Saturday, 30 April 2016

When did Everton lose their way?

Like many fans of other clubs I quite like the way Everton play. They have some great players and the attacking style assures goals, but there has been a problem in defending their own goal and with the possibility of them finishing outside the top 10 it will be considered a poor season for Everton even if they have made two Cup semi-finals.

I think a lot of their problems started over the summer with the constant attention that John Stones was getting from Chelsea. He's just not come close to the form he had last season and with Jagielka and Baines missing a lot of the season, Everton did not find a solid platform from which to build some strong home form. Who thought we'd be in April and Everton would still only have four home wins? And look at those sides who they have beaten at Goodison - Chelsea in September, Sunderland and Aston Villa in November, and Newcastle in February. It's pretty poor return of wins for such a side that is full of international players.
One of Everton's headaches came at Dean Court earlier in the season
when they were 2-3 up in time added on, only to then find they
would leave the south coast with only a point.  
The form is even more staggering when you consider that Lukaku as scored 18 Premier League goals this season. It must be worrying for Evertonians hearing rumours that he could be on his way this summer. Ross Barkley (8 goals), Arouna Kone (5 goals) and Aaron Lennon (5 goals) are the next leading scorers and perhaps teams have worked out that if you starve Lukaku of service then Everton start to look a more average side.

Against Liverpool at Anfield there was only one team in the game. Funes Mori was red carded in that game so has a suspension to serve, while Gareth Barry was feeling an injury and Stones had a stomach problem. Eddie Howe will be clear in telling his players that this is a game they can win and even Roberto Martinez will know that another home defeat could spell trouble for him.

Everton Home Form

AFCB Away Form

The Cherry Chimes Newsletter will be out tomorrow.

Cherry Chimes' May Newsletter brings you the best stories on the blog and the thoughts behind them from last month, plus there is a special Newsletter article entitled: Will we see Juan Iturbe play for AFCB again?

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Friday, 29 April 2016

If AFCB want more ruthless finishing does Callum have to start?

AFCB have needed top quality goal scorers in the Premier League. They always knew it would be difficult against the top sides and that hitting the target was going to be far more difficult than when the team were in the Championship. Yet a goal tally of 42 is by no means the lowest in the Premier League and when you consider Max Gradel, Callum Wilson and Harry Arter have not had full seasons there is every indication that this team has firepower that it can build on.
Can Callum add to his goal total for this season?
Last weekend's game was disappointing in that the Cherries did not test Begovic as much as they might have. While Eddie Howe has a fabulous group of strikers he is still trying to find the best balance now that more players are in contention for starting places. As we are approaching the end of the season it is perhaps a nice problem to have only the goals have dried up and the Cherries need a goal spark in their last three games to improve their points tally and perhaps get them up to 45-48 goals.

I am not clear on whether such targets have been set but I am sure that Lewis Grabban wants to get at least one goal before the season ends. We have heard little news on Glenn Murray since his twisted ankle and he still might get a valuable goal or two if he is on the sub's bench in any of the remaining games, while Callum Wilson and Benik Afobe cold still catch Josh King especially if they start the next few games.

Seeing as AFCB were considered more of a match for Chelsea in the first half of the last game though it may be King and Stanislas that keep their places for Everton. I believe the fans want to see Callum start and Eddie has a decision to make in whether to continue to protect him and limit his minutes on the pitch or let Bournemouth's goal machine go about his business.

Send in your score predictions for Everton v AFCB to @CherryChimes on Twitter

Rival Lines: Lukaku and Pellegrini to be at Goodison next season?

Rival Lines
Everton v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Shoot Everton blog 

Twitter: @Tobybryant123 

I found it difficult to get hold of an Everton blogger as none of their sites likes to reply to email requests - perhaps they get too many or they have just had enough of this season. Any way, I did track down Toby Bryant who writes on Shoot - the voice of football's blog for Everton fans. You can view all of Toby's articles this season on the Shoot website, where you'll also find some my own articles under the Bournemouth Shoot blog account.

CC: Do you see Roberto Martinez being in charge of Everton next season and if not who do Everton need - and is Eddie Howe a strong candidate when the likes of Klopp are just down the road?

TB: It's hard to tell with Bill Kenwright. The owner is famed for being patient with managers and although all the fans are screaming out for Martinez to go it still might not happen. Hopefully new co-owner Farhard Moshiri will give him the boot. With the squad we have the results are despicable and show no sign of improvement so as far as I am concerned Martinez's position is untenable.

In terms of replacements Manuel Pellegrini is the stand-out option. He is proven at this level and works well with the kind of technical players that the Toffees have. However, whether Everton could realistically attract him is questionable. Frank De Boer and Marco Biesla are two other names being thrown around. I believe that the bigger name manager the better. It's time that Everton take themselves seriously as a big club, not one (that used to be) punching above its weight. Therefore appointing Eddie Howe would surprise me given his lack of top flight experience.

CC: Where should this Everton side be in the table?

TB: The current squad is by far the best in the last decade yet we are set for our worst league finish since 2004. The top five has been very competitive this season so, even playing well, Europe would have been a struggle but the top seven should have been comfortable achievable.

CC: Do you hold out much hope of keeping Lukaku this summer?

TB: Romelu Lukaku has saved our season but I cannot see him staying at the club. He is capable of bigger and better things and it is best for his career if he does move on. I would love the big Belgian to stay with us but I hold out little hope. The best we can hope for is a large wad of cash then the board can spend on a new manager's wages!

CC: Why do you think John Stones's form has dipped so much?

TB: It's difficult to say. He made some high-profile mistakes so his confidence will have been affected. That said, I don't know if it's a bad thing. The centre-back has a tendency to play the risky ball a little too often when a big clearance would be more effective. His form may have dipped but in the long-run it's probably a good thing.

CC: Do you think the side has learnt anything since the match earlier in the season against AFCB?

TB: The 3-3 draw at Bournemouth was the start of the downfall in our season. I would love to be able to say that the side have learnt from conceding those late goals but I'm afraid we haven't. It has happened time after time, even against United in the FA Cup semi-final last weekend. The back-line have a tendency to switch-off at the worst moments which is detrimental for the side. In short, no.

CC: Are there any injuries in the side at the moment and players likely to not play against AFCB?

TB: Seamus Coleman has a hamstring strain and is unlikely to feature. Gareth Barry is also a doubt but could recover from a knock. Ramiro Funes Mori will also be missing as he is suspended which is a shame as he has been one player who has managed to impress this term. 

CC: For many AFCB fans this will be their first visit to Goodison Park so what should they look out for?

TB: I love Goodison Park but Bournemouth fans should be prepared for how old the stadium is! Rickety stands, hard seats and obtrusive white poles are all present. The stadium has a great character and the atmosphere is always good, although it may be a little hostile towards Martinez this weekend! Also keep an eye out for the Toffees' Everton mint girl if you fancy a free sweetie.

CC: Finally, can we have a score prediction?

TB: 1-1

CC: Thanks Toby for stepping in and answering my questions from an Everton fan view. There is some need for AFCB to register a point at least for this game, so I don't think AFCB fans would be too disappointed if your score prediction came right. Like Everton, the Cherries season has run out of steam and while both sides play entertaining football I am hoping that we see some real quality play at Goodison and lots of goals as I am scheduled to be on the fabulous All Departments podcast after the game.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Don't bank on a goalless draw for Everton v AFCB

If there are two more attacking sides than Everton and AFCB in the Premier League then they deserve to be called the entertainers this season. Between Everton and Bournemouth this season we have seen a three- three draw in the league and a 0-2 away win for  Everton in the cup and I can only see more goals coming at Goodison.

Everton got the better of AFCB in the cup this year.

Some would argue that both teams have problems in defending and are too open. That may be so and while Everton have difficulty in holding on to leads, AFCB give away too many goals from set pieces. Any defensive purists may find this a disappointing game as a prospect, but if both teams know that their best way of defending is to attack then it should be a great match.
AFCB did not play all of their first 11 against Everton in the FA Cup and they came up short. This is a match when they can repay the fans a little by showing us what they can really do at a great ground against a team that has may be just edged ahead in terms of performance and league position. Everton can't rely on their reputation though, and if their last few home games are anything to go by their fans will be far from happy if they go behind. They'll know the table could look quite different after this match.

I am hoping that Callum Wilson will be able to show our fans what they have been missing and it would be great to see Harry Arter in contention for a place. It is now April and Eddie Howe is still having to use a lot of his 25-man squad which may be good in that lots of players are getting experience but it has meant that the Cherries have not really had the settled side that we have come to get used to in recent seasons. The striker options for AFCB should be good though and scoring goals away from home does not seem to have caused a great deal of difficulty for the Cherries this season so Everton will have their work cut out in this one.

AFCB now have exciting attacking players on the pitch

There was much to admire about AFCB's bench last Saturday with the likes of Wilson, Afobe and Ritchie hoping to come on and not in the initial first 11. The squad is much stronger than it was pre-January and that has been reflected already in earning three more points in the second half of the season, and with more attacking options there is a bit more unfamiliarity about how the Cherries are going forward at the moment.
Lewis Grabban is still waiting for his first goal since returning to the side.
We are used to seeing the Cherries get the ball wide and there was a good amount of crosses fired into Chelsea's box during the last match. What I also saw though was much more movement between the front players with Junior Stanislas popping up centrally as well as on the right and Grabban prepared to stretch his legs down the wings when needed there. It was a little less clear how well Afobe might fit in as the number 10 when he came on in the second half behind Wilson, but I thought he linked well and had a decent touch that had perhaps been missing in some of his previous performances when he had played as the out and out striker.

I am curious to know if Eddie Howe feels that Afobe and Wilson is going to be the way he expect his main strike force to be of if Josh King is still the best player to have up front with Callum in future games when they are both fit. I believe that against Everton it should be King and Wilson as they have a good understanding already, but Afobe has shown that he can score from the smallest of half chances so it is a good problem to have. 

There is also Junior Stanislas who has been used of late either on the wing or in the number 10 position and Lewis Grabban has also been getting closer to getting on the score sheet. It is good that they have all had minutes but AFCB need a few of them to keep finding the back of the net and of late only King has been great form. Callum Wilson is clearly desperate for more game time but will Eddie give it to him now?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Glad to see Tommy Elphick has his goal

While Tommy Elphick was not that pleased to come off the field following a 4-1 defeat, there must have been some pleasure in him netting his first Premier League goal. Tommy won't score that many goals in a season, but to get your first top flight goal is something that nobody can take away from him and he'll feel that he has contributed a bit extra for the team now having missed a large part of the season through injury.
Tommy has his first Premier League goal, but can he inspire
the team to some wins in the final three games?
Steve Cook and Charlie Daniels have even bigger scoring totals and it has been quite special for so many of the players to get on the score sheet this season. I don't think the full backs and centre backs care how the goals go in when one of them scores. There is always a sense of extra pleasure when a defender gets a goal.

Tommy has not had many chances to break his duck and it will have pleased him that he has got off the mark against the champions. I wonder whether he will have some bragging rights this week and whether his team mates are given a bit of banter from the skipper after his precise header? You can't lead the team in a much better way than demonstrating how to win games and Tommy did his part at one end and yet he'll be as distraught as any of the back four and keeper that they were found wanting against the Chelsea attack.

While the third goal against AFCB was particularly disappointing, considering it started from an AFCB free kick, it was not a game where you felt AFCB were completely out played like they were, for example, against Spurs. Tommy will probably not dwell too long on his goal but at the end of the season he'll look back on it and be pleased that he got his name up there on the score board.

AFCB need to build some momentum

The end of the season is speeding towards us and while the last few games have shown how quickly things can change in terms of the mood and points return, AFCB are no doubt keen to get back to doing things better on the pitch. The momentum that Eddie Howe wants to find in the remaining games is not just going to happen magically and it is going to need some major concentration and up turn in performance if matters are to change.
AFCB need to get back in the fast lane.
As has been said many times, this game turns on what happens in both boxes. The Cherries have been finding it hard to take opportunities in the last third while they are still leaking goals at the other end. But the passing in midfield is also coming into question of late and while Eddie Howe has made changes to the team in the last game, the performances have been rather similar against the recent crop of top teams.

Whether the match against Everton is seen as a slightly more winnable match is perhaps a dangerous assumption to make. The Merseysiders are still way ahead of the Cherries in terms of their squad depth and perhaps their ambitions, even if the two teams sit very close to each other in the league. As much as AFCB have found themselves trundling along in neutral in April, Everton have might even have been said to have selected reverse. 

Eddie Howe is probably not too nervous about other teams catching the Cherries now but he will want to start getting some points to keep in with a chance of finishing 11th or as close to that as the club can. There is a kind of mini league of six clubs now just two points apart from 11th to 16th that is likely to be where AFCB now finish. It may not seem to matter in which place AFCB finish but it is not only the money of a higher finish that the club is well aware of but for the players there is surely a desire to finish as high as possible.  

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

AFCB still have much to play for

While the Cherries have been watching to see how the bottom four are doing in their point gathering exploits it has been a tad uneasy that people have been saying well AFCB are safe when mathematically it isn't quite true yet. It is a shame that teams are not all on the same number of games at this late stage in the season. It is likely though that AFCB will again their safety when these other teams fail to get the points they need with their games in hand, rather than AFCB perhaps doing it for themselves by picking up more points. That is no disappointment though as the Cherries have put their points up on the board and have won a good many games even if they have found it hard to get points of late.
Starved of points the Cherries have a point to prove at Goodison.
AFCB will still want to get over that imaginary line though getting that winning feeling back and at Everton they will have a chance to do that. If there was nothing to play for in that game though it would reduce the importance of the game and while it is extremely unlikely that AFCB would be playing in the Championship next season it is important for themselves to try and feel that they have earned their place for next season in the Premier League rather than other teams failing to quite catch them in the final stages.

There are personal goals of course as well like the number of clean sheets, away wins and individual goal tallies to achieve, but the players will be most concerned with the overall team performance and whether they are letting the season fizzle out. 

The Premier League is not any easy place to win games and the players should not take anything for granted. One season at this level does not make them comfortable at this level and the recent run of games has proved that there are sides in this division that are still a very long way ahead of the Cherries. Getting beaten week after week though is not something they want to get used to and at some point they have to dig in and get a point out of a game just to bring some stability and confidence back. Hopefully, they can do that up at Goodison.

There are things AFCB can take out of the Chelsea game

It may not have been comfortable viewing to see the Cherries go down to another home defeat last weekend. Seeing the score tick over to 1-4 was a bit of an unbalanced score from where I sat as while Chelsea were far and away the best team, there was not such a big gap in the chances created or the possession stats.

Eddie Howe was quick to suggest that he was fairly pleased with the first half despite coming in 1-2 down. I can see where he is coming from in that the team did not buckle this time when they went behind and with a bit more luck they could have easily gone into the break on level terms had Grabban slotted his chance away. On such instances games are decided and had the game been that bit tighter it would have been fascinating to see a second half with AFCB a little more in the ascendancy.
Lewis Grabban could have made the game far
 tighter had he slotted away his first half chance.
Yet, by the time Wilson and Afobe entered the game it felt like it was more of a salvage operation even though the score was still only 1-2 at the time. It may not have been the best move in the end to bring both strikers on as the Cherries soon fell another goal behind. I am sure though that it was intended to be a positive move to try and win the game and it is a shame that it did not work out this time. The real feeling that I got from the game was that AFCB are not such a good side without Harry Arter and in these big match the team needs his energy to stop the opposition from having too much time on the ball.

Eddie Howe must know that the central midfield area needs strengthening and that he needs another ball winner, but his options are limited for the remaining games to do much about it if Arter remains sidelined. 

The other fact that AFCB can take from the game is that they clung on better and for longer against a top side and probably had more penetration against Chelsea than any of the other sides they have played since beating Aston Villa. The side still needs to find a little extra in its home matches next season, but at least the team is not playing with fear or feeling inferior when it steps out at Dean Court.

The Back of the Net podcast is out today - listen at Back of the Net.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Creating shots is only half the story for AFCB

While it was impressive to see AFCB create so many chances against Chelsea there is a bit of a question mark over why they did not put away some more of the 13 attempts they had on goal. While the team had the same number of shots on target as Chelsea on 4, we all know who put their chances away.

Begovic did have a good game for Chelsea but he was not forced to do that much work during the 90 minutes and even Boruc at the other end was not constantly diving around to keep Chelsea out. It is just the quality of the Chelsea strikes that were clinical. Yet with all the striking talent that AFCB had to call upon it is perhaps a surprise that they did not get a bit more reward for their efforts.
It's getting near to the end of term for AFCB's players.
Eddie Howe was realistic in saying that Chelsea deserve credit and he's right, AFCB can't just expect to knock over teams like Chelsea every day of the week, but if they want to build something themselves they will have to get the odd result against the top teams like they have this season. There has been a helping hand in doing that though with special set plays helping AFCB along the way at times when they beat Man Utd and the more work they do at those situations is vital if they are to keep a step ahead of some of these teams. 

I have heard some fans moan when the short corners are taken and yet we have seen that they can work as they did against Villa recently. Sadly they don't come off every time but there is a confidence that can be gained by trying them as every player knows what he has to do and where he should be to make it work, and such orchestrated goals are so much about the team working together that I think they are probably more valuable to the side as a whole when they come off than when one individual does something spectacular.

So I hope AFCB keep being creative and look to surprise teams as it is a good weapon to have. UTCIAD!

Did AFCB bomb forward too much against Chelsea?

The way AFCB played against Chelsea made it a very entertaining game. They could have tried to be more cagey in not pushing so many players forward early on, but we know with AFCB they need to take the initiative in games if they are to get the best performance.

Tommy Elphick felt that the players were perhaps too adventurous early on and that they were encouraged by their good start and emptied the pitch too quickly so that Chelsea were left with few men to beat when an AFCB attack broke down. It is a question of limiting the risks and the Cherries gambled a bit too much in the first five minutes and they were hit.
The Cherries may be gambled a bit too much against Chelsea in the opening minutes.
While the early goal was damaging it did not really change the game greatly. The Cherries still kept their courage and tried to take the game to Chelsea and unlike the matches against Man City and Liverpool they did not concede again straight away. The team that Eddie Howe put out though was extremely attack-minded and I believe he certainly thought he could get at this Chelsea side. The problem was that the white shirts were well prepared for the Cherries and had the pace-driven Pedro waiting to pick the ball up whenever they got possession on the break. 

Credit has been given to Chelsea though and the way Fabregas directed play was a massive influence on the game and something that the Cherries did not manage to cope with. While Hazard, Willian and Pedro weighed in with the goals the trickery certainly came from Fabregas and Gosling and Surman perhaps needed more help in trying to contain him. 

Still I believe AFCB used the best tactics they could have against Chelsea. They just did not have the quality finishing that we saw from the London side.  

All Departments has released its latest comprehensive review of the 1-4 defeat against Chelsea with Matt Callaghan. To listen visit the All Departments' website.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Chelsea give AFCB a finishing lesson 1-4

Match Report
23 April 2016
AFCB 1 v 4 Chelsea 
Attendance: 11,365
The Cherries line up.
AFCB wanted to give something back to their fans in this game and even though they were well beaten there was much to consider about the Cherries attempt to battle Chelsea. An early goal from Pedro was against the run of play, but it demonstrated the need to finish when in front of goal and Chelsea's second was even more beautifully worked with Fabregas and Hazard unravelled AFCB's defence. Yet, the Cherries were far from overrun and created there own chances with Tommy Elphick getting his first goal of the season and Lewis Grabban had a great chance to draw the teams level just before half time, but Bogovic made a crucial save. At 1-2 down at half time there was no panic and for the most part the Cherries were controlled in their efforts to get back on level terms, but a hastily taken free kick on half way for the Cherries ended up with Willian making the game safe. An extra time goal from Eden Hazard made it a heavy defeat and yet there was more to admire about AFCB's play than the losses to Spurs, Man City or Liverpool.
Elphick and Ivanovic.

Akis gives his pre-match views on Chelsea.

There were major changes to the team with Grabban given a start  and Pugh came in on the left wing. On the bench there were places for Rhoys Wiggins and Benik Afobe while Matt Ritchie was also a sub and Max Gradel was left out of the squad having had a knock in training.
The Cherries get ready for the off.
Chelsea played in white with a blue trim.
There are more pictures on the Match Day Gallery.

The Cherries went at Chelsea right from the start. King tried his forceful run up the right to test Chelsea out and Begovic was fining touch the best option to keep the Cherries at bay. Gosling and Stanislas were central to most of the early play, while Francis put in an early cross but it found no one. Still the pressure was coming from AFCB up until a cross from Daniels was cleared.

Through the middle came Chelsea, Fabregas was quick of thought and slipped in Pedro from his right and Boruc was beaten in a flash. It was 0-1 to the visitors on five minutes.

We'd been hear before but how would AFCB react? The signs were that it could be another difficult afternoon as Chelsea were growing in confidence, Willian and Ivanovic were finding freedom down AFCB's left flank. Hazard was also coming more into the game and Costa was getting some touches now, so much so that Stanislas fouled him.

Play was fast and neither side was keeping the ball for long, but Stanislas won a corner on 17 minutes and AFCB saw this as a chance with the ball being left for King who came round to the penalty spot before shooting high over the bar. A second corner followed two minutes later and this one fell to Steve Cook after Begovic spilled the cross, but he volleyed over from close range!

While Chelsea also won their corner the next best chance fell to Pugh in their box after Daniels had put a cross in from the left but it was just a little high and the header was comfortable for Begovic with Pugh leaning backwards.

Tommy Elphick then put in a crunching tackle on Costa and was adjudged to have fouled him which the home crowd were none to pleased with.  Ivanovic could only hit the wall though with the free kick. Pugh then shot over from a pass from Dan Gosling. Still this was a good recovery from the Cherries.

Baba Rahman hit his cross so poorly it swung high into the north stand.

Meanwhile, AFCB were getting closer with Grabban almost nipping in at the near post but Boruc saved low down for a corner. While Fabregas was unmistakable with his yellow right boot and pink left boot he was also finding pockets and stretching and probing AFCB's defence.

Stanislas was next to make a cross that Grabban could only get a bit of a glancing head to and not enough to get it on target.

The came Chelsea's build up for their second. Willian combined with Fabregas just on the edge of the box. A classy back heel from Fabrgas unlocked the door. Hazard was in and he finished tidily 0-2.

If Chelsea thought the hard work was done though they were in for a fright. Pugh put in a deep cross that had Begovic having to palm it over with the Cherries strikers closing on him. The corner came on 36 minutes and it was met firmly by Tommy Elphick who headed past Begovic into the left side of the goal - 1-2.

That certainly got the AFCB players thinking that they could get more goals and Pugh put in a good pass for Grabban to see him in against Begovic but the keeper made a good save. There was plenty of aggression and fight now with King getting the better of Hazard.  While Fabregas shot over from distance the Cherries were closing down quicker now.

With a minute before half time, Stanislas struck a well hit shot towards the top right corner of Chelsea's goal but it just slipped over. Chelsea too had a chance with Pedro cutting inside from the right but he managed to shoot wide. A cross from Francis in added on time saw Grabban make an attempt to get a touch on and turn in, but it was just too quick from him. So it was 1-2 at half time.
1-2 down at half time.
Second half - AFCB have the kick off.
Second half
Pugh had to do some clever defensive work at the start of the second half escaping from AFCB's own left corner by beating a couple of players. "That was worth the entrance fee alone," said Damien Hill sitting next to me.

The second half was a bit slower in tempo, but Chelsea were not relaxing too much with Willian shooting over fairly early on. Chelsea kept pressing with Fabregas shooting wide and yet gaining a corner. When AFCB did win a free kick and wanted to take it quickly it had to be taken again.

Simon Francis slipped and looked injured but he got up again as Chelsea won a corner that Daniels blocked well afterwards when a shot came in. Chelsea were on top though and were much more in charge of the ball.

That led Eddie Howe to make a double substitution on 62 minutes with Wilson replacing King and Afobe coming on for Grabban. Wilson immediately got in the ref's face over a throw that had been given to the away team, wrongly he felt. The changes added a bit of energy to the team and Mikel was pleased to see the ball run out for a corner when he intercepted a cross from Francis with Afobe closing in behind.

Stanislas was next to shoot just wide on 65 minutes. The momentum might have been starting to shift but Chelsea were good at slowing the game down when they had to. More than that a golden opportunity came their way when a quickly taken AFCB free kick went wrong on half way and Chelsea broke. This time it was Ivanovic who moved the ball quickly to Costa and then Fabregas made the killer pass to Willian who punished the Cherries with great finishing to make it 1-3 after 71 minutes.

There were signs that the game was virtually done even though Elphick took a quick look at the clock and then roused the team again. Wilson came short for a ball from Daniels only for Daniels to play it long and you could see the frustration starting to grow in the forward's facial expression.

Francis was still making crosses that Begovic half spilled but clung on to. Ritchie came on for Stanislas with 13 minutes remaining. That led to some short corners but they weren't coming off for AFCB.

Chelsea also brought on Ruben Loftus-Cheek for Willian with seven minutes to go. While AFCB threatened with corners it was Chelsea that would underline their superiority by Matic causing havoc on the left and seeing Hazard free to finish off the move and make it 1-4 which was a bit harsh on the Cherries.
A home defeat for the Cherries.
Afobe with Loftus-Cheek.
You can't complain too much when the side you play has players that can drag players everywhere and finish with such precision as Chelsea did on this day. Fabregas was a just untouchable for most of the game and I imagine Gosling and Surman will have been totally exhausted having chased him around the park for 90 minutes. While I wonder if Boruc might have got down quicker to the second goal it was well created and it was the third goal that really finished the game and was of the Cherries own making. Eddie will not have liked the first goal either as AFCB left themselves too exposed to the break, but these are things that the team is learning. The lads put the effort in for this game but were just outclassed and Chelsea had plenty of experience to ensure that they would not succumb to any late pressure.

A good day for Chelsea.
Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Stanislas (Ritchie 77), Surman, Gosling, Pugh
Grabban (Afobe 61), King (Wilson 61)

Federici, Wiggins, MacDonald, O'Kane, Ritchie, Afobe, Wilson

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 6, Francis 7, Elphick 6, Cook 6, Daniels 6, Stanislas 5, Surman 6, Gosling 5, Pugh 6
Grabban 6, King 6

Begovic, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Ivanovic, Baba, Matic, FΓ bregas, Pedro, Willian (Loftus-Cheek),
Hazard, Diego Costa

Chelsea Subs
Amelia, Traore, Kenedy, Miazga, Loftus-Cheek, Falcao, Pato

Referee Watch: Roger East 7/10 - I liked the way he acknowledged the home crowd's annoyance at the time wasting and while I am not sure all the fouls on Chelsea players were really fouls it was a good game and that is in part down to him.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

We must see more fight from the Cherries

I was watching the game between Newcastle Utd and Man City during the week and was really impressed by the way Benitez's side ran like mad dogs all over the pitch for the 90 minutes chasing just about everything. It may be too late for Newcastle, but for AFCB we have seen a high work rate in most games and the Cherries have always been up or around the top of the charts when it has come to running stats this season. But we also want to see them fight and scrap for every ball and to be first to everything - that's the best way for them to put Chelsea on the back foot.
Cherry Chimes asks for more of a fighting performance from the Cherries.
The last couple of games have not gone the way AFCB fans will have wanted. While the desire for more wins has not diminished the results have not been coming and the Chelsea game will be another match when pundits expect AFCB to fall short again. For both teams there is not a great deal riding on the game, but the points are always important to win and the Cherries need a boost to get them through the remaining games.

The team has fought very hard to get where it is today and they have to believe that they are in these games to win them. If AFCB stand off these players they will find themselves only reacting to what Chelsea do. I'd like to see the team be more proactive and to really go for  Chelsea. With a good weeks rest behind them there should not be any thoughts of taking it easy now. The home supporters have not seen as many wins as the fans that have done the travelling to the away games and it would be good to see some of the balance restored.

Let's get behind the team and see if we can't get an extra few per cent out of every player. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck when Callum Wilson was ushered on in the last match - that's the kind of rocking atmosphere we need to create against a side like Chelsea. See you there - UTCIAD!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Josh King is a special talent

How good is Josh King? I am starting to reassess my opinion on him. While he has been playing often through the pain barrier and getting used to his new role as a number nine instead of a winger or a number 10 he has found a scoring rhythm that is now taking him clear in the club's scoring chart.
Josh is putting the goals away now four in the last six games. 
It is no surprise that Eddie is not hurrying to get Callum back when he has a player who is already in fine form and exceeding expectations up font. It is not just the goal scoring though, which is now four in his last six matches, Josh is more lively in chasing down opponents and winning possession for the Cherries high up the pitch. His strength is definitely better than we saw early season and was demonstrated with how he was still giving his all at 90+3 minutes in the last game against Liverpool. Despite having not scored on several other chances, his aim was still to try and beat Danny Ward and he had a lot to do when Surman pumped his long ball up field to the striker.  

It is not a guaranteed success for Premier League sides to dip their recruiting fingers in the Championship and pull out a goal machine, but the Cherries are starting to get more adept at doing this with Callum Wilson, Lewis Grabban and Benik Afobe also on the books having played most of their careers in the lower levels. The club has never been so well equipped with young strikers and I'm expecting Josh to start doing some great things for his national side as well as for the Cherries.

While any combination of the current crop of AFCB strikers, and I include Glenn Murray and Junior Stanislas in that, is a powerful option for Eddie Howe it has been a season where such options have been severely limited. AFCB have ended up at this situation with a great pool of talent and yet Eddie Howe has not had much chance to pick the striking duos that he might have if things had been different on the injury front. What can't be denied though is that Josh King has been the forward that has stuck to his task and is finally getting the rewards for his persistence and his constantly improving abilities. I am not sue how much better Josh can get but it is going to be fun watching what he does for AFCB in the future.

Yoou can still send your score predictions in to @CherryChimes on twitter

Is an AFCB double against Chelsea unthinkable?

I guess before the start of the season I have to hold my hand up as an AFCB fan and say that I would not expect the Cherries to take maximum points out of the two games against what was then Jose Mourinho's side. But a lot can happen in eight months as we have seen. Not only has Jose departed and the Cherries delighted in getting an away win at Stamford Bridge, but a Cherries' win this Saturday would put them on the same amount of points as Chelsea after 34 games and that just seems crazy or does it?
It was okay at Stamford Bridge. We'll have some more of that.
The Blues have threatened to get back into form all season but they have never had a sustained period when they have looked like the side that won the Premier League last season. Now there is a definite rebuilding project for Antonio Conte to do at the Bridge and I imagine the side that Guus Hiddink puts out at Dean Court will look very different from that which starts the 2016-17 season for them. 

The form of Chelsea is something that should not hold too much panic for the Cherries. They may have spanked Aston Villa 0-4 on the road, but defeats at Swansea and Everton in the cup suggest that Hiddink is still looking to get the best out of this Chelsea side. Okay, they have had some injuries and the centre back absence of John Terry is perhaps the biggest quandary that Hiddink has had to deal with for most of the season. But this is not a fantastic Chelsea side anymore and it is up to the Cherries to find the weaknesses.

Of late Courtois form has been called into question but his misjudgement in their last home match against Man City saw him dismissed and he will not be in goal for Chelsea. It will be Begovic between the sticks. So there may be something to exploit there.

What was pleasing about the match against Liverpool was the amount of shots AFCB did get away in the second half. It may be that Liverpool were not really playing as forcefully by then, but the shot count on Begovic has to be high if the Cherries are to win the game.

Chelsea Away Form

AFCB Home Form

Meanwhile, Harry Cornick has signed a new deal to keep him at the Cherries into 2018 and Eddie Howe has been spotted at the Madejeski Stadium of late and is believed to be looking at winger Jordan Obita, central midfielder Oliver Norwood, defender Jack Coper and even Chelsea's centre back Michael Hector who is on loan with the Royals.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Boruc is doing his bit to keep the scores down

The work that Artur Boruc is having to do in games has rapidly escalated in the last four games. While he had a relatively easy passage at Aston Villa he has had to pick the ball out of the net quite a few times of late and yet he has been making an awful lot of saves as well.
Artur is not having it all his own way in matches at the moment.
Artur has had his ups and downs this season. He has kept Adam Federici out of most of the games and I think most fans agree that he is the number one. Yet, he is always under pressure in this team as the side continues to leak goals against the quality teams and many of them are from set pieces. While Artur can organise the team to some extent from the back he could do little about the goals that Liverpool scored at the weekend. In fact Artur made a pretty good one handed stop for Sturridge's back heel shot before Firmino had the simplest of tap ins.

The second goal was the crucial one though in the Liverpool game and it narked Eddie Howe that AFCB allowed Sturridge a free header. The striker still had a lot to do but Boruc did not really get that close to stopping the header that went straight in the top corner. Boruc had performed well though at other times, stopping Sturridge's early shot when Surman had given him a path to goal in the first five minutes, and in the second half when narrowing the angle and seeing Sturridge hit the foot of the post. 

For me it wasn't Boruc that needed to do better in the game to keep the goals down it was the whole team in front of him. Marking and winning tackles in the box is an important element of the game that only Leicester City seem to have mastered this season. If a side can't do that well they have to play higher up the pitch and try and defend a high line. We saw that a bit from the Cherries with Sturridge getting caught offside fairly regularly, but at then end of the day a team has to defend its own box better than we have seen of late from AFCB. 

Are Chelsea still under performing?

Under Guus Hiddink the troops at Chelsea were doing well and stabilised themselves until they found the going a bit hard against Paris St Germain in the Champions League. That defeat resonated into their recent Premier League performances with defeat coming away at Swansea and at home against Man City. Chelsea were also knocked out of the FA Cup in March at Everton, so has Hiddink lost his magic touch?

To be honest I just think it has not just been about Chelsea feeling sad for themselves, but they have come up against sides that wanted the wins more. Swansea had every reason to play their socks off at home to Chelsea to edge towards safety while Man City have the top four finish to worry about. But what is there for Chelsea to play for now? A top 10 finish? A chance to play the youngsters?
Chelsea's players have had a strange and disappointing season.
The announcement of their next manager last week is perhaps an indication that they are a club already looking at the 2016-17 season under Antonio Conte. You might expect some of the Chelsea super stars to start putting in top performances and looking to catch the eye, but I get the feeling that the end of this season can't come soon enough for the players or the fans.

The one good thing that I can see has come out of Chelsea's season is the emergence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek who probably would not have had the chance if Chelsea were competing for a top four place. Whether he gets a look in next season or not, other clubs should be looking to see if they can take him on loan if Chelsea won't sell.

Williain has been the one outstanding player in Chelsea's ranks that has kept his reputation in tact, but on their day players like Fabregas, Costa, Cahill, Matic, Hazard and Courtois can play teams off the park and even an under performing Chelsea side is a match for many of the Premier League clubs. AFCB have seen how going a goal down to this type of team is all top sides need to get a real grip on a game and for AFCB there is still much to learn about playing a side like Chelsea - under performers or not. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Cherries' defence is still finding it hard to keep the big teams out

Going two goals down against a top side just doesn't give AFCB a great deal of chance to comeback every time as we found out last weekend. I thought the players did better than they have for a while in keeping the clear chances down against them in the first 40 minutes although there were times when Liverpool could have made more of the misplaced passes that AFCB gave them.
AFCB are still looking for a way to upset the best teams on a more regular basis.
I am not sure if it is the nerves or just the thought of how games have gone before that gets into the players' minds when they take on the big sides, but there is something there that has stopped the team performing in its usual way against sides like Liverpool. That is strange when you consider that the Cherries have won away at Stamford Bridge and fought so hard at home to beat Man Utd earlier in the season. Those games came right on the back of each other and the confidence then was strong. The main aim of the team was to attack teams and I wonder if that energy is what gives the team it's best chance of winning games.

When AFCB diagnose and pull apart what has gone wrong at the back it often seems to be a series of errors that leads to the goals against. As a team they have to find ways of defending better as well as individually. I saw some heroics in the way that Steve Cook through himself in the way of shots from Ojo and Randall in the first half and his chest must have been rather red after blocking a series of powerful shots. It's not that the side are not trying to block of get in the way of shots, but the standard of their own passing has dropped and by giving possession to top sides they are eventually being undone.

So I'd like to see the side keep the ball better than it has of late. Whether that means changing a player in midfield or not is something Howe might consider. Certainly Pugh looked more comfortable running at defenders than Gradel did against Liverpool. Taking pressure off of the back four though is a must against Chelsea and staying in the game past half time must be an initial aim for the side.

Is Lewis Cook an ideal candidate for the Cherries?

There has been significant chatter about Lewis Cook since last January and while the 19-year-old Leeds midfielder has signalled his desire to develop at the Yorkshire club it is apparent that Eddie Howe rates him highly and is looking to add more strengthen to the midfield area of the team. 

Being another young British player in the Championship will no doubt raise his price, but Eddie has always talked well of Leeds manager Steve Evans and, if he could drag Steve Fletcher way from him when he was at Crawley, believe me Eddie will be respectfully listened to be Steve Evans, as they both know that Lewis Cook is destined for the Premier League and they may both agree that AFCB is a good place for him to start that education if Leeds can't offer the player that.

We have seen how difficult it is to integrate foreign players into the team in recent season and the home-grown players are stronger in AFCB's side than just about any other Premier League club. The incentive for Lewis Cook is clear if he wants to play at the higher level and the Cherries have been more vulnerable when Harry Arter picks up injuries. 

Eddie appears to be changing the team by bringing in mainly young energetic players now. The players at the club will have had a season in the Premier League and can help those that have not yet experienced that. The next season in particular is the best time to pick the riches of the lower leagues as AFCB's players still have clear knowledge of the difference between League One, the Championship and the Premier League. When you have seen it and done it, it is far easier for young players to take the leap and come on board, and like Dele Alli we have seen that some players can quickly adapt to the top league if they are given the chance.

There is also another factor that I believe makes Lewis Cook tan ideal man for Eddie Howe to go after. It is the dressing room. We have seen with Lee Tomlin that when players fall out of line they are quickly moved on, and there is a better chance of integrating players that want to prove themselves and don't believe they have already made it, just because they are at a club like AFCB. Lewis Cook will hopefully have a long career ahead of him and while Leeds fans won't want to lose another quality player like Sam Byram, who went to West Ham Utd, it will be hard for the player to keep resisting the attentions of AFCB and other Premier League clubs this summer, while Leeds Utd can almost name their price this summer.

Is time already ticking down on Glenn Murray's AFC Bournemouth career? See my latest Shoot article.

Premier TalkNewcastle's biggest mistake was taking their time to replace McClaren