This year’s Premier League fairytale team – Bournemouth – are heading into a crucial part of the season knowing they will have to dig in if their unlikely top flight debut is to be remembered as anything other than a horror story.
Eddie Howe’s side have – like so many supposed no-hopers before them – attracted plenty of plaudits for their early approach to life in the big time. Far from trying to tough it out and merely grind out points, they’ve stuck to the principles that got them into the Premier League in the first place. While this is hugely commendable, we’ve seen it all before. And although the Cherries are not the gung-ho, have-a-go-heroes of Ian Holloway’s Blackpool from a few years ago, Howe must be fully aware that as winter approaches, pragmatism may well have to be the watch word on the south coast.
With scoring goals at a premium, the loss of star striker Callum Wilson (along with expensive summer signings Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel) for the remainder of the season with knee ligament damage is a huge blow to their chances of survival. Yet, as with so many teams who come up from the Championship, it is the defensive area of the game that will be key to their prospects of staying up come next May.
Saturday’s 5-1 defeat to Manchester City was their first real humbling; their early season performances have been largely closely fought, but Howe will be keen for such generosity to be kept to a minimum. Of course, conceding five goals to the best team in the league on their own patch is hardly an embarrassing or unexpected outcome for a newly promoted club, but it is a habit they must not fall into. Many others have tried, and failed, to balance attack and defence as successful measures with which to beat the drop.
The old cliché says that there are no easy games in the Premier League, and one look at Bournemouth’s fixture list more than backs that up; Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Everton and Southampton are all to be played in the run up to the transfer window, and it is during that window where Howe could really demonstrate his growing list of credentials – especially given the unfortunate injury crisis which has befallen his team so early in the campaign.
With the financial backing of sponsors, like Mansion Group -a global online gambling business, who own a few online casinos such as Mansion Casino Australia and their Russian co-owner Maxim Demin, who has already dipped into his ample funds to help the club achieve the Premier League dream, Howe will have to invest smartly with whatever cash he is given to trade with.
This year’s relegation dogfight will be more intensely contested like no other before, with the Premier League’s enormous new £5.14billion TV deal kicking in from next season, meaning an awful lot of desperate clubs will be throwing everything – including the kitchen sink - at avoiding missing out on an estimated £100million windfall per year.
Eddie Howe and his players have already made significant history at the Vitality Stadium just by getting to where they are now, especially given where Bournemouth were just seven or eight years ago, languishing – as they were - at the foot of the Football League. The big question now is whether they have the means and the nous not to let this experience be anything other than just a brief flirtation with English football’s elite.