Before Bournemouth played their first game of last season many saw their year as one in which to marvel at the fact that little Bournemouth were about to play at Old Trafford and Anfield. They weren’t supposed to actually be competitive.
Fast forward a year and Bournemouth have an exciting squad and an exciting manager.
Whilst no one would predict miracles, establishing themselves as a Premier League team doesn’t look beyond Eddie Howe’s team this season – though it’s certainly not a given.
No one expected miracles last season, but that’s almost exactly what we got.
Fifth from bottom is hardly a miracle by most standards, but the injuries Bournemouth suffered right at the beginning of the season meant a rethink was necessary only a month or so into the season.
Whilst it is impressive enough for a club like Bournemouth just to stay in the League, to do it with such a raft of injuries is seriously impressive.
Success this season will manifest itself as Bournemouth gearing up to play Premier League football this time next season.
Whilst Eddie Howe staying on for another season is a blessing, the squad is still one made up of improving players, rather than top quality players. Once again Bournemouth will have to be more than the sum of their parts if they’re to avoid relegation, not to mention the most dreaded alliterative cliche in English football, Second Season Syndrome.
Eddie Howe has been decisive in his approach to this season. Captain Tommy Elphick and rising star Matt Ritchie have both been offloaded, whilst Lewis Cook, Jordon Ibe and Lys Mousset have been brought in.
Eddie Howe is showing us a clear plan this summer: buy young, add to the squad, and develop the team together as a whole. Bournemouth will be a better team than they are now by the end of the season.
The key man could also be the man mentioned below in the make or break section: Tyrone Mings. The former Ipswich defender was bought last season to be a starter in the Cherries’ debut Premier League season – after all, he was the club’s record signing at that point.
Injury put paid to his season early on, however, and his recovery will be vital for Eddie Howe. With no centre backs added to the squad so far – only full backs – and with captain Tommy Elphick already departed, it looks like Eddie Howe will be relying on Mings in the centre of the second worst defence in last season’s Premier League.
After the injuries to key players at the start of last season, Bournemouth were forced to sign replacements in January. Whilst it was possibly an educated gamble at the time, given the financial uncertainty of relegation, that seems to have paid off now.
Max Gradel was one of Bournemouth’s best players at the start of last season, but with new signings like Benik Afobe and Lewis Grabban last January along with Jordon Ibe and Lys Mousset so far this summer, Gradel still needs to prove that he can be one of the starting attackers – a poor vein of form could easily see one of the promising youngsters take his place.