It was about 72 minutes into Bournemouth’s first ever Premier League game where all of that early season optimism about the Cherries’ first Premier League ventures drained away, after Rudy Gestede powered a header home to give Villa a win on the South Coast.
Instead the optimism was replaced with a degree of frustration, disappointment and dread ahead of the forthcoming season.
Just focusing on that game alone, the Cherries will have been supremely frustrated by the afternoon’s events. They were the better side, dominated the game and made two or three gilt-edged chances that last season’s top scorer Calum Wilson squandered. The misses were punished as Villa went on to snatch the game from a set piece.
The result would’ve quashed a lot of optimism ahead of the new season, but it shouldn’t, as the Cherries have a real chance of staying up if they can get things right.
And for all the good things Eddie Howe has done at Bournemouth, he made a real mistake by only playing one of his new signings.
Whist it is nice and sentimental to stick with the players that got the Cherries up in the first place, surely it would have made more sense to play your best eleven, rather than leave some of your more threatening players on the bench, like Max Gradel, who came on later in the game and made a real impact off the bench?
I’m not saying that Howe should have put all of his new signings in, but two or three more would have been a stronger side and maybe would’ve been strong enough to beat Villa. Howe missed a trick there but, nonetheless, he will need to learn what his best team is quickly and get it out onto the pitch more often than not.
If he can do that, the Cherries have a good chance of staying up. They have a solid defence that kept an impressive 19 clean sheets in the Championship last season, but not only that, they are much better going forward and and scored over 100 goals last season, too.
Any side that did that in their previous season, even if it’s the league below, are still a good side and one that’s capable of at least staying up if they can chamge a few things in order to make the step up.
The things they need to do right is add Premier League experience, improve the squad and keep the spine and style that served them so well last season.
The Cherries have already done that by signing Sylvain Distin, who adds an abundance of Premier League know-how and experience, as well as adding players like Josh King and Max Gradel, both of which will improve Howe’s side.
And the final thing Howe must do is to keep the spine of his team in tact. It looks as if he will do that, which will ensure his side’s attacking style remains.
If Howe can get that right then Bournemouth have every chance of staying up.