The Cherries had lost just 4 of their 21 league games as the end of the January transfer window approached. Having lost key players 12 months ago it was a different time for Cherries fans, with the co-owners investing in the squad this time around. In came tricky midfielder Donal McDermott and one of the most wanted lower league strikers Matt Tubbs. These are two very good signings on paper, but were they good signings in relation to the balance of the squad?
AFC Bournemouth had been playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, due to the creative ability and lack of strikers. Wes Thomas made the front man spot his own and scored some 9 goals in 15 games, looking very confident in doing so. The Cherries already had Scott Malone who had moved to the left side of midfield before his injury and Marc Pugh a right footed left midfielder who was playing on the right. The three in midfield were a mixture of defensive and creative players. This was working for them as the side went 11 matches unbeaten on the road.
With a mixture of injuries and added personnel, the Cherries have changed to a more orthodox 4-4-2 with new signing Matt Tubbs joining up with former team mate Wes Thomas and Donal McDermott slotting on the right for the injured Wes Fogden. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it isn’t working. The signing of McDermott has seen some added craft and guile to the side, but an orthodox or wide midfielder he is not. Often the right back is left exposed or if someone covers then gaps in the central midfield start appearing. With the cultured player liking to come in on his left foot it leaves a lack of an outlet which The Cherries lost when Liam Feeney moved to Millwall.
With Matt Tubbs arrival, the Cherries lost Michael Symes on loan to Rochdale as the forward wanted game time. Symes is a good player at this level and it is a blow to lose a striker like that. It has left the Cherries reliant on the aging Steve Fletcher and a young Jayden Stockley to change games. Also the understanding between Symes and Thomas was good and they both worked well together or on their own. Wes Thomas also looks to have been affected by the signing, he was a big fish, a crowd favourite and the top dog at the club. Spending a large fee on a decent goalscorer seems to have affected him and he actually seems to be intimidated playing with Tubbs. An opportunity came in the final moments against MK Dons that had it been a couple of months ago, Wes Thomas would have put away with his eyes closed. At the moment he looks a shadow of the player. However, after spending that amount of money, Lee Bradbury will persist with Tubbs and Thomas.
Lastly, we come to the formation. In a 4-4-2 the Cherries are missing a midfield Dynamo, someone that is tough tackling and will drive the side and bring excitement that gets the fans going. Marvin Bartley went to Burnley, Anton Robinson to Huddersfield and Danny Hollands to Charlton. This kind of player has not been replaced, yet. Recently the Cherries signed Miles Addison on loan from Derby, could he be the missing link that brings all of this together. At the moment he is playing centre back while Steve Cook is injured, but once Cook is back, I think Addison will be moved into the middle. This could change the Cherries season, but it may just be too much for this year.
One frustrating thing is fans expectations. Going to games is a horrible experience at the moment. The crowd are on the teams back very quickly and feel there should be some divine right to win. Teams come to Dean Court and defend and we do not have the quality to break them down. Also, we have been adding and removing players all season that the squad has never settled.
The January arrivals haven’t bedded in yet and it would be harsh to make a full judgement after five games, but after a poor start to the season, losing three games on the bounce wasn’t something AFC Bournemouth could afford, especially with a run of Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday, Carlisle and Brentford coming up. The squad lacks balance and understanding as well as any steel to the side. It lacks the ability to break through teams that sit and defend. The recent signings are good signings at this level, but do they fit into the way the side have been playing. No. 3 defeats in five games since their arrivals would suggest something is wrong. However, the Cherries still sit five points off of the Play Offs despite only one win in six. I wouldn’t write them off though, because once they click they could be a force and maybe with a full pre-season under their belt, AFC Bournemouth could be a side to watch out for next season.
By AFC Bournemouth blogger Adrian Lee