Inside Track: AFC Bournemouth

By SFC Media time Thu 25 Apr Saints v Bournemouth
Photo by Getty Images

Get the lowdown on Saturday's opponents from Daily Echo Sports Reporter Tom Crocker, as Saints prepare to host AFC Bournemouth at St Mary’s.

Can you summarise the mood around the club at the moment?

There are mixed feelings among both the squad and the fanbase. The whole place got a huge lift from the 5-0 win at Brighton earlier this month, a result which essentially guaranteed a fifth straight season in the Premier League and a performance which reminded everyone how good Bournemouth can be.

But either side of that has seen Bournemouth lose at home against Burnley and Fulham with disappointing performances. There was hope that the Brighton game could kick-start a strong finish but a feeling of frustration at the inconsistency in recent form returned after the weekend.

Would this be considered a successful campaign for Bournemouth?

The club made a really strong start to the season, sitting sixth at the end of October. After a really tough run of fixtures, Cherries got back on track and following their 4-0 win over Chelsea, were comfortably in 10th and just two points off seventh and a potential European spot.

There have been just two wins in 11 since which has seen a drop down to 14th. But having got the points on the board early, relegation has never looked likely this season, which is a success in itself.

There has been plenty of talk about trying to set a new club record Premier League points tally of 47. To still have a chance of doing that, Bournemouth really need a result on Saturday.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 13: Ryan Fraser of AFC Bournemouth celebrates with teammate Callum Wilson after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and AFC Bournemouth at American Express Community Stadium on April 13, 2019 in Brighton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser have combined for 11 Premier League goals this season - joint highest across all European top flights leagues

There’s been quite a contrast between results first half of the season, and results in the second half - can you account for why?

A couple of reasons stand out. Firstly, after the blistering start, Bournemouth played 11 games between the start of November and end of December. Seven of those were against the top six sides and they lost them all.

Things started to balance out again but the second half of the season has seen a host of players pick up long-term injuries. Lewis Cook, Charlie Daniels and Simon Francis have all suffered big injuries. On top of that, key men Callum Wilson, Adam Smith and Steve Cook also missed a couple of months.

Cherries operate with a relatively small squad and all these injuries have taken their toll, especially last week against Fulham where due to injuries Eddie Howe had to use four centre-backs across the defence for most of the game.

Who have been the stand-out performers so far this term? Who are the dangermen Saints need to be wary of?

Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson have caught the eye for many this year and it’s easy to see why. They are seeking to break a Premier League record for goal contributions, having linked up for 11 goals this season.

Only Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in 1994/95 have managed more. Aside from those two, David Brooks has been a revelation since arriving from Sheffield United last summer and was deservedly nominated on the PFA Young Player of the Year list.

Injuries could well prevent it from happening on Saturday, but if Bournemouth can get Steve Cook and Nathan Ake back together at centre-back, they could also be key.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Eddie Howe, Manager of AFC Bournemouth looks on prior to the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Fulham FC at Vitality Stadium on April 20, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe reached 500 games as a manager against Fulham last week

How central is manager Eddie Howe to Bournemouth’s success?

Completely. He is the one who has built this club up from the very bottom to what it is now. This week marks the 10 year anniversary of Bournemouth avoiding relegation from League Two despite starting the campaign on minus 17 points.

That was Howe’s first season in management and many of that squad are now on the club’s coaching staff too. Last week against Fulham he reached 500 games as a manager, which is crazy considering he is still only 41. Players want to come and play for him and the ones that are here now can’t speak highly enough of the work that he does.

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