Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Ninth is something to be celebrated

There are few indications at the start of the season to really gauge where your team is going to finish if you are not a regular tip four team. AFCB stated their last campaign with the simple intention of improving on their first Premier League season and they managed that with a degree of comfort in the end.
AFCB's best ever league position was won through hard
work and real desire to beat all previous club records. 
It is not just the number of 9th that will please the owners and Eddie Howe, it is the team that finished below them – the Stokes, West Brom's and West Ham's who are seen as established sides in the division who could not match what the Cherries did in the end. While AFCB are not seen as a big club, there will be a few regular columnists who will see AFC in a different light now. They have finished in the top half and there are only a few positions now between the middle placed teams and the European competitions. It seems strange that Simon Francis should even be talking about Europe in the same sentence as AFCB but the Cherries will now see that as a realistic possibility of they can sign the right players over the summer and kick on again.


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While AFC are seen as an attacking team it is important to note that they let in 57 goals, exactly the same as last season while scoring 10 more goals than in 2015/16. That meant a finish of seven places higher, but how many places could the Cherries grab if they cut the goals against by 10 goals? That is where it is that Eddie Howe should be looking but to replace the likes of Daniels. Cook, Francis and Adam Smith would loose something of the power of the team going forward.

We all want to see new attackers at the club, but to progress to the next level it is most likely that the defence is where Eddie Howe needs to strengthen his options and yet it is an area where he has been least willing to reinforce the squad. Perhaps that might change with the coming weeks as the stats point to this clearly as the barrier that is stopping AFCB from climbing even higher in the league.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Cherries secure ninth place with 1-1 draw against Foxes

Match Report
21 May 2017
Leicester City 1 v 1 AFCB
Attendance: 32,000
The scarf's were not really needed on a warm day at the King Power.
The Cherries can be well satisfied with a ninth placed finish in their second season in the Premier League. They afternoon looked like they may even do better than that when Junior Stanislas got them off to a lightening start with a goal in the first minute. Despite Dan Gosling stretching Jasper Schmiechel to the edge of his limits, the Cherries could not get the second goal that their dominance really warranted in the first 20 minutes. Leicester started to compete better and Slimani had an afternoon when he was going to put chance after chance wide beginning with a couple of headers. The second half saw Leicester improve further until Jamie Vardy knocked in the equaliser almost standing on the goal line. There was a Premier League debut for Matt Worthington in AFCB colours when Ryan Fraser was subbed and although Vardy had a goal disallowed for an offside and Slimani put a free header from close in wide in the last 10 minutes, Jordan Ibe wasted the best chance to win the game just minutes from the end when he had a poor first touch on a Stanislas through ball. 
There were plenty of fans about to pack the stadium.
We might have to find a smaller ball to kick off with.
Typical Eddie had said he didn't want to change the team too much and yet Andrew Surman and Ryan Gosling returned along with Ryan Fraser to the starting line up, while Ryan Allsop was give his first Premier League start in goal.  
AFCB get ready to take on Leicester City.
There are more pictures on Match Day Gallery.

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There was a great atmosphere in the stadium with giant football balloons and other inflatables being traded like a tennis match between the fans and the Leicester stewards who joined in the fun  like a pantomime. But the action on the pitch swiftly captured our attention with Steve Cook passing a ball up the left wing to Lys Mousset who took on two Leicester defenders before sliding a ball across to Ryan Fraser who took a hefty blow. The referee played on though and Mousset snapped a shot off that rebounded off a defender into the path of Junior Stanislas, who came flying in from the right side to slam home the opening goal in under a minute! That's AFCB's 100th Premier League goal.

It was like a riot in the stand, but a happy one for the Cherries' fans who were delighted with the start of the game. Pugh thrilled fans next with a sharp ball pulled back across the six yard box that was calling out to be put away. 

Leicester countered with Mahrez having a shot blocked before Chilwell shot wide. AFCB were finding joy on the left with Daniels whipping in another low ball that Pugh cleverly stepped over but Fraser did not read in time.

When Surman was brought down 35 yards from goal Junior Stanislas took the free kick but smashed it into the Leicester wall. Leicester's reply came from Slimani who hit a rising shot over. Leicester win ton the first corner on 18 minutes as their pressure grew. Benalouane luckily headed wide after a Steve Cook deflection. In came the next corner and that Mahrez took from the right and Fuchs got up well and Slimani couldn't quite stretch far enough to meet it at the back post.

AFCB thought they might have extended their lead in the 24th minute when  Adam Smith got behind the Leicester defence and pulled a ball back for Dan Gosling who let fly from the edge of the box with a superb curling shot that needed all of Schmeichel's agility and skill to keep out of the top right corner.

Gosling was having an excellent game in shepherding Mahrez and coming out on top most of the time. Mousset was getting involved but was annoyed at hitting a shot straight at Schmiechel on the half hour.

Adam Smith was then knocked for six as he ran into Andy King who took all of Smith and nothing of the ball.

Mahrez is starting to show promise hitting a shot that Allsop saves well. A left wing cross the gives Slimani a headed opportunity that he puts wide of the far post. A corner follows with Slimani stopping low with a headed effort that narrowly runs past the post.

Another chance sees Ndidi head the ball right onto Allsop's chest and the keeper gratefully falls on the ball. Benalouane gets a yellow card. It's 0-1 to the Cherries at half time but it's been a tight game.
AFCB subs at half time.
Second half
There is bright sunshine at the start of this half. Allsop has to come off his line quickly to beat the advancing Vardy to a ball. Leicester have come out fired up though and on 51 minutes the game is even after a right side cross is headed on by Slimani and Vardy has a simple stab over the line from a yard out with Allsop unable to get there in time.

The goal had been coming and the Cherries' attacks had dropped off form their early good start. 

AFCB then win a free kick as Ndidi makes a foul. Surman takes it some 25 yards out and its deflected wide. Simpson then picked up a yellow card on 56 minutes for a trip on Fraser. Stanislas takes this one and has to retake it having put the first one right at Schmeichel before the referee was ready. The second attempt hits the wall.

Leicester made a sub on 58 minutes with Benalouane coming off and Amartey coming on. Jamie Vardy then thinks he has put Leicester in front, following a rebound from s Slimani shot but he's offside and it's disallowed.

Bournemouth try and stem the flow with Afobe replacing Mousset and Ibe coming on for Pugh in a double substitution.

Leicester come close again as Mahrez shoots and Allsop fumbles the save but Francis is behind him and clears from the goal line. Another chance falls to Slimani but he's volleyed wide!

Mahrez next has a bicycle kick blocked and  before Vardy heads an effort that Allsop puts over.

Another Leicester sub sees Demari Gray replaced Marc Allbrighton. Jamie Vardy was still causing problems for the Borunemouth defence and Francis picked up a yellow card on 71 minutes. 

The corners kept coming for Leicester with King winning a corner off of Francis. Ndidi then pulls his shot wide from 25 yards.

Chilwell has a shot blocked by Adam Smith and another corner follows. Mahrez then picks up a yellow for pulling down Gosling on the break.

Leicester still looked favourites to get a winner but Slimani misses a golden headed opportunity that he puts wide from about eight yards out. He's had a bad day in front of goal.

Satnislas on the right gives AFCB another breakaway and he's found Ibe on the left through on goal, but the winger has over cooked it with a poor first touch that's gifted the ball to Schmeichel. That was dreadful! AFCB could have won the game there.

Chilwell gets a yellow card for a foul on Gosling who has been a real star man for the Cherries. It ends 1-1.
See you next season!
Summary
While Bournemouth started this game imperiously with some sharp attacking football, they slowly saw Leicester come into the game and probably have the best of the chances. Eddie will look next season to see how they can improve on making the most of the games when they get a goal up early. The team has lost a lot of points after scoring first in games this season. But this was a wounded Leicester side that were not going to lay down in their last home game. Allsop had a heavy work load and AFCB had to withstand a lot of pressure in the second half. They have learned how to hold out in such circumstances and they might have even won the game. Still, the fans enjoyed the game and the banter with the Leicester fans. It was a good end-to-end game and no shortage of goal-mouth action.
Job done, well done AFCB on a cracking season!
Leicester City
Schmeichel, Simpson, Benalouane (Amartey 59), Fuchs, Chilwell, Mahrez, King, Ndidi,
Albrighton (Gray 73), Vardy, Slimani




Leicester Subs
Zieler, Wasilewski, Musa, Amartey, Kapustka, Gray, Okazaki

AFCB
Allsop, A Smith, Francis,  S Cook, Daniels, Stanislas, Gosling, Surman, Pugh (Ibe 63),
Fraser (Worthington 74), Mousset (Afobe 62)


AFCB Subs
Ramsdale, B Smith, Cargill, Ibe,Worthington, Afobe, Surridge, 

AFCB Ratings
Allsop 6, A Smith 7, Francis 6,  S Cook 7, Daniels 7, Stanislas 7, Gosling 8, Surman 6,
Pugh 6 (Ibe 3), Fraser 7 (Worthington 5), Mousset 6 (Afobe 4)

Referee Watch: Lee Mason - too soft in his approach at times when he let things go, but at other times played advantage well. Disallowed Vardy goal was said to be onside on second viewing by reporters! 5/10.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Arter may have to put international career first

It was sad to hear that Harry Arter has been finding it tough this week yet again with a few injuries ahead of what was building up to be the final game of the season, and his chance to put in a big performance before joining up with the Irish squad. Ireland play Mexico (1 June), Uruguay (4 June) and Austria (11 June) and Arter will no doubt want to be given every opportunity to be in at least one of the starting line ups for his country, having missed out on the Euros last season. Arter has not been lucky with injuries on top of international games and he really needs to play some games for the Republic of Ireland to try and establish himself in that team.
We may not see Harry Arter today at Leicester.
Does that mean he should miss out today and rest up rather than risk his Achilles in the game against Leicester City? Personally, if I were Harry I would think about ducking out or at least asking to go on the bench so that if he was able to play 15 minutes he could do so, but by aggravating his injury further he won't be dong himself any favours. If he starts, he knows he will be putting another trip with Ireland in jeopardy and while I am a supporter of club before country, on this one occasion with AFCB safe and Harry's rotten luck in being involved in international squads, perhaps he deserves to be rested for all his god performances during the season.
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That would not make it easy for Eddie Howe. He has Andrew Surman apparently ready to come back and Dan Gosling who has also been out for a while with an injury who could be fit again now. But to risk two players coming back from injury in the middle of the park is not ideal for a match against Leicester City away, especially when the opposition will be fired up having had a rollicking in mid-week after their 1-6 thumping by Spurs in front of their home fans.

Other options for Eddie Howe no longer include Lewis Cook who is off to South Korea for England's U20s and he could be forced to play Junior Stanislas or Marc Pugh for instance in the middle if Surman and Gosling find it hard going.

In other news, it is interesting to hear that Harry Arter's Academy has inked up with the Cherries own academy. Dos this mean Harry is fixed on staying in Bournemouth no matter what offers could come in for him?

Enjoy the last game of the season today! I'm off to Leicester, see you there. UTCIAD!


Possible AFCB Team Line up
Boruc (GK), A Smith (RB), Francis (CD), S Cook (CD), Daniels (LB), Stanislas (RW),
Arter (CM), Gosling (CM), Pugh (LW), Mousset (FW), King (FW)

Subs

Allsop, Mings, Surman, Gradel, Ibe, Fraser, Afobe


In other news, AFCB's Lewis Cook captains England U20s to a 3-0 win against holders Argentina in the U20s World Cup in South Korea. Online season ticket renewal option announced by AFCB. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

AFCB players are under 24 hour watch these days

There is no escaping the world's eyes when you are an AFCB football star. If Tyrone Mings thought he could let his hair down in Dublin without thinking of the consequences of posting a par night out on social media, then he will soon find out he has made a mistake. Eddie Howe seemed cautious of any blame though until he is aware of all the details and it seems these days hat as Wayne Rooney found out to his cost that people judge you on the images alone.
Tyrone just may have put one foot or may be two out of line this season.
I don't ant to see players cooped up in hotel rooms though afraid of enjoying themselves once in a while just because they belong to my favourite football club. A few might well be more out going than others and how the manager phrases a few days off to the players is something perhaps that clubs need to look at if players are getting themselves into trouble on social media. Tyrone has had a difficult season and was playing well up to his five match ban from the Man Utd match and he has had to sit out the rest of the season. Wearing a Gary Barlow mask though is hardly reason for being locked up and I guess there is more to the Ireland trip than is detailed in the Echo.

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Broom Hill Garden Buildings

Eddie Howe shows great trust in his squad though to let them relax in the week before their final game of the season and while many did apparently come in as normal and train with him, it only takes one bad report to give the club a bad image. I think what is tolerated now is far less than might have been the case back in the 1970s or 80s but young players are aware of the rules on how to behave today and have to consider that.

Some times it is good to switch off and think of something else to enjoy rather than playing football every day. The Premier League is intense and pressurised, even if the pay is out of this world. I think the players have done a good job this season, so I hope the club also considers that when players just fail to remember who that are and who they represent for a second.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Can AFCB learn from Leicester suffering title defence?

I'm not convinced that Leicester City could have really made a great defence of their title this season no matter who was their manager. While many fans point towards the loss of N'Golo Kante to Chelsea as a huge factor in the club's season, I see a second half of the season when the Foxes were back on the front foot and picking up points again from some top sides. They didn't lose their quality forever, but re-found their hunger when they needed to. Their heavy defeat against Spurs though last night won't make life any easier for AFCB.
Leicester found it hard going at Dean Court
earlier this season going down 1-0 to the Cherries. 

Leicester City - a one season wonder? That's not necessarily so. While they will surely have to change a few players over the summer, if they can keep some big names like Vardy, Schmiechel, Drinkwater and Mahrez the spine of their team will remain strong. They know what is needed to win a title and to play in the Champions League. That experience is something that only the other top four clubs in the country have and it's something that many teams will never achieve.
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So are Leicester City a side that AFCB can learn from? Even though Howe's way of playing is quite different there are things that can be picked up on that I think have not left Leicester when they play well. The game that reminded me of the Leicester of last season was their win at home to Liverpool 3-1 in February, when they had been just a point above the relegation zone before the win. They played with aggression and intensity that blew Liverpool away and it was a performance that was in total contrast to their defeat against Swansea earlier in February. They dug deep when it mattered. It was too late for Ranieri who was sacked, but Leicester defended together and simply took their chances. 

AFCB have had the togetherness factor for a long time and it is very important not to dilute that when new players are added to the squad. I only hope Eddie Howe is considering that when he thinks about this summer's singings. Would John Terry rock the boat? I tend to think he might and may be AFCB were lucky this last season that Jack Wilshere found it easy to muck in with the team, but you need that 'brothers together' mentality to succeed and  who knows if Leicester City or another club aspiring to grow like AFCB can challenge the traditional order.

Leicester City Home Form
WWWWL


AFCB Away Form
WDDLW

"Flirting with relegation.. was disappointing," says Leicester Till I Die

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Leicester City v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Leicester Till I Die
Twitter @Leicestertid 

Well we had to get to the last game of the season at some point and as we do we also come to the last Rival Lines of this season. Of course, we have saved one of the best to last and Chris Forryan at Leicester Till I Die website. As current champions, Leicester City is a good place to bow out, but they have had quite a tumultuous season, not least last night when things rather unravelled for them against Tottenham, so let's see has to say about his team's season and his feelings about the campaign which is drawing to a close.

CC: Do you think Leicester City would have been relegated under Claudio Ranieri if had not been sacked, and did he have to go for the Foxes to move on from the heroics of last season?


Defo. I will always love Ranieri for what he did for the club and he is genuinely a nice guy but it was all going wrong, and he should have actually gone earlier in January. Football is a results business and last season he got the results, this season he didn’t – end of.

CC: Was too much emphasis put on doing well in the Champion's League or was the balance about right?

Despite what was being written I do not believe emphasis was being put on the Champions League. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but even when there was no Champions League Action we played badly under Ranieri.

CC: Who would you least like to lose over the summer - Schmeichel, Mahrez or Vardy and why?

Can I answer by saying who would I be least upset to see leave. Mahrez can go. We have seen the best of him and teams have worked him out. We have a much better replacement in Gray and if he stays Mahrez will be no loss. Sometime you have to accept that players have reached their peak with a certain club and I think Mahrez did with us last season.

CC: Without Europe next season are you confident that Leicester City could challenge for a top six finish again?


Yes! The way we have played since Ranieri left leaves me to feel why couldn’t we be top 6 again?


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CC: Who have you been most impressed with in the team this season?

Kasper Schmeichel has been a rock and excellent as a stand in Captain since Wes Morgan’s injury. But when he gets on Ben Chilwell has been a revelation. Young and a future England left back. Let's hope we can hold onto him.

CC: Have you been disappointed or pleased with the season as a whole as a Leicester fan?

Both. Champions League quarter finalists and the last British Team in the champions League – not bad for little old Leicester. League though was very disappointing, flirting with relegation at one point as reigning PL Champions was most disappointing.

CC: Is Craig Shakespeare a really top manager or is he a reasonable coach that has taken over a top team that was under performing?

Who cares? He has turned our season round. Only time will tell to be fair but personally I hope he gets the job full time.

CC: Do you have high hopes for Demarai Gray?

If Mahrez goes Gray will step up, the problem we will have is if Mahrez stays I think he will go.

CC: What was the most pleasing result of Leicester's season?

2-0 at home in the second leg of the last 16 game in the Champions League v Sevilla.

CC: What do Leicester have to guard against when playing Bournemouth?

Compliancy, but then I think that could apply to Bournemouth as well. It’s a dead end game and I just hope that two teams turn up and don’t have their minds on the beach.

CC: How do you expect Leicester City to line up against Bournemouth?


4-4-2 and look at the last 2 games as will be the same line up. Why fox it if its not broken. The only change will be if Huth is fit to return but I expect (subject to injuries against Spurs midweek)

Schmeichel / Simpson, Benaloune, Fuchs (Huth), Chilwell (Fuchs) / Mahrez, King, Ndidi, Albrighton / Okazaki, Vardy

CC: Chris certainly knows his stuff on the Foxes and even if Mahrez is seen as 'so last year,' I suspect that Leicester City will still get a good price for him if he does leave for a Champions League side. As for being on the beach, I suppose Bournemouth players don't have far to go but I sense that Sunday's game will be a match where both sides test the opposition and give their best for the fans. A high score draw is my prediction. Thanks again to Chris, and please visit his blog to see what he has said about the Foxes throughout the season.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

It's all about the top half finish for AFCB now

Eddie Howe only has one thing on his mind for the Cherries and that is to finish on 48 points. It might not be a number that impresses the big clubs, but AFCB are getting closer to an established Premier League club, and with a few top signings they will be among the mid-table teams trying to catch the top seven sides.
AFCB have to get something at Leicester to finish in the top 10.
AFCB have it in their hands to finish in the top 10 if they can beat Leicester City. They will be hoping for a game that gives them more of a chance than when the teams last met at the King Power Stadium and Simon Francis was sent off. Whatever the result at Leicester though, the Cherries will finish higher than their 16th place of last season and that will be celebrated. 

Much has been made of the influence of Jack Wilshere on the squad and while the Cherries are unlikely to have his services next season, Howe can surely sense that they need to start attracting players that have solid international experience as well as the young, up-and- coming, players. We have seen WBA and Stoke City as mid-table sides start to increase their spending power with top class internationals, and to remain in and around these clubs the Cherries will have to buy wisely. 

While it is an estimated £2m a place, depending on where your team finishes in the league, AFCB will want to see if they can at least hold their position going into their last game. It has been a fluctuating season in terms of results, and I wonder at this stage how much the dip in points at the start of 2017 have made an impression on Howe as to how he might to do better next time around. The January window was particularly sparse in terms of activity for AFCB and yet the side probably needed a boost in January. 

Next season the bar will be set higher as that is what success brings. AFCB should keep it realistic though as to what they might achieve and perhaps the 50 point mark is something that could be within touching distance in 2017/18.
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