All 20 Premier League clubs are being previewed ahead of the 2019/20 season. This instalment discusses Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, who are set to enter their fifth consecutive campaign in the top flight.
- 2018/19 Finish: 14th
- Signings so far: Jack Stacey (£4m), Lloyd Kelly (£13m)
- Possible Gameweek 1 lineup (4-4-2): Boruc, Smith, Mepham, Ake, Kelly, Brooks, Lerma, Gosling, Fraser, King, Wilson
- First six fixtures: Sheffield Utd (H), Aston Villa (A), Man City (H), Leicester (A), Everton (H), Southampton (A)
Bournemouth started the 2018/19 season in such promising fashion, sitting inside the top six at the end of October after winning six of their first ten matches. However just seven more victories followed in the remaining 28 games, resulting in a slump down to 14th place. A dreadful defensive record proved their undoing as their 70 goals conceded was only fewer than relegated Fulham and Huddersfield.
The Cherries’ transfer activity has been focused around adding depth in the defensive department, with Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey brought in. The pair predominantly feature at full-back, on the left and right respectively, although Kelly has played all across the back four and Stacey has 51 senior appearances as a winger to his name.
These two signings as well as Chris Mepham’s arrival in January signal a new era for Bournemouth’s defence, with the old guard being phased out in favour of a younger crop of homegrown defenders. Adam Smith, Simon Francis, Steve Cook and Charlie Daniels were all at the club before promotion to the Premier League and Eddie Howe is perhaps looking to the future with all four now aged 28 or older.
During this transitional phase, a degree of doubt remains over who will start on a weekly basis, alongside 2018/19 ever-present Nathan Ake. But based on Diego Rico featuring for just 606 minutes last season, £13 million man Lloyd Kelly looks favourite for the left-back berth. It will then be between Smith and Stacey at right-back and Cook and Mepham for the remaining centre-back slot.
Further doubt remains behind them in the goalkeeping department. Asmir Begovic was left out after a 2-0 defeat to Everton in January and made just two more appearances before the end of the season. Artur Boruc, who was given a new one-year contract this summer was largely first choice from then on, although youngster Mark Travers started the final two matches, impressing against Tottenham before conceding five at Crystal Palace. But based on Boruc starting 12 of the final 16 games, he appears the favourite to start the season, a sentiment echoed amongst fan blogs.
The rest of the team is more clear-cut, with Dan Gosling and Jefferson Lerma’s starting position under little threat until Andrew Surman and Lewis Cook regain full fitness.
That leaves an exciting front four of David Brooks, Ryan Fraser, Josh King and Callum Wilson. Of the four, Fraser and Wilson are the standout pair, having contributed a combined 44 league goals and assists in 2018/19.
Fraser’s 28 big chances created was ten more than any other Premier League player and the joint most with Mesut Ozil in 2015/16 since records began in 2010/11. This contributed to an xA of 10.21, again the most of any Premier League player.
Fraser’s ability to unlock defences has helped form a great understanding with Callum Wilson, who has a natural striker’s instinct to be in the right place at the right time. This is confirmed by him managing 14 goals and missing a further 21 big chances (the second highest in the league) in just 2528 minutes of football. Evidently, Fraser is the main creator and Wilson is the key goalscoring threat.
This is not to downplay King or Brooks’ involvement. Indeed, the Norwegian international bettered Wilson’s xG, albeit across over 400 more minutes. Meanwhile, Brooks is one of the Premier League’s most promising players, following an excellent debut season in the top flight, which duly saw him recognised as a PFA Young Player of the Year nominee. However, Wilson and Fraser were simply so impressive in 2018/19, that their relative superiority in the final third has to be emphasised.
Eddie Howe’s attacking style of play will ensure that these four continue to provide the attacking spark that saw them score a combined 40 Premier League goals last season. Where question marks remain are in the defence, in order to concede fewer than 60 goals for the first time since promotion in 2015. Two reinforcements have been brought in, but having never played in the Premier League previously, Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey will have to step up in order to seriously improve Bournemouth’s defensive record in the short-term. The future looks positive for the club, but this looks set to be another season of lower mid-table mediocrity.
Read more on Bournemouth: David Brooks Player Analysis
Stats from WhoScored and Fantasy Football Scout