Written by Stephen Wright (@SWright_AFCB)
This article in print can be found in the first issue of Nerve Magazine, which you can pick up from around Talbot Campus.
AFC Bournemouth have got off to a good start to the 2018/19 Premier League season, sitting sixth in the table at the time of writing.
The current form will need to continue should their ambitions be greater than merely avoiding relegation again this season. Looking at their fixtures between now (after four league games played) and the end of 2018, if they were to win at home to every team outside the ‘big six’, draw against those sides away, and accept defeat against big six opposition, they would enter the new year on 25 points, setting them in good stead to finish the season strong.
Of course, football isn’t played on paper and there will be games the Cherries win away and lose at home that might go against expectations. Factor in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup (we’d love a good run in either), and it can seem foolish to set a points target.
Sometimes there’s more than just points on the line. Bragging rights will be at stake again when Bournemouth welcome Southampton on the 20th October. The Cherries can proudly claim to have been the best team on the South Coast for the last year or so, but Saints have won more of these head-to-head fixtures in recent times. It’s not the fiercest of rivalries, but it will only grow the longer these two sides remain in England’s top flight.
The key players who will be crucial to the Cherries’ success:
Nathan Ake remains Bournemouth’s strongest asset, and the Dutchman’s defensive capabilities (he’s always in the top ten list for clearances) as well as his goal-scoring potential from set-pieces make him vital to Cherries’ success once again.
Callum Wilson will be desperate to show off his goal-scoring form more consistently, having been struck with disruptive injuries over the last few campaigns. He’s the deadliest finisher Bournemouth have so keeping him fit could propel Bournemouth to a top ten finish come May.
We’ve seen little of new signings Diego Rico and Jefferson Lerma so far, but what we have seen suggests the latter could be the box-to-box defensive midfielder Eddie Howe has been crying out for years. Think of him as Bournemouth’s Naby Keita. Fingers crossed new recruit David Brooks can offer creative flair going forward too.
Ryan Fraser is one of the most under-appreciated players in the league; his pace, delivery and finishing is a threat to any defence in the division. Junior Stanislas should be similarly deadly going forward when he returns from injury.
We need to see more from Lewis Cook this year. The World Cup winning captain has certainly got bags of quality, but a few more goals to his game wouldn’t go amiss.
The same can be said for Jordan Ibe, who will be hopeful of adding to his goal tally this season after scoring his first Cherries goal in the emphatic 2-1 win over Arsenal in January.
If those key players can remain fit for the majority of the campaign, with the strength in depth added through Howe’s summer signings, it could be a very fruitful fourth season in the top tier for the Cherries.