Bournemouth – The relegation candidates nobody expected

Eddie Howe and his Bournemouth team currently find themselves second bottom in the English Premier League table – a place not many people had them tipped to be at this stage in the season.

Given the talent they have in the team and the transfers they made in the summer, I, along with many others, expected the Cherries to push for the top ten this season. However, we’re now past halfway and relegation looks to be a real possibility – what’s gone so wrong?

Stat Attack – Where are the issues coming from?

The main thing to look at is the lack of goals Bournemouth have scored this season. They currently have 20 goals in the league, meaning they have the joint least prominent attack in the whole of the division – even behind Newcastle, whose lack of goals has been well documented this term.

The other obvious thing to look at when assessing a team in this manner is goals conceded. Scoring goals keeps you up, but not if you can’t stop the other team from scoring against you. If you can’t do either – there’s only one place you’re going, and right now, that’s exactly what’s happening at the Vitality.

So far this term, Bournemouth have conceded 35 goals – only two teams in the division have managed to keep less clean sheets than the Cherries (Spurs and Norwich). They’re second worst in the Premier League for tackles per game, putting in an average of just 13.7 each match. As well as that, they allow an average 14.9 shots per game and concede an average of 1.59 goals per game.

There’s been one or two selection errors as well this season as far as I’m concerned. In yesterday’s humiliating loss to Watford, Eddie Howe opted to start Simon Francis at right back and move Adam Smith to left-back to accommodate him. Francis struggled to deal with the pace and skill of Gerard Deulofeu throughout the game – something which should have been blatantly obvious to the coach given that Francis is 34-years-old and has the pace of snail.

For me though, the problem has been in attack this season, more specifically a lack of output from the left hand side. 42% of all of Bournemouth’s attacks come down the left wing while just 35% comes down the right. This is opposed to last season where Bournemouth used each wing equally, with 38% of their attacking play down the left and the same amount down the right.

Those stats to me show that Bournemouth’s attack is seriously missing David Brooks this season – and Ryan Fraser’s usual output. Last season, the Scot managed eight goals and 15 assists in 42 appearances across all competitions. This season, he’s managed just one goal and three assists in 24 appearances – he’s currently on course for around five assists and two goals this year based on current form.

Meanwhile, on the right wing, Harry Wilson is currently the clubs top scorer this season with six goals in the Premier League. Despite that, he still isn’t getting as much service as his counterpart on the opposite wing.

Despite all these statistics, the most disappointing by a country mile is the fact Callum Wilson has managed just five goals in 21 appearances this season. Given that he bagged 15 goals in 33 games last year, it’s a significant drop off in productivity. That’s despite the fact his team are getting more balls into the box this year – Bournemouth put an average of 17 crosses per game this term as opposed to 16 per game last season.

Wilson has been averaging a little over one shot per game this season which perhaps shows he may have lost his sharpness. He doesn’t seem to be getting in the right positions and in the times he has been in the right position, he’s not finishing his chances. He’s missed six big chances in the Premier League alone, two more than second place Dominic Solanke.

As a whole, Bournemouth are in god awful form right now. They’ve won one of their last 11 games in the league and haven’t taken all the points from any game since their trip to Chelsea back on December 14th. As mentioned at the top of the piece, they sit second bottom in the league and, for the first time since they arrived in the Premier League back in 2015, they’re in serious danger of going down.

What needs to be done?

Fortunately for Eddie Howe and Bournemouth, we’re less than halfway through the January transfer window. According to a poll on the Daily Echo website, Bournemouth fans think a striker should be their top priority. Based on the team-sheet from yesterday’s loss to Watford, the central midfield area looks the weakest currently.

I’m a fan of Jefferson Lerma from what I’ve seen of him so far – but given that the options they have to play alongside him are nearly all defensive minded as well, they might need to look into the transfer market to find a little more creativity from the central position.

Given they’ve struggled in attack so much this season, there’s a clear need for reinforcements. I’m not saying they need to go and drop £40million on a new striker, but fresh faces and new options for Howe won’t hurt. Due to the injury of Josh King, the current strike-force is Callum Wilson and Dom Solanke, with Sam Surridge in reserve.

As well as that, extra depth on the wings would be of great help too – given that Howe wasn’t even able to name a winger on the bench yesterday. Jordon Ibe and Junior Stanislas have made just four appearances between them this season and, to be honest, they aren’t good enough to offer serious competition or to effectively replace Wilson or Fraser anyway.

Who would you like to see come in at the Vitality? Let us know in the comments below.

Statistics taken from TransferMarkt, WhoScored and PremierLeague.com. If you want to read more football content, check out the dedicated section of the website here for more like this as well as some transfer news.

Kieran Harm
Kieran hails from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and holds a degree in Sports Journalism from the University of Brighton. He covers a range of sports, specialising in football and NFL. Kieran is a long-suffering member of the Toon Army as well as a very proud member of Broncos Country.

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