This week AFC Bournemouth will travel to Swansea to play the Welsh team at the Liberty Stadium. As a spectacle, the match should be one of the most inviting to watch in the Premier League with two strong passing sides trying to impose their dominance on the pitch, yet the pressure of finding points hard to come by may mean that both teams have to play with some caution on what could become a tense occasion.
Both Garry Monk and Eddie Howe are seen as great young British bosses that might go higher in the game at both club level and perhaps even international management. They play ‘the right way’, and yet neither of their teams have had the kind of start that they would have wanted to this season. The clubs are only a few points apart in the table but the gulf between them is enormous, in terms of player transfer costs, top-flight experience and fan base. But none of that will really matter on the day to the 22 players who take to the field – it’s all about getting a win and the pressure is on.
The Cherries are still trying to play with their clever patient build-ups and strong wing play. Howe has often said that his template for growing AFC Bournemouth is to emulate Swansea. It was not that long ago that they were the Premier League’s new boys, but they are now well established and have not changed their philosophy under Monk, even when he took over from Michael Laudrup. It has served them well. The Swans pass the ball as well as any team in the league. But now Monk is being asked the question of whether he can turn his team’s form around and how quickly, as a defeat against a struggling Bournemouth side would cause major alarm bells to start ringing, if they aren’t already.
That sound is already being heard at Dean Court after the recent defeat against a Newcastle team that barely mustered an offensive shot against Adam Federici. Still, it was a defeat for Howe’s men and they have to start finding a way to win. That will mean passing the ball better and retaining possession better and using it to greater effect. To do that against a team like Swansea is a real challenge.
It is a big match for Eddie Howe. The club has just announced Peak6 as its new US minority shareholders and they will want to see the south coast outfit start to pick up more points as soon as possible. He’ll see it as a chance for a new start, and a positive result would give his fans hope that the side are just beginning to adapt to life with the big boys.
While the passing game is likely to survive for Swansea and Bournemouth, there comes a point in a season where lessons have to be learned. This could be the turning point for one of these teams, where they do start addressing some of the frailties of the past and start believing in their passing game once more. The Liberty Stadium is used to seeing free-flowing football, but it will be intriguing to see which side is more under pressure and which is the ultimate pass master.
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