Thursday, 23 April 2015

Could Bournemouth survive in the Premier League?

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In what has been the most entertaining Championship season in recent memory, just two games stand between absolute hysteria and unadulterated anguish for the four teams vying for automatic promotion.

Of the four, it is AFC Bournemouth who have bedazzled and beguiled with their easy-on-the-eye football. The Cherries currently occupy second in the table thanks to their superior goal difference, are favourites to go up, and know that a win at home against Bolton on Monday could be enough to see them up.

Having not lost since February in an unbeaten run spanning 11 games, and having been top of the league or near it for the duration of the season, promotion would be thoroughly deserved for the south coast club.

It would be great to see Eddie Howe compete
 in the Premier League with AFC Bournemouth.
And what a fantastic achievement it would be. With an average home attendance of below 12,000, and on a shoestring budget, manager Eddie Howe has put together a squad of talented, hard-working players, who have banded together to create a genuine never-say-die attitude. That, coupled with their creativity going forward, has been the catalyst.

But what of the brave new world of the Premier League? Could Bournemouth survive? And what would they need to do to prepare themselves for the ‘Greatest League in the World ™’?


The secret weapon for any side that gets promoted to the top division is continuity. Success breeds success, so the saying goes. Bournemouth have already beaten West Brom and pushed Aston Villa all the way in cup competitions this season, so they should be able to compete from minute one of the 2015/16 campaign.

Eddie Howe has spent 20 years as a player and subsequently as manager at Bournemouth, and so he knows the club inside and out. You can’t see the board making any rash decisions should the Cherries get off to a slow start to life in the big time, and this could be crucial: as the Leicester City board’s decision to support Nigel Pearson could potentially prove, continuity is vital.

Goals, Goals, Goals

Ninety-two of them to be precise from 44 fixtures; and you don’t need to be Carol Vorderman to calculate that is more than two goals per game on average. Sure, in the Premier League they will come up against better opposition, will be embroiled in tighter games and they may even change their style of play to compete.

But goals are the only currency that matters in football: an area in which Bournemouth are clearly adept.
Harry Arter says team spirit has played a big part in the Cherries success.
Better Together

It’s apparent that a key ingredient in Bournemouth’s recipe for success is a sense of genuine team spirit.

"Our dressing room is always a special place to be. I think we have a unique atmosphere,” Howe has been quoted as saying. "You can feel an electricity and a willingness to go out and perform."

Irish midfielder Harry Arter is in full agreement with his boss. "The feeling in the changing room before games is a feeling I've never really felt before, it's a real togetherness."

That atmosphere generally comes from winning games – there’s no happier dressing room than one that is getting results. But team spirit and morale can dredge an extra 10 per cent out of bunch of players; and that too can be the difference between success and failure.

Old Favourites

It is essential to keep faith in the players that have made promotion a possibility, in order to maintain a sense of stability. By haphazardly bringing in new talent – and cutting adrift the old favourites – the results are a lack of cohesion, balance and unfamiliarity; as witnessed in Cardiff City’s last stint in the top flight.

Callum Wilson - Bournemouth's goal machine.
And so 22-goal Callum Wilson will lead the line, a player who was plying his trade in League One just 18 months ago. But he’s got pace, is direct and clearly has an eye for goal – three things which terrify Premier League defences.
Yann is still notching up the goals for the Cherries.
Yann Kermorgant is still a terrific talent too, and while he’s not getting any younger he will also have a part to play in finding the way to goal. In midfield, creativity is in full bloom already with the likes of Harry Arter and Matt Ritchie - who has already supped from the Premier League cup with Portsmouth – supplying the ammunition.

There could be question marks defensively – Howe’s men concede a goal a game on average in the Championship – but the foundations are already in place for a decent legacy to be built.

The Blueprint

At the time of writing, Hull City and Crystal Palace were the last two newly-promoted teams to maintain their Premier League status, and the way in which they did it is eerily similar:

Sign players with top-flight experience – Hull brought in Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Maynor Figueroa, Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long. Crystal Palace added Marouane Chamakh, Joe Ledley and Jason Puncheon to their squad.

For Bournemouth, the likes of Jonas Gutierrez, Bobby Zamora and Joel Ward are all out-of-contract and available in the summer. Perhaps even Danny Ings – who started his career at the Cherries – could be tempted back to the south coast should Burnley perish.

Add in a few quality loan signings from the big boys: James Wilson from Man Utd or Nathaniel Chalobah from Chelsea, for example, and you’ve got yourself a competitive squad.

Turn your home ground into a fortress – Hull picked up 25 of their 37 points on home turf, and Palace 27 of their 45 at Selhurst Park.

Bournemouth’s Dean Court will be the Premier League’s lowest ever capacity – and this hands them an unlikely advantage. Their fans should be able to whip up a feverish atmosphere and create a cauldron of noise to unsettle the opposition.

Get off to a good start - Hull won three of their first six matches, and never dropped into the relegation zone thereafter.

Failing that, end well – Crystal Palace claimed 17 points from a possible 24 in their last eight games after appearing dead and buried at Christmas. Timing, it seems, is everything in the survival game.

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