Should Bournemouth be brave and stick with style in Premier League?
Over two spells in charge of Bournemouth, nobody can deny Eddie Howe has done a superb job.
From the brink of liquidation and Football League oblivion some six years ago, he has guided the Cherries right through the divisions and is virtually certain of being in the Premier League next term. Coral make Bournemouth 6/5 to stay up in their maiden top-flight campaign.
There are now a whole hosts of challenges facing still young boss Howe (pictured below with chairman Jeff Mostyn) as he begins to prepare for his and the south coast club’s first-ever season at that exalted level.
A conundrum which has faced many managers in similar situations before has simply been whether to stick or twist.
Loyalty is often its own reward, though detractors of remaining resolutely faithful to the players that get teams up will point to where Howe’s former club Burnley are – the foot of the Premier League table.
Sean Dyche has worked on a shoestring budget at Turf Moor, however, and always had a small squad. It was the goals of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes that caused the Clarets to go up, while the Cherries have a real attacking ensemble.
Perhaps, then, Bournemouth are a hybrid of Burnley and Leicester City, though without the latter’s wealthy Asian backers. There is existing talent in the ranks at Dean Court, so supplementing that with some canny additions in a similar vein to the Foxes recruiting Esteban Cambiasso may prove fruitful.
On-loan goalie Artur Boruc, temporary target man acquisition Kenwyne Jones and veteran out of contract left back Ian Harte apart, Premier League experience in Cherries ranks is minimal.
Deep-lying midfielder Dan Gosling was on the fringes at Everton and Newcastle United earlier in his career, but Bournemouth are short of regulars that know top-flight football.
What Howe has at his disposal is a largely youthful squad, sprinkled with the odd seasoned pro here and there. Top scorer Callum Wilson’s own rapid rise mirrors that of Bournemouth, and he (pictured below) is definitely one to watch for next season.
Scotland winger Matt Ritchie, who was just breaking into the first-team picture along the south coast at Portsmouth when the bottom fell out, has supplemented with goals and guile, so must be given license by Howe to continue to do so.
The Cherries have climbed English football’s pyramid playing an expansive and mobile 4-4-2 with two wingers and all-action operators in the engine room. Howe could be forgiven for erring more on the side of caution hereafter, but may be best served by sticking to his principles and attacking big name opposite in this open fashion.
Bournemouth’s defensive record is nothing like as impressive as miserly Middlesbrough, who they have essentially beaten to automatic promotion, with only one game in every three resulting in the opposition being shut out.
Howe could consider bringing in a wise old head with Premier League experience in this area. Someone like a Brede Hangeland, whose deal at Crystal Palace is up this summer.
Punters may be surprised to learn the Cherries are odds-on for the drop at 8/13, but betting cannot take potential into account. There is that in abundance at Bournemouth but, until we see how Howe handles his difficult decisions over the summer, there is still plenty to prove.