Written by Sam Greasley-Machin (@Greasley_Machin)
Second from bottom, winless in eight with seven losses in the process – it’s really not looking good for Bournemouth to say the least, and the impending doom of relegation to the second tier seems inevitable.
That is without change, the Cherries are bottom in terms of points since the last international break in December and look like a team already beaten and down.
Eddie Howe has done a magnificent job to say the least since taking the helm when the South Coast side were in League One, and an equally impressive job in the top flight until now.
What Howe has achieved is something only most managers can dream of and plenty of EFL fans will no doubt be envious of Bournemouth’s rise, but it’s beginning to fall apart.
Both Howe and Bournemouth have picked up plaudits for playing attractive football, thrilling spectators with their ‘gung ho’ approach, which has perhaps been a key factor in his downfall this year because it’s the ‘uglier’ side of football that is letting Bournemouth down.
Their performances look like a side that’s beaten with no fight, no desire and certainly not the defensive displays needed to remain in the Premier League.
The team is far from the side that came up in terms of personnel, the hunger and fight or die trying attitude absent from the side that was promoted. It’s a team lacking leadership, unity and most bizarrely a real goal threat.
To stand a chance, and it’s still a slim chance, of fortunes changing with five games to go, the Cherries need to bring in a manager that isn’t afraid to play more industrious football and bring some nastiness to the squad.
Sam Allardyce looks a good fit for that and currently being out of a job would be easy to bring in. The short lived England boss knows how to survive a relegation fight and pull off a miracle.
Perhaps more importantly, unlike Big Sam’s counterparts such as Alan Pardew or Tony Pulis, he has experience with bigger clubs like Everton, a club that Bournemouth no doubt aspired to match only a season or two ago.
Of course there’s no guarantee and switching managers will always be a gamble, especially at this point in the season, but as it stands it’s got to be worth a punt because this side is going down with Eddie Howe.
It certainly could be argued that it’s already too late, Watford’s dramatic comeback against Norwich heaps even more pressure on the Cherries with a four-point gap now separating them from safety. But a short run of form aided by the ‘new manager bounce’ and a different approach to tactics could still be enough to remain in the division. Unfortunately, that one win really doesn’t look like it will come under Howe, with chances to clamber out of trouble repeatedly missed over the past few weeks.
Norwich are already a team more or less relegated, with numerical confirmation required to seal their fate, and Aston Villa are still struggling for points despite West Ham and now Watford’s mini-revival.
For me, sacking Howe is a risk has got to be worth taking to stay in the division, the aforementioned ‘new manager bounce’ similar to that of Watford and Pearson earlier this campaign would surely be enough to keep them up, a short term goal that must be prioritised above all else.
On the other hand, should Bournemouth fail to remain in the first division and do switch manager they could find themselves in a tricky scenario. Certainly under Howe fans would have confidence that a swift return to the Premier League could be facilitated, but having an entirely new manager with no doubt a huge change in players over the summer could leave them in a predicament similar to Stoke and Huddersfield – stuck in the Championship with a constant rota of managers coming and going like so many clubs before them.
In that case, if the Bournemouth hierarchy really do believe they are down and out under Howe and wish to keep him, it might be better to remain with their current boss and begin prepping for the following season to return straight back to the top flight. Burnley represent a comparable club that have successfully accomplished this with Sean Dyche, and their are certainly parallels between Howe and Dyche’s respective tenures.
For now, Bournemouth’s aim has to be to remain in the Premier League, and in my opinion they must make one of their toughest choices to date and end their long running affiliation with Eddie Howe to stand any chance.