Saturday, 31 December 2016

Sorry Swansea made to feel rock bottom by Cherries 0-3

Swansea 0 v 3 AFCB 
31 December 2016
Attendance 20,316

This was as easy a win as you'll get in the Premier League. AFCB were not in startling form, but they found the finishes to put a sorry Swansea side away and take all three points. Afobe's opener was carved out by Ryan Fraser and the young Scot netted Bournemouth's second before half time. As a contest the match already seemed over by this point and while Swansea threatened to make a game of it, when Josh King broke away on 88 minutes the result was put beyond doubt. It was a great way to sign off a very pleasing 2016 for AFCB fans.
The Liberty Stadium.
AFCB made four changes to their starting line up. As expected AFCB were to revert to a back four with Nathan Aké coming in to the back four and Junior Stanislas, Benik Afobe and Ryan Fraser grabbing the other spare starting spaces as out went Adam Smith, Josh King and Dan Gosling who would make up part of those on the bench. Adam Federici was also a sub replacing Ryan Allsop.

Meanwhile caretaker manager Alan Curtis made seven changes to the Swans who started the game as the bottom team in the league. In came Naughton, Amat, Taylor, Ki-Sung-Yueng, Dyer, Fer and Llorente.
Match Description
AFCB played in their home kit of red and black and kicked off the match. Ki-Song-Yueng picked up an early yellow card on Ryan Fraser. Sigurdsson collected a pass from Francis as AFCB lost possession, but AFCB were trying to press high early in the game. Francis was getting forward well but an early cross from him saw no AFCB player following into the box. 

Swansea came forward with Dyer on the left and his cross was met by Fer before Lorente was given an opportunity centrally, but Aké closed him down and cleared the danger. Francis then won the first corner of the game.

Stanislas started to see a bit more of the ball and Ryan Fraser almost found his way through. As the game found its natural pace AFCB were keeping possession and Swansea were looking to intercept when they could. Naughton fouled Ryan Fraser to bring more pressure on the Swansea defence.

Nathan Dyer was finding a bit of joy against Daniels, but Swansea were not creating clear chances. Afobe almost slipped in Fraser before Charlie Daniels hit a shot over from distance. Swansea were getting a bit more of the ball now as Arter made a mistake in midfield.

Stanislas made Fabianski make the first save after Surman and Francis had fashioned a good ball in from the right. It was a pretty uneventful first 20 minutes though perhaps something that Howe wanted after conceding a few in the last few weeks.

Naughton put in a great ball on the six yard line, but luckily no Swansea striker anticipated it. Dyer was looking ever more impressive on the right and a pass to Naughton saw the full back put in a cross right on Llorente's head, but the effort went wide of the left post. 

Stanislas then had loads of time in front of the Swansea box to line up a shot, but he didn't really get hold of it, shooting well wide. AFCB were looking better when Wilshere was getting some touches but everything was breaking down in front of Swansea's box.

Wilshere spotted Ryan Fraser on the left and his low cross from the left was deflected by Amat, it came off the keeper, but Benik Afobe was on hand to score 0-1 to AFCB.

Mawson fouled Afobe wide on the right to offer another chance to swing a ball into the Swansea box on the half hour. Somehow the ball from Stanislas missed everyone! Surman then played a long ball to try and get Fraser in, but the keeper read it well.

A bad challenge on Fraser by Amat on 33 minutes some how was not carded. Ki-Song-Yeung was also handing out more fouls by taking Arter out in the semi-circle as things were going against the Swans. Arter himself put a shot wide moments later. Fer was subbed early for Barrow.

Sigurdsson tried a half volley from way out as Boruc was off his line but the shot drifter well wide. A free kick from Sigurdsson then was easily cleared before half time. Barrow almost capitalised from a mistake from Francis, but ran into a wall of defenders.

Jack Wilshere then almost played in Stanislas perfectly but he was just off side and the finish was written off. The chip was exquisite though from Wilshere.

AFCB weren't finished though some smart work by Wilshere and Stanislas put Junior through on the right, but instead of shooting he pulled the ball square and Fraser just beat the defender on the line to make it 0-2 in added time.

A happy hunting ground for the Cherries.
Second half
Daniels ad Fraser were working well on the left and were bringing Wilshere into the game as AFCB probed for a third goal. Surman was playing just in front of the back four and was making the side more solid. 

Everything was going through Wilshere though and the passing was starting to get crisper as AFCB found more time on the ball. Afobe on the left cut in well and could have played in Stanislas, but the ball just hit a defender and ended up with the keeper.  

Swansea managed to win a corner to give their fans something to hold on to. But Boruc half punched it away before Surman cleared, and a strike from Naughton hit Daniels and came to nothing. Llorente was injured in the build up to that move. He is replaced by McBurnie.

A Bournemouth break saw Wilshere race away and feed Stanislas who shot across the goal and out wide.

Swansea were trying to make a game of it, but this was suiting AFCB to play on the break. A great move saw Wilshere burst free and he waited to pick out Afobe who wasted the shot that was hit well over the bar! Both Stanislas and Afobe have been wasteful this afternoon.

Stanislas then put Afobe in again and this time the keeper made a good save with his feet, just on 62 minutes. It was a well timed run buy Afobe, but another missed chance. Fraser took a heavy knock at the same time. Swansea are doing well just to keep 11 players on the pitch here.

Eddie Howe has still not made any changes with 65 minutes gone, which may be surprising considering AFCB have Arsenal on Tuesday night at home. Naughton wins a free-kick off of Fraser just for a push in the back. Fraser himself is bleeding from his nose and receives some attention.

Taylor shoot over from range, but AFCB are not home and dry just yet. Swansea make their third sub as Jack Cork comes on for Britton.

AFCB waited until the 73rd minute to bring on some subs and Josh King and Adam Smith replaced Junior Stanislas and Ryan Fraser who had both had good matches. Sigurdsson hasn't given up and wins a corner for the men in white.

McBurnie headed well and Artur Boruc initially seemed to spill it and just grabbed it at the second attempt at the feet of Ki-Sung Yueng.

With 10 minutes to go Swansea are still trying to get back into the game, but I don't think their fans are that optimistic. McBurnie does his best trying to get to a header but there's not much spark from the Swansea men.

Barrow wins a corner but the Swansea players get in each others way. The ball out to Daniels is picked up by Josh King who strides forward and finishes well in the bottom right corner to make it 0-3. AFCB have been that dominant without particularly playing at their best. 

Surman is replaced by Dan Gosling now. Boruc is out quickly to deprive McBurnie of the ball. 

Five minutes of added time are hardly necessary. Wilshere has won a free-kick as the Bournemouth procession goes on. A final corner for AFCB - can they do anything from it? It's taken short and is put out for a throw.

Arter looks to go but the final whistle is blown.

Eight years ago Eddie Howe became manager of AFCB for the first time taking over the club in 91st place. He hasn't done badly since has he? This was a comprehensive win for the Cherries. It was only their second away win of the season and probably said more about the state that Swansea are in than it does about AFCB's current form. The Cherries will at least take some comfort from scoring three goals, and the way Jack Wilshere is playing is certainly worth the admission money at the moment. It is a concern that Callum Wilson is not being played and the probability of him being sold is looming large - look out for the Cherry Chimes Newsletter tomorrow - should AFCB sell Callum Wilson. Howe could be saving him for the Arsenal game, but the Cherries don't have many potential 15-goal a season strikers and the aim over the next month is probably just as important to keep hold of players as it is to get a couple of more wins.

Swansea City
Fabianski, Naughton, Amat, Mawson, Taylor, Ki Sung-yueng, Britton (Cork 66), Dyer, Fer (Barrow 38), Sigurdsson, Llorente (McBurnie 57)

Swnasea Subs
Bastón, Nordfeldt, Barrow, Rangel, Cork, Fernandez, McBurnie

Boruc, Francis, Cook, Aké, Daniels, Arter, Surman (Gosling 89), Fraser (A Smith 73), Wilshere, Stanislas (King  73), Afobe

Federici, Mings, Gosling, C Wilson, Smith, King, Ibe

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 6, Francis 7, Cook 6, Aké 7, Daniels 7, Arter 6, Surman 7, Fraser 6, Wilshere 8, Stanislas 7, Afobe 6

The Cherries have always got the win when they've most needed it

There is more than just three points riding on the Swansea away match. A win for AFCB would not only halt the dour away from, it would start to allow the team to think more positively about the fixtures going into the New Year.

There have been times this season when you wondered are AFCB going to be battling it out in the bottom half. Defeats to Middlesbrough and Sunderland were early warning signs that things were not as good as they could be and yet Eddie Howe's side would then go and win against teams like Liverpool, Everton and Leicester City. It has been a bit topsy-turvy in terms of the results and it's difficult to put a finger on exactly why that is. 
AFCB's back four will want to try and get a shut out against Swansea City.
The important factor to note though is that when the chips have been down and AFCB have really needed a result they've tended to pull a three-pointer out of the bag. That has kept them fairly out of trouble in the table, but there are teams around them now that have been stringing more than a point or two in consecutive games, and that is what the Cherries need to start doing. The Swansea game will be very attacking from both sides though and it may just come down to who puts away their chances, as there could be lots of opportunities at both ends in this one. Neither side has been super tight in defence and with AFCB letting in 12 goals from their last five games and Swansea City conceding 15 from their last five, you'd imagine the keepers might be a bit busy in this game.

Pulling out a win at this stage of the season would take AFCB to seven wins and within touching sight of a few home wins to be safe, but the league is tight because so many of the teams are not finding any consistency. One factor AFCB do not wasn't to lose though is their ability to pick up a win just when they most need it, and this Saturday is one of those matches in my book. 

Probable AFCB team: 4-4-1-1 Boruc (GK), Francis (RB), S Cook (CD), Aké (CD), Daniels (Lb), Stanislas (RM), Arter (CD), Surman (CD), King (LM), Wilshere (FW), C Wilson (FW)

Bench: Federici, B Smith, Mings, Gosling, Fraser, Ibe, Afobe

The Cherry Chimes' Newsletter is out tomorrow.

Cherry Chimes' January 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: Should AFCB cash in on Callum Wilson in January?

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You can read my answers as the opposition to the Swansea SOS Fanzine on this link

Friday, 30 December 2016

Is AFCB match Swansea's last chance saloon?

Although Swansea's board has removed Bob Bradley this week, the position that the club is in is still very dire and the right appointment will need to be made for a sharp impact on performances. Whether Swansea see an initial boost from the match against Bournemouth or not, it will be difficult for them to pull back this season without building some unity with the fans and the new man they appoint.
Swansea have seen a lot of departures since last time
the two sides met at the Liberty Stadium.
There is usually a bounce factor with new managers and AFCB will be perhaps taking on a Swansea team that is still in caretaker manager mode when the two sides meet. Bob Bradley is not the cause of Swansea's problems, the root of it is at the top, Bradley was just a consequence of that. If they manage to pick a seasoned and energetic character to install some life into the Swans though, they have enough six pointer games to get themselves out of trouble. 

But games like that against AFCB would be one where they will need to pick up points you would think but how damaging a home defeat to the Cherries would be is difficult to say. If they get a manager who can stimulate them, they are only two wins away from getting out of the bottom three. Swansea City players may well have been accused of throwing in the towel already, but I am sure that the players have more pride than that. AFCB will have to be fully-focussed to get a result as they will be playing a team that is really hurting now and its already manifested itself n a change of manager. That will have been their low point and they will be looking to move forward and upwards now.

AFCB have to match Swansea's energy from the very start and most not let them dictate. If things start to go wrong for the Swans it could be a bleak afternoon for them with little else that they may see as a possible fix, having already disposed of two managers this season. Whether it is the last chance saloon for Swansea or not, AFCB need to find some form as well or they could find that teams below them start to target their position as the run-in begins.

Swansea Home Form

AFCB Away Form

Rival Lines: Squad improvements needed, says Swansea Oh Swansea

Rival Lines
Blogger Interview
Swansea v AFCB
28 December 2016
Twitter: @StevenSoS1987

This week, I had the chance to grab a few words with the Swansea Oh Swansea Fanzine ahead of AFCB's game with the Swans who have been wondering if they can get out of the bottom three. It's been a strange last couple of years for the Welsh side and losing some of their big hitters has weakened their squad. With a new American manager and owners I wonder if Swansea City are losing their identity and worse still losing their fans.

CC: Is Bob Bradley the right man for the job at Swansea City? (this question was set pre-Bob Bradley's sacking this week)

SOS: No way is he the man for us, but sadly we’re stuck with him. He doesn’t suit us at all and we’ve got worse since he took over. There’s a lot wrong at the club at the moment and to be fair a lot of it isn’t his fault either. However he’s completely out of his depth and if we want to stay up someone else needs to come in. [Ed- Gary Rowett and Paul Clement are the front runners for the job at the moment.]

CCDo you think the whole American ownership of the club has backfired?

SOS: At this stage there can be no doubt it has. Sadly, the previous regime took their eye of the ball and put their own financial gain above the club’s needs. The transfer window last summer was awful as we lost likes of Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew and didn’t replace them. We needed to improve the squad after a mediocre campaign last time around and they failed to put any money up for transfers so as a result we are struggling.


CCAre Swansea City fans still very optimistic of ending the season outside of the bottom three?

SOS: Most think we’re in real trouble. The one saving grace if we’re not cut out from the pack above us just yet and the transfer window does open shortly so reinforcements could bolster our chances though. Many though don’t believe the board will make enough money available to sort this mess out and even if they do we also don’t trust them to sign the right players either.

CCAre there any targets that you have heard about that could come to Swansea in January and are there any strikers you would personally like to see at the club to help you stay up?

SOS: We’ve been linked to a few, winger Luciano Narsingh from PSV is one and he would probably be an upgrade on what we’ve got. Our wingers are so bad it’s crazy, between them they’ve only had a couple of assists this season. Up front I actually think we’re not bad, Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston as both proven strikers, but without service what can they do? Elsewhere we must improve defensively, we’re an absolute shambles in that area. Ideally, we need a centre back and full back on each side which is asking a lot in one window. I’d like another midfielder too to be honest so there’s a lot of work to do in January.

CCThe Crystal Palace game was a rare highlight but it could have been disastrous. Have you lost the momentum from that win and the win against Sunderland? 

SOS: Palace was just a bonkers game really, the kind that happens about once a decade. At 3-1 up I'm thinking we’ll win comfortably, 3-2 I’m worried, 3-3 convinced we’ll lose, then 3-4 I want to leave as I’m fuming. Then we somehow score twice to win 5-4. I wasn’t convinced it was a turning point, because it was such a bizarre game. I was more hopeful after Sunderland as we actually played well, especially in the second half. But then were awful at West Brom and Middlesbrough so now it looks like a one off sadly.

CCDo you feel the club needs a leader, a big captain like you had with Ashley Williams?

SOS: Yes he’s been missed hugely, not just for the fact he was a great defender but he was a real leader. It was obvious once he left his were huge boots to fill, but as usual we did it on the cheap with Alfie Mawson from Barnsley. I think in the long term he might be good, but we needed someone proven to replace such a huge figure for us.

CCIs there any player that you don't want to see go in January or would the money be good to get some new signings in?

SOS: There should be money there without having to sell anyone we need. We made a profit on transfers this summer in spite of the new bumper TV deal so if anyone goes they need to be because we want them out. If someone like Gylfi Sigurdsson left then we may as well throw in the towel. We’d probably have only single figure points if it wasn’t for him.

CCCan you get something against AFC Bournemouth who have only had one win on the road?

SOS: We have to target games like this to win. It’s a winnable game on paper but I’m not convinced it’ll be won. If you play like you did at the Liberty last year we’ve got no chance. You battered us to be fair and reminded me of when we first came into this division – not many star names on paper, but a clear philosophy which is very easy on the eye and everyone pulling in the same direction for one of the brightest young managers in the game. How I long to go back to those days.

CC: What do you expect to be your starting line up for the game?

SOS: Bradley is notoriously unpredictable, likes to make changes so he may do here. I’ll guess Fabianski, Naughton, Amat, Van Der Hoorn, Taylor, Fulton, Cork, Barrow, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Llorente.

CC: Many thanks for the Swansea Oh Swansea Fanzine. I have also answers a coupe of questions for the fanzine which you may see this weekend. Both teams really need a win to halt their bad runs and this could be quite an open game. The change of manager for Swansea will see a chance for them to change their attitudes to a more positive frame of mind, so AFCB have to try and give Swansea City something to worry about early on - a few shots in the first 10-15 minutes will be what AFCB fans will hope to see and a dominant performance against a bottom three side. UTCIAD! 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

What must AFCB do better in the second half of the season?

While AFCB have played extremely well over the course of 2016, there needs to be progress in the second half of this season for AFCB to retain their status as a Premier League club in the top half of the division. We all know that we want to see more goal and better defending but I'd argue that there are times when the side needs to do more when they have the ball and more when they don't have it as well.
The Cherries still have much work to do.
The Chelsea defeat was not so unexpected but what was interesting to see was the way AFCB went about trying to contain the table toppers. The pitch was not so wide at Chelsea, and to play three at the back was a fairly good shape to have as it did give the Cherries a lot of possession in midfield. The quality of Chelsea's players ultimately told though. One rash challenge by Simon Francis in the box and the game was over. This is the kind of aspect of the game where Edie Howe knows the team still lacks a bit of concentration. You have to stay in games at the start of both halves to keep in with a chance against the best teams.


What AFCB have been reasonably successful at is not conceding so many late goals. Their fitness levels must be among the highest in the league. The away win percentage is something that Howe must be most concerned about and it's probably just as well that AFCB only face Swansea, Hull and Millwall away in the next month. For all those that say the team does not shoot enough, you might be surprised to see that the Cherries are ranked 11th highest in terms of shots on 211, that's more than Stoke, Watford and WBA who are all above them in the table.

You can wonder about the defence and the amount of chopping and changing there, but the side has recorded five clean sheets which is equal fifth best. If you are looking for a weakness though it may be surprising that the team is well down at 16th place on the crossing front with only 325 crosses from their games. The wingers are often seen as essential playmakers in Eddie Howe's sides, but there is much to improve there at the moment. Getting the ball wide may have been profitable though in winning so many corners where AFCB are ranked third highest on 117, but scoring from corners is another matter.

Benik Afobe could well be on WBA's target list

I was somewhat surprised to see that WBA are being linked with Benik Afobe this January window. While it seems clear that Saloman Rondon is expected to be chased by some big clubs in the next few weeks, it has been a tough time for Benik at AFCB and he has been rather under the shadow of Callum Wilson and Josh King. Tony Pulis can see similarities I am sure between Rondon and Afobe though so from a WBA point of view it could be a good fit.

Is Benik more likely than Callum to be on his way in January?
The potential for a move would really depend on Benik and if he sees a likelihood of getting more playing time at the Cherries. Of course, Callum Wilson is a major obstacle in the path of Benik getting more pitch time and Wilson is also likely to be of interest to teams this window. So Eddie Howe could well be resigned to losing one of his strikers and he may have to make a call on whether to let one or even two strikers go. I think he may entertain one transfer out of his top men but I doubt he will be keen to see anyone leave until the summer.
AFCB themselves have not been linked with too many strikers and that indicates to me that Howe is not really looking to sell. Even if WBA make a high bid for Benik, it might not meet the asking price and Benik is also probably starting to enjoy himself a bit more now at AFCB with the sub appearances he has been getting and the opportunity to train with Jack Wilshere again.

Moving to the Midlands under Pulis would give Benik a fresh start and new motivation to impress, but the challenge would be a big one as Rondon has really been the Baggies main striker and he has done extremely well of late. While I am sure WBA can match what ever Benik is being paid at AFCB, Benik really has to show that he has faith in Eddie Howe and his plan or see if he can see a brighter future elsewhere. My gut feeling is that he won't want to move in this window, but an offer of £12m to 15m might test the waters.

Benik Afobe stats in 2016/17
1 goal
1 assist
14 (12 sub) appearances

Premier league record 5 goals in 29 appearances
Age 23
Nationality DR Congo

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

AFCB have to find a way to win away

Eddie Howe may think he has to go back to square one to get his side to win another away game. They will have easier games though than taking on Chelsea and the real test comes this next Saturday, when they go to Wales. Swansea themselves are eager to get a win and this will not be a game that Eddie Howe can risk a major experiment on.

The way Swansea have been defending of late will give Howe some confidence. The problem with AFCB's attack though has been its inability to really strike at goal often enough. It was clear during the last game at Chelsea that a well organised defence was able to make AFCB's players shuffle the ball from one wing to the other without looking to go through the middle. Chelsea's opening goal did come fairly centrally though and the best teams can vary their attacks and are prepared to shoot from any space near the edge of the box, but I don't see AFCB doing that enough.
AFCB are still looking for a second away win.
There was one moment in the second half at Stamford Bridge when Dan Gosling was being urged to shoot and yet he passed up the opportunity. I don't think AFCB are always trying to score the perfect goal, but the players know that getting around the sides is more likely to open up a clear shooting opportunity, rather than trying to break down the front door. Yet, with Wilshere in the side I do believe they have the trickery and power to sometimes go straight at the central defenders. 
Whether Howe looks at different systems or personnel, he has to get the side to see that any game is winnable in this division. He seemed slightly dismayed that the side carried out most of his instructions at Chelsea quite well, but still were unable to counter the skill and power of Chelsea in the end. But AFCB have also had trouble knocking over some of the sides that have been lower in the table than them and there is a better strategy that needs to be found for away matches. The fact that Eddie almost has a full squad available to him again will give him a good chance of putting the club's best side out against Swansea, but they have to deliver now. 

Wilson-less AFCB still lack goals

Callum is being rested up.
The suspicious might be wondering why Callum Wilson has been withdrawn from the starting line up at AFCB. Is he simply out of form or being rested ahead of a January sale? Hopefully it is not the latter, but if AFCB's line up at Chelsea is a sign of things to come, it does not look like AFCB goals will be plentiful in future games.

There are several reasons why Eddie Howe may have decided Callum Wilson was not to play at Stamford Bridge. His finishing has not been sharp of late and his injury last season is still something that Howe recognises and wants to manage. He could also be being saved for what is looking like a six pointer against Swansea City. But if he does not play again, then the rumours about possible moves to other Premier League teams will become the focus of stories in January.


I was not that impressed with what was achieved by AFCB up at Chelsea from an attacking point of view. Apart from Wilshere's invention and an unlucky effort from Afobe, that could have given AFCB a late way into the game, there was not a lost to shout about. I don't think that Josh King holds the ball up that well by himself, and while he and Afobe were asked to share the work load at Chelsea, there weren't many times when you felt one of them was perhaps going to score. Three shots on target all game is the root of AFCB's worries at the moment. 

The return of Junior Stanislas at least opens up some more options, but it's tempting to wonder why Callum Wilson is not even getting a look in at the moment. It's also apparent that Afobe has looked the most likely to score goals in the last two games and yet he is only given something like a quarter of the game to make an impact. Eddie has lots of need to get the attacking formation of AFCB right against Swansea, but little time to work out what is his best striker to select from the start.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Formation was not key against Chelsea but not keeping the ball was

Both Eddie Hoe and Steve Cook spoke honestly after the match with Chelsea. The last two games have exposed AFCB as a team that can play very well going forward when they look to hit teams hard, but if they give the ball away easily when not under pressure they do give the opposition a great chance to take advantage.

Steve Cook was one of a back three that started the game, and it was not a system that made AFCB look any weaker. Against a table-topping side it was a bold decision and while it did not work, it was a tactic that Chelsea probably did not expect. The times when AFCB gave the ball away though in the middle of the pitch did put pressure on the side and the constant switching of play from one side to the other of the pitch and even backwards at times, might have been easier for fans to enjoy if there wasn't a mad pass every now and then that wasn't easy to cut out. 
AFCB were run ragged against Chelsea.
The players also have to take risks occasionally as long as they are trying to make things happen in the last third and sometimes that gable isn't played often enough. Backing yourself to hit the target from 30-yards is something you do when everything is going right in your game but it's not so easy when you've had a couple of poor results. Playing three at the back was something to try and even reverting to a back four did not stem Chelsea's control of the game.
Broom Hill Garden Buildings

AFCB must pick themselves up now and they should not worry about formations or where each team is in the league. They simply need a win to feel that they are in charge of their destiny. The good thing about the defeat against Chelsea is that the team worked extremely hard to try and match them and were in the game at half time. They need to boss the game more though against teams that are having a tough time and Eddie Howe will know he has a battle to get his players believing they are good enough to pick up more than one away win if they can't get something at Swansea.

Chelsea's Pedro gives Cherries a bruising on Boxing Day

Match Report
Chelsea 3 v 0 AFCB
26 December 2016
Attendance: 41,384
We were at the league leaders and boy did they want to shout about it.
It was always going to be a big ask to go to Chelsea and stop their unbeaten record and while the Cherries were brushed aside by Pedro's deadly finishing, it was a markedly improved AFCB performance than the derby day defeat. AFCB matched Chelsea in the opening minutes but fell behind to a sublime turn and lofted shot from Pedro on 24 minutes. The top left corner of the goal was found and AFCB's day immediately became 10 times harder. Chelsea only had to wait a few minutes into the second half before they could comfortably pocket the points. Simon Francis brought down the evasive Pedro and Eden Hazard doubled the lead by sending Boruc the wrong way. While Courtois' right foot kept substitute Benik Afobe's goal-bound effort out, the game was wrapped up by a late Pedro breakaway and a deflected goal to further sour AFCB's Boxing Day.
Andrew Surman was back in the starting line up.
The team news brought a big make over for AFCB. The side was to line up with three at the back. In came Brad Smith at left midfield and Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman added weight to the centre midfield, while Josh King was to lead the attack.

Chelsea added Cesc Fabregas to their midfield and Pedro to their attack to deputise for the suspended Diego Costa and and N'Golo Kanté.
AFCB were ready for the big test and to play three at the back.
Chelsea were super confident even without a couple of their stars.
There are more pictures on Match Day Gallery.

The early warning signs were their for the Cherries. A quickly taken free-kick saw Simon Francis have to react speedily to clear before Pedro nipped in on goal. A lively first few minutes also saw Adam Smith go down in the box but all a little too easily. 

The game was quick and furious. But Bournemouth were keeping their shape well and defending stoutly, Jack Wilshere perhaps a bit too vigorously as he picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Hazard. It was Eden Hazard who then got the first shot on goal, but Artur Boruc was equal to it - dropping of the ball to his left.
Chelsea were using Moses on their right wing well, but it was Pedro that was causing the headaches by drifting in and out of gaps around AFCB's back line. He shot right across the box on 21 minutes and was eager to shoot on sight. He was not to be denied for very long. After a short corner the ball was spread to Fabregas who picked Pedro out. The forward turned neatly in the box to fire a curling shot past a couple of defenders and Boruc, right into the top left corner of the goal.

AFCB had been playing well but could do little about that. Adam Smith and Gosling were fashioning a reply when Wilshere hit a shot that was well saved by Courtois. Jack got held his ankles for the first of many times during the game, but he carried on.

Boruc then reacted well to tip over a top from Hazard, even though play was brought back for an offside. This was a good period of the game for AFCB with Wilshere having another shot somehow blocked and cleared off the line. Adam Smith went down in the box, but again it was no penalty.

Chelsea only came back stronger winning a corner and Gosling's poor challenge on Hazard gave Fabregas a chance to shoot from a free-kick just outside the D. Luckily he shot over the wall and the corner of the goal.

Steve Cook was back to his best in getting across to tackle Hazard before he could shoot. Wilshere was also playing well and was making penetrating runs only for Cahill to take him down. Adam Smith took the free-kick and smashed it straight into the wall, leaving AFCB trailing 1-0 at half time.
AFCB were only 1-0 down.
Junior and Callum at half time.
Second Half
AFCB put Chelsea under a bit of pressure from the start of the half with King making it hard for Chelsea to play out and Courtois sliced a clearance high into the stands. Once up the other end though, Pedro was away again and Francis mistimed his challenge and referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot. It was easy for Hazard to send Boruc the wrong way and the Cherries were 2-0 down on 49 minutes.

It was very much the worst time to concede as AFCB had very little to build on now. Gosling was making more mistakes and Boruc was pleased to see an effort from Hazard driven low past his right post. The attacks from Chelsea kept coming now. Willian pulled out a save from Boruc before Victor Moses hit a shot wide.

Artur was still trying to escape Chelsea midfielders but was eventually caught by Pedro who ended up in the book.

After Pedro led another break that saw his shot go wide, Eddie Howe subbed Andrew Surman for Junior Stanislas and Josh King for Benik Afobe on 67 minutes. It was Chelsea that were fully in control though and Hazard almost got another when Steve Cook for once slipped and Hazard got his shot away, and saw it glance of Gosling's arm. It was not handball, but just as well Gosling was in the way.

Wilshere had fresh legs ahead of him now with Afobe on the pitch and he picked him out well for the former-Wolves striker to cut inside and fire a shot across the goal that Courtois' flung his right foot out at and diverted it from giving AFCB a foothold in the game on 73 minutes.

Chelsea could afford to be a bit wasteful as Hazard hit another high shot over the bar. At the other end though when Wilshere had sight of goal he chipped the ball straight out with disappointment and dismay from AFCB's fans. The final sub of Jordan Ibe was introduced for the hard working Brad Smith on 76 minutes, even if the game looked beyond AFCB.

Willian was subbed after a fine performance and was replaced by Nathaniel Chalobah on 83 minutes. The game was still intense and Chelsea were being kept honest even if Moses was not to distressed to see his effort fire wide. Moses came off in the 89th minute for Ola Aina to come on. His best contribution was to speed up the right wing only to stumble over the ball before leaving it for Jordan Ibe to recover - at least it gave AFCB fans something to laugh about.

Three minutes of added time only made the score line worse. Jordan Ibe had been added late to the game, and was not quite settled, running straight into Pedro. The break Pedro was marshalled by Francis and Arter, but they could't get near him. Pedro cut in between them and fired a shot that came off of Steve Cook to leave Boruc stranded, as the score ticked over to 3-0. There was just enough time for Batshuati to run on the pitch before the final whistle was blown.
Junior and Harry thanks the fans.
It was a fairly routine game for a Chelsea side that had now recorded their biggest sequence of undefeated games. AFCB still have much work to do in getting back to clean sheets and there was a kind of inevitability about the end result as soon as AFCB had gone 1-0 down. It was more a question of how many do you think we will concede? Still, their were some brave performances and it was pleasing to see Andrew Surman and Junior Stanislas return to the field. Now Eddie Howe has to find some positivity to take into the Swansea game, as AFCB were well-beaten here.
Benik came close to giving AFCB a goal.
    Courtois, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Moses (Aina 90), Fàbregas, Matic, Alonso,
    Willian (Chalobah 83), Hazard (Batshuayi 90+4), Pedro

    Chelsea Subs
    Begovic, Ivanovic, Zouma, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Chalobah, Aina
Boruc, Francis, Cook, Daniels, A Smith, Gosling, Surman (Stanislas 66), Arter
Smith (Ibe 77), Wilshere, King (Afobe 67)

Federici, Mings, Afobe, Wilson, Ibe, Stanislas, Fraser

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 7, Francis 5, Cook 8, Daniels 6, A Smith 5, Gosling 4, Surman 6 (Stanislas 5), Arter 6,
B Smith 7 (Ibe 5), Wilshere 7, King 6 (Afobe 6)

Monday, 26 December 2016

Attack is the best form of defence for the Cherries

Looking at how AFCB went about taking on Chelsea last season it was a brave plan to try and run at the Chelsea midfield and defence when their team had lost the ball. In that first half there were several breaks that had neat AFCB interplay that could have ended in a goal, but it took until the last 10 minutes then for the breakthrough to come and I'd imagine that fans may have to be equally as patient if not more so this time, as Chelsea can currently see every team as a potential three more points to their total.

AFCB won't have Glenn Murray this time, but I don't think he was the only reason why the team won that game last December. It was a show of defiance in many respects and AFCB will have to try and take some of the game to Conte's team or they will be overwhelmed. Eddie Howe knows that AFCB can be confident and powerful against sides away from home, but we have not seen too much of it this season.

Will Callum lead the line at Stamford Bridge?
I wonder whether Eddie may feel he needs to change more than one or two personnel to get the right reaction after the Southampton defeat. The direct attackers like Ryan Fraser and Jordan Ibe may well be better suited to this sort of game, where the onus is on Chelsea to come at AFCB. What will have to be better is the passing and movement in midfield and up front. I kind of felt Jack Wilshere's frustration in not knowing where to put a pass as Southampton closed down all the space in last week's game, and although AFCB have become adept at rotating play and switching from one side of the field to the other, there is a lot to be said for going for the jugular sometimes, and there will have to be some of that variation in play to get anything against Chelsea who are so methodical when play breaks down.  

While the Cherries have been better at defending set-pieces this season that will be the first threat that they have to overcome. If they can build on that in the first 20 minutes and start to get some attacks going themselves, the confidence will come back. Eddie needs to find some kind of spark away from home and there is no better place to try and recapture the magic than at a ground that was a big catalyst for the Cherries picking up points last season. UTCIAD!