We begin our look at the three clubs promoted from the Championship with the champions, Bournemouth. The Cherries will play in the top flight for the first time in their 125 year history after sealing promotion with a 3-0 home win against Bolton, with the title secured on the final day of the season after a 3-0 victory at Charlton.
We take time out to examine Bournemouth’s record, assess the tactics employed by their manager and run the rule of their promotion squad, picking out the targets that will likely draw our attention in pre-season.
CS = Clean sheets
Eddie Howe’s side topped the table with 90 points over the 46 matches played, one point clear of second placed Watford and four ahead of Norwich, in third. That total is 12 points less than Leicester achieved as champions a year earlier, while Burnley also managed 95 points in their promotion season.
Bournemouth’s strength undoubtedly lies in their attacking prowess, with the Cherries scoring 98 times in their promotion campaign, seven more than nearest rivals Watford. They balanced that attacking intent remarkably well at the back, with only 45 goals conceded, making them the second best defensive unit in the league.
The Cherries found goals hard to come by in front of their own fans at the start of the season, scoring exactly one goal in their first four home matches, but from that point onwards, they managed at least two goals in 15 of their final 19 encounters at Goldsands Stadium. Defensively, Howe’s men conceded at least two goals in ten of their 23 home encounters, with ten clean sheets accrued.
Bournemouth’s record on the road is highly impressive. They scored more times away from Goldsands (50 to 48) and also conceded less (20 to 25), picking up nine shut-outs on the road. They scored at least twice on 13 of their 23 road trips and conceded more than a single goal on just four occasions.
Now in his second spell managing the club, Eddie Howe has enjoyed a lengthy association with AFC Bournemouth, having spent the majority of his playing career with the south coast side. He had a fairly brief stint in charge at Burnley between 2011 and 2012, but returned to Bournemouth to lead the Cherries firstly to the Championship, and now to the Premier League.
The 37-year-old favours a 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 system, which, as this handy tactical analysis highlights, morphs into a 2-4-3-1 when in possession. This sees the wingers tucking in slightly in the final third, thus allowing the full-backs leeway to bomb forward and support their side’s attacks – a ploy which Howe may decide to curtail against some of the Premier League’s tougher opposition.
Howe has gained plaudits for his side’s attacking, possession-based style of play which saw them score 112 goals in all competitions. Amongst Championship sides, Bournemouth had the highest percentage of both possession and successful passes in 2014/15 and also fired more shots per match than any of their peers. Howe uses performance analysts to help his approach and admits he’s keen to follow the data:
“I find statistics a good thing to measure and we do look closely at then, but we don’t go crazy on it, and I certainly don’t use it against players.”
It’s perhaps no surprise that the forward-thinking Howe has already seen him tipped for greater things. As explained by right-back Simon Francis, Howe’s training methods are based on a former Barcelona manager:
“We work a lot on training on the stuff that Guardiola does, what he did at Barcelona and does at Bayern. Obviously we’re nowhere near what they are doing, but Eddie likes to look at them and how they are playing positionally. He’s the next level with this kind of thing, honestly. We do some sessions in training where we get split into two XIs. One team will go into one changing room and one into the other. One team is Barcelona and one team is Bayern Munich. We pretend it’s the second leg of a Champions League game and one team is 2-1 down and with ten men, so they have to go for it. We’ll go out onto the pitch and we’ll play the last 15 minutes out with two different styles of play.”
The Promoted Squad
The Cherries stuck with much of the squad that finished tenth in their first campaign in the Championship for their promotion-winning season. The major move saw Coventry striker Callum Wilson brought in to replace Lewis Grabban, who had scored 24 goals for Bournemouth in the 2013/14 season. Wilson was signed for an undisclosed fee, thought to have been around £3 million, a similar amount to the fee involved in taking Grabban to Norwich.
Andrew Surman was signed from the Canaries for an undisclosed fee, while Artur Boruc came in on loan from Southampton last September. Cardiff’s Kenwyne Jones was also signed on loan for the final six weeks of the season. Crucially, many of Bournemouth’s key players are in their early to mid-twenties, so an approach similar to Leicester’s this season could be on the cards. Howe is likely to keep faith in several of the players who got them to the Premier League, but also have an eye on bringing in four or five players who could come straight into the starting XI.
Artur Boruc (37 starts) – brought in from Southampton on loan in September, the veteran signed a one-year deal with Bournemouth earlier today after being released on a free by the Saints.
Simon Francis (42 starts, 1 goal, 6 assists) – the first choice right-back was one of two Bournemouth players to be voted into the PFA Championship Team of the Season. Francis likes to get forward, as illustrated by the six assists picked up during the promotion campaign, and links well with Matt Ritchie down the flank. Francis produced an eye-catching 76 key passes over his 42 appearances.
Charlie Daniels (41 starts, 1 sub app. 1 goal, 4 assists) – although Daniels produced just two assists less than Francis from left-back, he’s far less an offensive threat and created 46 chances for his team-mates by comparison.
Adam Smith (6 starts, 23 sub apps. 1 goal, 5 assists) – able to play at right-back, left-back and as a wing back, the former Tottenham youngster has good pace and provided five assists last season. He struggled to hold down a place in the starting XI and that challenge will only get tougher with new recruits expected.
Tommy Elphick (46 starts, 1 goal, 2 assists) – club captain and only missed 27 minutes of the title winning campaign. Looks certain to be an important player next season, but may find the going hard against forwards with pace.
Steve Cook (46 starts, 5 goals, 1 assist) – the biggest threat among the defenders from set-pieces, registering five goals last season. Was a constant in a largely settled back four for the Cherries and his prowess suggests he could offer an alternative to Francis for those planning to invest in the Bournemouth backline.
Andrew Surman (40 starts, 1 sub app. 3 goals, 6 assists) – played mainly as the defensive midfielder alongside Harry Arter in the double-pivot, and has good Premier League experience from his time at Norwich. Not likely to offer much of an attacking threat at the higher level.
Harry Arter (43 starts, 9 goals, 3 assists) – has been with the club since 2010 and has recently been called up to the Republic of Ireland senior squad. Has a good passing range and a knack of scoring from distance thanks to his cultured left foot. Shares some dead-ball duties with Matt Ritchie, but did pick up 12 yellow cards last term.
Marc Pugh (35 starts, 7 sub apps. 9 goals, 5 assists) – like Arter, has been with the club through the meteoric rise. A tricky winger whose attacking output was impressive last season, but may see less playing time should a new wide player be brought in over the summer.
Matt Ritchie (44 starts, 2 sub apps. 15 goals, 17 assists) – Bournemouth’s star man ticks a lot of boxes for Fantasy managers. Ritchie takes the vast majority of free-kicks and corners, and can score from long range while also timing his runs into the box perfectly. Capable with either foot and forms a good partnership with Simon Francis down the right flank. Ritchie made his Scotland debut in the 1-0 win against Northern Ireland in March and provided the assist for the winner. Named in the PFA Championship Team of the Season, he fired more shots and created more chances than any team-mate.
Dan Gosling (1 start, 17 sub apps. 2 assists) – only one start last season for the former Everton midfielder. Unlikely to feature very heavily in the Premier League.
Ryan Fraser (6 starts, 15 sub apps, 1 goal, 1 assist) – young Scottish winger who was used predominantly from the bench. Very quick and could develop further.
Eunan O’Kane (8 starts, 3 sub apps) – a capable defensive midfield player, but struggled for pitch time and looks to be a squad player for next season.
Yann Kermorgant (26 starts, 12 sub apps. 15 goals, 10 assists) – the former Charlton man was a great foil for Callum Wilson, providing a physical presence in attack. When he starts, Kermorgant is the Cherries’ principal penalty taker but, at 33, he is in the latter stages of his career now. Howe is expected to sign at least one new forward which may well limit his pitch time.
Junior Stanislas (6 starts, 7 sub apps. 1 goal) – signed on a free last summer, Stanislas has played under Howe before but looks likely to be no more than a back-up option.
Callum Wilson (45 starts, 20 goals, 7 assists) – was pivotal in the Championship winning season, with his pace terrorising defences. Wilson is an England under-21 international and looks to have plenty of improvement in him, given he is only 23. Third in line for penalties behind Kermorgant and Brett Pitman, he could move to the front of the queue if those two fail to make the starting XI.
Brett Pitman (18 starts, 16 sub apps. 13 goals, 2 assists) – in his second stint at the club after a three year spell at Bristol City, has an eye for goal, but scored many of his strikes as a substitute and could struggle to make an impact in the Premier League. Vied mainly with Kermorgant for the support role behind Wilson.
Tokelo Rantie (12 sub apps, 2 goals) – snapped up for a then club record of £2.5m in 2013, the South African has struggled to nail down a starting berth. Limited to a handful of sub appearances last time out, his season was further restricted due to injuries and ACoN duties.
As mentioned, Howe is expected to make a few additions in the summer, but he has regularly emphasised the importance of the team spirit fostered over the last few years and the fact any new signings must compliment the current group:
“You can see from my track record that the guys who have performed so well for us this season will get an opportunity to perform at the next level. I don’t believe in wholesale changes in the close season, I don’t believe in not giving players a chance to show whether they are good enough. Ultimately they will have to take that opportunity but it was the same from League One to Championship – we stuck with the majority of the squad. Of course there will be subtle changes – there will be players coming in and players leaving – but the core group will remain the same.”
Again, that strategy sounds fairly familiar to what Leicester tried to do in the last two transfer windows, whereas Burnley stayed fairly prudent and QPR spent pretty lavishly, but failed to engender a willingness to play for each other.
The Bournemouth manager has already announced that six players have been released, including Ian Harte, while keeper Darryl Flahavan has expressed a desire to find first team football elsewhere.
Discussing his thoughts on the club’s transfer policy recently, the Cherries boss stated a desire to shop domestically as they embark on their debut season in the top tier of English football:
“Predominantly we will go British-based… In our situation going into a new league with so many unknowns we want dependable players that we know. I think the make-up of our squad will be British. That’s not to say we won’t look abroad and we have cast our net quite wide to try and find the best players for us.”
With Bournemouth’s season finishing just two weeks ago and with the Premier League still in full flow, there isn’t too much transfer speculation regarding incomings to the south coast club. Plenty of forwards have been linked with the Premier League new boys, with Sporting Braga striker Eder, Dimitar Berbatov, Jermain Defoe and Obafemi Martins all the subject of speculation in recent weeks. While there is nothing concrete on any of those names, it does appear likely that Howe will look to add more firepower to his squad.
One link that does seem to have some substance to it is a move for Birmingham youngster Demarai Gray. Bournemouth made multiple bids for the winger in January, but were unable to agree a fee. With just a year left on his contract, the 18-year-old could well depart St Andrews this summer, although the Cherries may have to beat off the likes of Liverpool to secure his services.
Reading midfielder Jem Karacan would fit the bill of “British-based players,” and the 26-year-old also has Premier League experience from his time at the Royals. Watford have have also been linked with Karacan, who would offer some much needed depth in the middle of the park for Bournemouth, with Andrew Surman and Harry Arter virtually ever present last season.
It does seem as if the Cherries could look raid some of the Championship clubs who failed to gain promotion, a policy that again worked for Leicester last summer when they signed Leonardo Ulloa from Brighton, or even going back to when Swansea brought in Danny Graham from Watford.
As the Bournemouth boss has admitted, though, some of the stories regarding new signings at this moment in time must be taken with a pinch of salt:
“We have had a lot of names thrown at us and there has been a lot of talk in the press, which is usually wide of the mark.”
*Many thanks also goes to site regular and Bournemouth fan Shipstontrev, whose thoughts on his team’s prospects helped with the planning of this article.