.
Time will tell, but Bournemouth is certainly a club that can afford to have more patience with the youngster.
Of course, things aren’t going to be all plain sailing.
A recent defeat to a struggling West Ham side did enough to show that whilst Bournemouth are for the most part defensively sound, (conceding only once in the game against The Hammers and boasting the 5th best clean sheet record in the league) they had failed to find the net more than once in one game until their recent 2-2 draw against Watford, a game which they arguably should have won.
Nevertheless, with all that taken into account it would be surprising to see Bournemouth underperform during the remainder of this season.
The team has a strong group of players, but more importantly they are undoubtedly a team.
There aren’t many Premier League sides that can boast a group of players who have been together as long as a large selection of the Cherries’ roster have. The likes of Harry Arter, Simon Francis, and Andrew Surman all fought their way through the lower leagues before proving themselves capable in the big time.
Not to mention Eddie Howe; the man who has recently been mentioned in the same sentence as ‘the England job’.
Suffice it to say, there is a real sense of stability at AFC Bournemouth, the kind that isn’t often seen at a recently-promoted side.
The ability to fend off buyers of the seaside town’s best players (Wilson’s injury somewhat acting as a blessing in disguise perhaps), combined with Howe’s determination to get the best out of his players mean this season’s Bournemouth side should realistically be eyeing up a mid-table finish, but once you get to that stage, why not keep going?