Ahead of Bournemouth’s visit to St Mary’s this Sunday for a first ever Premier League meeting with Southampton, we spoke to Bournemouth Echo reporter Neil Perrett to get the lowdown on the Cherries.
How would you rate Bournemouth’s season so far?
Topsy turvy. They made a tentative start, obviously coming into this division for the first time in their history. But they eventually got up and running with a couple of wins over West Ham and Sunderland. Then, obviously, disaster struck when they suffered a spate of injuries to key players, which has set them back in the last couple of games.
Just how big an impact have those injuries had?
The injuries have ripped the spine out of last season’s Championship-winning team, in that they have lost their inspirational captain and central defender Tommy Elphick, Republic of Ireland central midfielder Harry Arter and prolific striker Callum Wilson, who were pivotal in them getting to the Premier League last season. They lost all three practically overnight, and that would have an impact on a team at the top, let alone one nearer the bottom.
What are the expectations for the rest of the season?
I think the expectations among the supporters now are that staying in the division would be the main target. Not that that wasn’t the expectation at the start of the season, but I think then people were perhaps hoping for slightly more than that, because they had on paper a decent squad. But expectations now have definitely switched to remaining in the league.
How big is Sunday’s match for Bournemouth?
Coming on the back of successive 5-1 defeats, I don’t think it would matter whether they were playing Southampton or Southport. It’s a hugely important game in the grand scheme of things. It’s so vital they stop the rot sooner rather than later, because, with the greatest respect to Southampton, they’ve got Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United this side of the new year as well, so the odds are firmly stacked against them in those three, never mind meeting an in-form Southampton team as well.
What do you expect from Sunday’s game?
Bournemouth, I think, will be slightly more encouraged now, having performed well at Liverpool in the League Cup last night. I saw Southampton made a number of changes as well for their game, so they may revert back to sort of more of a Premier League side. You’ve got to be realistic and say it’s going to be very difficult for Bournemouth on Sunday. Not only are they coming off two 5-1 defeats in the league, but Southampton are coming in on the back of a tremendous run. Bournemouth never set out to park the bus or stifle the opposition – they haven’t really got that in their armoury. They’re an attacking side, and the manager has said they’re not going to make wholesale changes to the way they play, so they’re still going to be an attacking force when they can be. That will be their greatest hope of springing a surprise win if they were to pull it off, but there’s probably no question they would readily settle for a point at this stage, simply to stem the tide. It’s going to be a great atmosphere for the supporters – the first Premier League derby between the two clubs.
Who have been Bournemouth’s key players this season?
Gosport lad Matt Ritchie has arguably been one of their most consistent performers, scoring a couple of goals, one of which remains a leading contender for Premier League goal of the season – his stunning strike against Sunderland with a cushioned left-foot volley. He’s turned in a series of excellent displays on the wing, and his performances last season also saw him break into the Scotland squad. He’s been a key player and is going to continue to be during the season. Keeping him fit is going to be vital. All eyes now will also be on the experienced striker, Glenn Murray, to fill the void left by Callum Wilson. He scored in his first start, against Watford, and then scored against Manchester City as well. His experience is going to be vital in what potentially lies ahead for the club.