Having succumbed to two 5-1 defeats in a row, followed by a derby defeat to Southampton, you can’t blame Eddie Howe for wondering where he could get some rest bite for his team. While the Man City was a lesson that the Cherries hoped to learn quickly from, the following defeat against Tottenham at home is what has suddenly put what AFC Bournemouth are trying to achieve this season into perspective.
It is okay for us fans to keep going to matches and enjoying the Premier League for all its splendour, but the manager has to come up with some solutions. I wonder how he can keep so calm under the pressure now that is building on him and his team. We all want to know where the next points are coming from and the longer the team goes without a result, the more the unconstructive voices can be heard. The only options open to Howe is to change things in one manner or another. It is clear that the Cherries are not defending well enough, and while you could always rely on having a fixture that was going to give a struggling team a chance in the lower divisions, there isn’t anywhere to turn in the top-flight.
The 37-year-old boss always says the right thing though during these kinds of periods. “It will make us stronger,” he defiantly announced after Man City’s dismantling of the Cherries. It may indeed prove the case that it does make his players become more aware of what they could do better. It reminds me of when I was told as a school child that when you play with better players it brings your game on. It’s just that, when playing against better teams, it does not do much for your confidence if you get a belting more weeks than not.
The way Bournemouth play is very much down to a rhythm. When they are hitting their stride they are a delight to watch and can string tremendous sequences of passes together. How you find that touch and style though, after being pulled apart for a few games, can’t be easy. It is almost like the players have forgotten what they have been taught and yet there are still four corner flags and two big goals at either end of the pitch, while the players still have the same shirts on. Of course, if the answers were simple to work out, then no team would suffer a winless run for more than a game, but such problems often just have to be worked through, until one day your side gets a bit of luck or a player does something brilliant to earn you the points. It’s clear the players are giving their all as we saw in the second half against Southampton, and this coming weekend’s game against Newcastle United could be the game that gets the Cherries on the move again.
AFC Bournemouth won’t mind how scrappy their next win is, even if it is a win that they don’t really deserve. The points have always been the all-important objective, and yet Howe is always mindful to state that his side will never abandon their principles no matter what the result. Is that naive or noble? I’d say neither. It shows a manager that knows he has built his team to withstand whatever is thrown at them and that he is well aware of what works for his team. Getting the players to believe that they can find their way out of difficulty is what he is looking for. They have the tools, but they have to go out and implement their strategy with better focus. I believe such a performance is coming.
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