Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe will look for a solid defensive effort away against title hopefuls Liverpool.
The Reds have started to stutter in their pursuit of a first Premier League title, but the Cherries have consistency problems of their own as they look to consolidate a mid-table place.
Manager Howe said his team need to step up to get a result at Anfield. “There has been some great games [against Liverpool] going back historically for us. But the recent games have been tough examinations for us.
“I think Liverpool have really improved as a team since our early days in the Premier League. You can feel that when you play them.
“We need to learn from recent experiences against them. We need to learn the lessons of recent games and try and be more competitive. It’s going to be no different this weekend. A good game for us, an exciting challenge – and hopefully one can we can rise to.”
Asked whether his team can perform against any side in the Premier League, Howe was positive: “I think we’ve always proved we can put our game together against these teams and produce some really strong performances. The Chelsea result for us [a 4-0 win] was everything coming together with the result.”
He then touched on how inconsistent his side has been. After that momentous Chelsea result, Bournemouth went on to lose against strugglers Cardiff, which puts their entire season into perspective.
With that in mind, Howe told Nerve Sport: “There have been other games this season where I think we’ve performed really well and just missed out on the result that we wanted.
“We definitely have consistency issues this season. I think we started the season very strongly. But even in that strong start we had games where we dipped below what we’re truly capable of.
“You’re always going to have that during the season. I think the Chelsea and Cardiff games really epitomised an area we need to really improve. From the big high of Wednesday, a 4-0 win, to the low of a 2-0 defeat three days later with an unrecognisable performance. We’re going to have that put that right.”
“We need to defend better”
Howe then told Nerve Sport that that defensive effort will be crucial at Anfield. “If we put it all together and defend well, show that mentality and desire to defend our goal then I believe we’ll have moments in the game where we can show what we’re capable of.”
“We need to defend better. It’s an obvious statement, but we’ve proved we can do it in previous games.
“Against Chelsea we defended really well. We had to ride our luck a little bit at times in that first half. But we showed a great mentality to defend with all 11 players. We worked incredibly hard to keep them at bay and then we got our moments in the game.
“Similar is going to be needed again [against Liverpool]. We’re going to need all 11 players to defend our goal with real drive.”
Howe was also asked about incoming January transfers, given that the window has just shut.
The Cherries were the second-highest spenders in the Premier League, not typical for a team that does not usually do business in January.
Howe said: “We didn’t want to be big players in the window. It was reluctantly, really, due to the injury situation that we suffered. We had to act and we had to act early.
“We were very fortunate to be able to do some good bits of business – investing in young players for the future, and for the now. I’m really happy with what we’ve done.”
As far as team news goes, Howe is still missing key men up front. He said: “Callum Wilson and David Brooks are still out, possibly out for around four weeks now.
“We are waiting on a fitness test for Jefferson Lerma as well.”
Maybe those injuries will not be as key as his defensive misses – Nathaniel Clyne will be inegible for the match, while Simon Francis is a long-term injury.
Against a free-scoring side like Liverpool, the Cherries will have to repeat their midweek defensive stability to get any kind of result. And given their inconsistency, it is anyone’s guess what will happen.
The Cherries kick off at Anfield tomorrow, 9th February, at 3pm.
Written by Akshay Kulkarni (@ImpatientPedant)