We go into the game on the South Coast this weekend sitting in eleventh place in the Premier League table on 33 points after 27 games. This effectively means that we are at the top of the bottom half of the league. Based on revenue figures we would hope to finish seventh by the end of the season, but this is not going to happen. It is good to see that some of our fans have retained their sense of humour, as I read one tweet today that said unless we pick up three points against Bournemouth then we cannot win the league!
Bournemouth, or to give them their proper name which very few people use, AFC Bournemouth, are in their second consecutive season in the top flight, and currently are three places below us in 14th, and trail us by six points. Their 27 points attained so far is just five points above the drop zone, so they really need to collect some more wins in their remaining games to ensure another season in the Premier League. They have won seven of their 27 league games, four of which have come against teams in the top half of the table, West Brom, Everton, Liverpool, and Stoke. Their biggest win was a 6-1 victory over lowly Hull back in October. Conversely, they have lost home games against both Sunderland and Palace to demonstrate the inconsistency of their performances.
If neutral spectators exist, and enjoy seeing goals, then Bournemouth are one of the teams for them to follow. The 89 goals scored in league games involving the Cherries this season puts them in third place just behind Swansea on 94, and Liverpool on 92.
Their recent record is why they might still end up in the relegation dogfight, as they haven’t won a single league game in 2017. In their eight games, they have drawn three times and lost five, although last week they had a creditable performance drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford. Apart from that draw, their other five drawn games have all come against clubs ‘loosely’ from the London area, Watford (twice), Palace, Arsenal and Tottenham.
We have only ever played them 8 times in history (and two of those were in 1929), and normally we have come out on top. Our only defeat was the 4-3 reverse at Upton Park in our second home game last season. That game was catastrophic from a defensive point of view, but we did get our revenge in the return match when we came from behind to win 3-1 with all of our goals coming from players who are no longer with us, Payet and Valencia (2). Two of the goals, one from the Frenchman, and another from the Ecuadorian currently on loan at Everton, were scored directly from free kicks.
In the very first Premier League game at the London Stadium, Bournemouth were our visitors, and in a tight game we just shaded it at the end with a late (85th minute) headed goal from Michail Antonio. At the time we hoped it would be the start of a good run, but we didn’t win another league game at home for two months, when an even later goal (94th minute) from Winston Reid gave us another 1-0 win, this time over Sunderland. And then we had to wait almost two months again before two more 1-0 home wins in a week against Burnley and Hull. Our win at home against Palace puts us on a par with Bournemouth in that we have both won five of our home games. Our away form has been superior to theirs, and hopefully we can record our fifth away from home victory this weekend.
Antonio should be back in our starting line-up after his unfortunate hand ball cost him a place for the Chelsea game. Perhaps another far post header will be the winner as we fight back after conceding the first goal to win the game 2-1 this time? Bilic gave Noble a vote of confidence this week, so I guess he is not immune to the feelings of a number of fans who would like to see our captain given a rest, and have taken to social media to express their views. Personally I would like us to revert to four at the back with a recognised right back in Byram. I’d like to see Kouyate add more pace in midfield alongside Obiang, who has been the player of the season for me so far. A lot of fans on social media were raving about Ayew’s substitute appearance against Chelsea, and I guess he did provide the assist for our late goal. He hasn’t yet convinced me of his potential worth to the team, but I concede he hasn’t had many chances to prove himself.
We all have opinions about the team that we would like to see selected, but only one man has his job on the line, and he sees the players every day, so he has to go with what he thinks is the team for a particular game, and not bow to external pressure. In many ways, as we are virtually safe, albeit not mathematically yet of course, it would be good to see us giving some of the fringe players the chance to prove themselves, but with an additional £2 million for each additional place higher that you finish in the league, then that is not going to happen.