Feature

Cherries ripe to defy the odds again

If it wasn’t for Leicester City’s miracle-to-end-all-miracles last season, we’d be doing a fair bit of talking about Bournemouth. It's a crying shame that we're not - this is a fairytale in its own right.

Bournemouth

Bournemouth players celebrate their recent big win over Hull City Source: Getty Images

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A club with a stadium capacity of 11,464 is probably a safe fit for League One, but no more.

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And here they are, punching furiously in the heavyweight ring that is the Premier League. And they’re making a mighty good fist of it too.

The 6-1 hammering of Hull City last weekend came with a message: ‘We’re here to stay’. No longer are they just making up the numbers.



As we inch towards the quarter mark of the campaign, they are firmly lodged in mid-table, in 11th to be exact, just a win shy of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.

As luck would have it, they’re also three points clear of Leicester. 

Though it is far too early to proclaim any team safe from relegation, the Cherries have steeled themselves beautifully for another campaign in the top flight, which is still a remarkable feat for a club of their size.

Yet, as the wheels fall off at clubs which seemed to be solid Premier League citizens, specifically Stoke City and Swansea City, there will be opportunities for others to take their place.

On the South Coast, Eddie Howe is relishing the chance to lay some strong foundations.

Casual observers might think the arrival of two big-name players, Jack Wilshire (on loan from Arsenal) and Jordan Ibe ($24.1 million from Liverpool) is the catalyst. Not so.

First things first - Wilshire is going well. He’s getting himself fit, ready and is almost back up to full speed.

But is he dominating? Not quite. That might come later in the year. The signs are positive but it’s a long way back to his exquisite best.

As for Ibe, he’s shown bursts of life and energy, the kind that had everyone at Liverpool thinking he’d replace Raheem Sterling.

But consistency isn’t his forte - as was his problem at Anfield - and there’s no guarantee he’ll start every week.



By contrast, Callum Wilson has scored three important goals in recent weeks and seems to be finding his niche. Josh King, too, looks like a really damaging prospect.

But it’s Junior Stanislas, who is perhaps the most surprising.

Seen by most as a nearly-there attacker who lacked the end product, the ex-West Ham junior is thriving.

He also has three goals to his name this season and his performance against Everton a few weeks ago was brilliant.

It’s a mix that has the Vitality Stadium living up to its optimistic name - as Hull found out in painful detail last week.

The brains behind it all is undoubtedly Howe. While fingers have been pointed at Bournemouth for spending freely this past summer, they did raise $32.2 million (£20 million) in transfer sales. Having once tipped his own money in to save the club, he’ll never spend frivolously.

Many are tipping Howe as an inevitable candidate for the England job, even though he’s only 38-year-old and played largely away from the top tiers.
Ahead of his side’s visit to Bournemouth on Saturday (LIVE and FREE on SBS from 10pm AEDT), Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino reckoned Howe to be the ideal candidate to replace Sam Allardyce.

"It is never too soon if you want it," Pochettino said.

"One day if it's in his mind to be manager of the national team and he has the offer it will be great for England. Personally, I like Howe and his staff a lot."

First things first, however, and Howe’s immediate worry is that stalwart midfielder Harry Arter is out with injury - likewise his replacement, Lewis Cook.

Socceroos defender Brad Smith’s top performance against Japan came at a cost and he’s also set to miss the match thanks to bruising in his foot.

A handy boost for the Cherries is the absence of Tottenham’s outstanding centre-half Toby Alderweireld, who was stretchered off at West Bromwich Albion last weekend.

Alderweireld hasn’t missed a single league game since he joined Spurs, which might create some uncertainty for Pochettino in defence.

It's worth noting that when they made the trek from north London last season - almost a year to the day - Tottenham cruised to a 5-1 win, the kind of result that will give them plenty of confidence going into Saturday.

But, equally, on the back of last week’s romp, just don’t think the Cherries will be doubting themselves any time soon.

They might even give Spurs a real fright.


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4 min read
Published 21 October 2016 at 3:52pm
By Sebastian Hassett