AFC Bournemouth Season Preview: part of the furniture?

With the 2018-19 Premier League season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to AFC Bournemouth fan Rob Lee (@Robmatlee).

2017-18 saw another impressive campaign for Bournemouth. Did the January wins over Arsenal and Chelsea show that you’re starting to become part of the Premier League furniture?

No, to be blunt. Because after every dominant performance against teams like that, there’s an abysmal half hearted display against an equal that you would hope for three points for. So yeah it’s nice, were still looking over our shoulders though, and you only have to look at who went down last season, you’re not guaranteed anything in this league.

You scored 25 goals in the last half hour of matches last season and took more points from games in which the opposition have scored first (20) than any other team. Why do you think the likes of Jermain Defoe, Jordon Ibe and Lys Mousset were more effective from the bench than starting?

Defoe is effective at any time. He’s a natural predator. Mousset looks the real deal but still completely raw. I’d like to see him starting consistently this season. Ibe is still dividing opinion and this season has to be massive for him and he still has a lot to improve on. I think the way we play is what gets us the results. We do tend to tire teams, and eventually force them into silly mistakes, or the pace throughout our side eventually reaps gold.

David Brooks, who himself was a super-sub at Sheffield United last season, is your only signing to date. Do you expect him to be integrated slowly?

Yes completely, I think he will be like Lewis Cook and his second season could be what kicks off for him. I do like what I see thus far, and think he does have the ability to be a top class number 10 in the coming years.

Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic started all 38 league games last season, but only kept six clean sheets; no team kept fewer. Does Howe show loyalty to players while they aren’t performing well?

He has done, he has been more ruthless of late. As always the defence needs strengthening and as yet it hasn’t, so I wouldn’t have an afcb defender in your fpl team. But his loyalty still is high, arter Francis Pugh are arguably not up to scratch and EH still has them around, Harry Arter and Marc Pugh featured a lot less last season though.

Despite the defensive record, Nathan Ake often came in for praise. Is his ability in possession part of the reason fans have taken to him?

I think all fans would happily take an 11 of Akes. He’s class. He won’t be here for long in all honesty. He’s very good in the air for a shorter centre back, brilliant in possession, and loves a goal as well. I actually think he would be the missing link at Liverpool. Wouldn’t sell for less than 40 in the current market.

Another regular was Charlie Daniels; although my one concern about him would be that he perhaps doesn’t have quite as much pace as your typical modern left-back. Thoughts on the signing of Diego Rico?

From what I’ve seen and heard he sounds like a cracking signing. Hopefully he can learn English quickly and gets himself settled. But he seems like he ticks all our boxes and a younger, stronger version of Charlie Daniels. Rumour is we opted for him rather than Diego Laxalt to give an extra chance for Lerma; and as he has handed in a transfer request it’s looking more likely. But all in all, I’m very keen to see how Rico acclimatises to the country and the league.

Captain Simon Francis has signed a one-year extension. Do you think he would have started 31 Premier League games last season if he wasn’t captain and a club legend?

Franno divides a lot of opinion! We didn’t win any of the 10 Premier League games he didn’t start last season but he is very error prone and losing (lost according to some) his edge. I think the new deal would see him more as a squad player this season with a back three of Cook, Ake and Tyrone Mings coming to the fore.

Adam Smith remains your first choice right-back. Do you think he’ll keep his place if you go with wing-backs, or could Ryan Fraser be converted?

Fraser was a decent make shift. However he did lose a bit of his game by focusing on defending. There’s no reason why he can’t be a Victor Moses and be a solid RWB. We would prefer a ready made one bought in as a challenge for Smithy though. Been an endless request of ours in all honesty.

You were calling for midfielder Lewis Cook to start over Harry Arter early on in 2017-18 and he appears to have vindicated that faith. You must be delighted he has signed a new four-year contract?

Absolutely, that boy will almost certainly be in Qatar 22. Wouldn’t be surprised if he is in the Euros having only just missed out on the world cup this year. He’s brilliant and another one I’m very resigned to losing in 2 or 3 seasons. And he’s only 21. Absolutely cut above, and a natural leader. I could gush about him all day really, he’s definitely going to be in the top 4.

There were only four games last season that holding midfielders Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman started together; two of them were against Man City. Will it once again be a case of choosing between them this year?

Cook and Gosling made a solid pair, however I’m fully expecting Jefferson Lerma to join soon. I also get the vibe that Emerson Hyndman may finally break through, with Arter being shown the door (If Lerma signs). Surman I feel will also be more a squad player this season.

Striker Callum Wilson had a good season last year, scoring nine goals including a hat-trick against Huddersfield in November. Do you expect him and Josh King to be the main strike-pairing this year?

King is a funny one, he wants to be the main guy. But always plays wider or behind Wilson. There’s been a bit of chatter about him going, and with a valuation of 20m it’s tempting. I’m expecting it to be them two though and it’s gonna be class seeing Callum after (hopefully) a full pre season and being injury free this season.

Cherries aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the Premier League season as a whole? And how do you assess your competitors?

As always, it’s top 6 and the rest. No one would have thought Burnley would get to Europe. There’s no reason we can’t. We could equally go down. I do think that Cardiff will go, Southampton also. But it could be anyone, you never know the fallout for Leicester now for example. I’m interested to see how Arsenal and Liverpool do. They’ve both had excellent transfer windows and could finally put up a challenge.

Where will you finish?

I’m going to be bold and say 9th – providing we get Lerma in. Failing that I will say 15th.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

The fact AFC Bournemouth have brought in a La Liga stalwart like Diego Rico and a key World Cup performer like Jefferson Lerma is a sign of their growth. Eddie Howe appears to be moving on the old guard from the 2014-15 promotion campaign, but in a gradual way that doesn’t interfere with the squad harmony. Ake staying on boosts the West Country outfit’s chances of challenging for the top half, although they must influence more games from the outset. 12th