AFC Bournemouth slipped to 19th in the Premier League following their 3-0 home humbling by the Hornets on Sunday, a ninth defeat in their past 11 top-flight fixtures. Cherries were highly criticised for the first goal they conceded against Watford, when a short goal-kick from Mark Travers was intercepted, before Abdoulaye Doucoure tucked in.
Is it the case of an aging married couple who are happy to show to world how much they are happy together yet inside they don’t have much choice but to continue as they have grown past the matrimonial. Howe’s work on the south coast will forever be lauded by fans of Bournemouth and he will go down in history as the biggest legend the club has seen, that is a fact. But do both club and manager have options to prevent a free fall and dire straits they are in ??
When Eddie Howe was at a high…
There was a point when top clubs were vying with each other to attract Eddie Howe as his project at Bournemouth seemed to have reached at top. Arsenal was in need of Arsene Wenger’s legacy and Howe had proved his style, class and integrity matched with the legendary manager instead of Unai Emery. North London was a whole lot closer than the North West of England so homesickness would not have come as a reason to not leave the club.
And not too long ago, Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe revealed his love of Everton – and his dream of watching the Blues at Goodison. With Roberto Martinez’s position under scrutiny, Howe has been one of the names touted as a potential replacement after keeping the South Coast side up in their first season of top-flight football.
Eddie Howe said “I remember my first football being one of those plastic ones which had all the names of the Division One teams in it,” he said. “You would spot them all and I was an Everton fan growing up, so I would always look for them when I picked up the ball. I was a passionate Everton fan as a kid. I lived near Watford – born in Amersham, raised in Chesham – so I used to watch Watford.”
And then came Manchester United victory…
Joshua King’s dazzling strike sealed the spoils for the Dorset club on November 2nd 2019 to pick up their fourth league win of the campaign with a 1-0 success over the 20-time English champions. Cherries had gone 351 minutes without conceding after recording their third successive clean sheet. Something had changed about Bournemouth which was hidden in that victory. Eddie Howe sides were always known for attacking football and leaking some goals at the back. Was that a case of lucky victory over inconsistent opponents with creative deficiencies hidden ?
Tailspin and lack of goals…
Unusually for Bournemouth, they stopped posing any attacking threat, even after Howe brings on substitutions and striker partnership’s e.g. Callum Wilson to partner Josh King etc. In some matches, Howe’s team failed to record a single shot on target. It started appearing they were playing with no ambition, end product or goals to achieve . In games against top clubs, Bournemouth had so little of the ball their players must have felt like training cones.
Offensively, despite the likes of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser, Harry Wilson and Josh King at their disposal, things look insipid. Bournemouth have scored fewer league goals than Burnley, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa. Furthermore, they rank low on shots per game. Callum Wilson and King have been inconsistent, while fellow striker Dominic Solanke has failed to score this campaign.
Eddie Howe struggling for solutions …
Cracks have shown in a team that is suffering at both ends of the pitch under Howe. The struggles in front of goal for Bournemouth seem to be stemming from the lack of creativity in midfield. The reluctance to purchase a creative midfielder is now being seen as a missed opportunity but the absence of 22-year-old David Brooks cannot be underestimated, either. The Welshman is yet to feature in the league this season after damaging ankle ligaments in the summer and his attacking exploits from midfield are being badly missed – he scored seven league goals and provided five assists during his debut Premier League campaign in 2018/19. As a result, the reliance on Harry Wilson, the club’s top scorer, has increased considerably.
Defensively, there are issues, too. Bournemouth’s defence is receiving little protection from the midfield. Jefferson Lerma, signed for £25 million last year to be the shield in the centre, has been ill-disciplined and inconsistent. No Premier League player has picked up more yellow cards (seven) than the Colombian.
Eddie Howe has rightly earned many plaudits, not just for taking Bournemouth from the depths of League Two to the Premier League, but for the way he has done it. His belief in playing a smooth passing game and getting the best out of his squad, despite a relatively limited budget, has been the catalyst behind the Cherries becoming a stable Premier League club.
Yet, the concern is that there seems to be no Plan B or solution from Eddie Howe for current problems. Bournemouth are lacking in pragmatism and failing to turn their high possession-based game into one that creates chances regularly. Consequently, opposition sides are doing their homework and exploiting weaknesses in their system.
To conclude, will solution be firing Eddie Howe and will Bournemouth take it …
It is said that Eddie Howe has earned the right to take Bournemouth down from the Premier League should the worst thing happen and they be relegated this season. For Bournemouth fans relegation, of course, is not the worst thing given this is a club that was staring at what Howe himself called, in an interview with Telegraph Sport a little over three years ago, “oblivion” as they were 91st in the Football League and heading for demotion and probably liquidation when he took over. He, quite literally, saved them.
It would be a huge shock if Bournemouth did part company with Howe, still just 42, whose contract at the club runs until the end of next season but there may come a point in the next month when the question is asked as to whether the greater duty is to try and preserve Premier League status rather than stay loyal to the man who they owe everything to but is on the worst run of his career?