Our series on the newly-promoted Premier League sides continues with this look at Bournemouth’s goalkeeper and defenders.
In this article, we will assess the Cherries’ overall clean sheet chances and then present a player-by-player rundown of their backline ahead of their Fantasy Premier League (FPL) return.
Articles on manager Scott Parker and the Cherries’ attack will follow, while you can read up on Fulham via the links below:
READ MORE: What to expect from Fulham manager Marco Silva in FPL
READ MORE: Fulham’s defence assessed ahead of FPL return in 2022/23
READ MORE: What can we expect from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Fulham’s midfielders in FPL?
The stats in this piece are taken from Fbref, Fotmob and WhoScored, with the heatmap courtesy of SofaScore.
WHAT IS BOURNEMOUTH’S CLEAN SHEET POTENTIAL?
Bournemouth came up from the Championship with the best defensive record in the league, both in terms of clean sheets and goals conceded.
Interestingly, 13 of their 21 shut-outs came on the road; perhaps this was due to less pressure from the Dean Court faithful on Scott Parker to deviate from his usual conservative style.
“Away from home, we were very solid. We had a clean sheet rate of 57% on the road, the best by far in the league. Over half of our home games saw both teams score, by contrast. I’m not sure how that will translate into the Premier League, though. We may have to be more cautious at home and so we’ll play how we did away last year at home this coming year possibly. And away, I think we could struggle but our blueprint will be to keep it tight.” – FPLScofield
We’ve got one, cautionary word for you: Watford.
The Hornets were last year’s ‘Bournemouth’, boasting the meanest backline in the English second tier. They even beat the Cherries’ 2021/22 clean sheet tally in that campaign (23 v 21) and conceded far fewer goals (30 v 39).
And look at what happened to the Hornets this season, as they disappeared back to the Championship with the lowest shut-out count in the division.
Perhaps we’re comparing chalk and cheese here, with Bournemouth seeming like a less volatile club (Watford played well over 50 different players in pre-season last summer, going into Gameweek 1 without any kind of defensive cohesion), but it’s worth stressing that solidity in the Championship often doesn’t translate into clean sheets in the division above:
|Team (season promoted)||Goals conceded in Championship promotion season||Clean sheets kept in Championship promotion season||Goals conceded in following Premier League season||Clean sheets kept in following Premier League season|
|West Brom (2019/20)||45||14||76||6|
|Sheff Utd (2018/19)||41||21||39||13|
|Aston Villa (2018/19)||61||12||67||7|
The underlying stats are perhaps a concern, too.
Whilst the Cherries did finish first for fewest goals conceded and most clean sheets, plenty of debt was owed to multi-award-winning Mark Travers; if your goalkeeper ends up as Player of the Season, he’s not been quiet.
Indeed, the Cherries faced over 40 more shots on target than 10th-place West Bromwich Albion, although the expected goals against (xGA) tally would suggest that plenty have been routine in nature.
|Bournemouth’s 2021/22 total (rank v other Championship clubs)|
|Goals conceded||39 (1st)|
|Clean sheets||21 (1st)|
|Shots conceded||429 (4th)|
|Shots on target conceded||155 (6th)|
|Saves made||120 (9th)|
|Expected goals against (xGA)||47.3 (3rd)|
Above: Apart from clean sheets, 1st means fewest in the division and 24th the most.
APPS, GOALS AND ASSISTS
*released by the club at the end of 2021/22
**a loanee in 2021/22, has returned to parent club
***was transferred elsewhere in 2021/22
The Cherries will have to delve into the transfer market for goalkeeping reinforcements as their list of shot-stoppers consists of current number one Mark Travers and youngster Will Norris, who hasn’t played any higher than the National League.
Orjen Nyland started 2021/22 as back-up option before departing for Reading, while Freddie Woodman arrived from Newcastle on loan in January and didn’t play a game.
On top of the Golden Glove for most clean sheets in the Championship, Travers scooped the Supporters Player of the Season, Vice President’s Player of the Season and the Daily Echo’s Player of the Season.
“He probably epitomises the squad. He probably epitomises everything we are, to be honest with you. Mark Travers in goal at the start of the season, let’s get right, you’re looking at a keeper that looked young.
“You looked at times thinking ‘is he is he ready for this?’ But we stuck with him. And more importantly, Mark Travers has worked tirelessly. He took the bumps along the way and improved drastically.
“What the boys (coaches Gaz Stewart and Rob Burch) have done with him is incredible. He epitomises it.” – Scott Parker on Mark Travers
Travers’ save percentage of 76.9% was the fourth-best in the English second tier.
Fotmob had the Ireland international’s ‘goals prevented’ tally at a modest +0.8, although reliable expected goals data is harder to come by in the Championship.
He’ll be priced up at £4.5m in FPL next season and his appeal will likely be dictated by who else is available at that rung, with David Raya and/or a Newcastle goalkeeper probably more inviting alternatives should they be given budget tags.
Early-season fixture difficulty will of course come into the equation, too.
Parker’s Bournemouth are much more conservative than the Eddie Howe incarnation, at least, and a £4.5m shot-stopper who racks up the saves is always one to monitor.
“We’re possession based, primarily, but hard working out of possession. We’ll be hard to beat if not the most entertaining. Expect low-scoring matches.” – PaulRUK3 on Bournemouth’s playing style
DEFENDERS: THE CENTRE-HALVES
There’s actually very little to discuss at this early stage when it comes to Bournemouth centre-halves.
Gary Cahill, a big part of the defence in the first half of the season, has been released on a free transfer, while the long-serving Steve Cook departed for Nottingham Forest in January.
Zeno Ibsen Rossi and James Hill are both inexperienced youngsters, with the former embarking on an unremarkable loan spell with Dundee earlier this calendar year and the latter making only one substitute appearance following his January window move from Fleetwood Town.
Chris Mepham, meanwhile, has had a frustrating campaign at the Vitality Stadium, mostly playing second fiddle and making only one Championship start since the turn of the year. His substitute appearances almost outnumber his starts in 2021/22, with Parker semi-frequently turning to him off the bench to close out games.
That leaves Lloyd Kelly as the only other senior centre-half in Parker’s squad.
The Cherries’ club captain started all but one of the 41 Championship fixtures he was available for, with his only benching coming off the back of a quad injury.
He’ll likely be a reliable starter in 2022/23 but don’t expect a deluge of attacking returns: he’s scored just two goals in 85 league appearances for the Cherries. Whilst he does get forward at set plays, a total of 11 shots and seven chances created in over 3,600 minutes of second-tier football last season is on the meagre side.
A £4.5m starting price beckons, although he could at least benefit from the occasional bonus point if/when the Cherries keep a clean sheet: Kelly’s average number of passes per match (71) was the fifth-highest in the division last season thanks to Parker’s tippy-tappy approach, and passing is one of the contributing metrics on the Bonus Points System in FPL.
As for Kelly’s partner for much of 2022, loanee Nat Phillips, he has now returned to parent club Liverpool. We’ll profile the towering 25-year-old stopper if/when he returns to the south coast but he’s a name to follow wherever he ends up, having outshot Kelly (albeit without scoring) despite playing less than half as many minutes.
DEFENDERS: THE FULL-BACKS
As is the case at centre-half, Parker will almost certainly be dipping into the transfer market to snap up a full-back or two over the summer.
Two on the books last season, Ethan Laird and Leif Davis, were loanees who have now returned to their parent clubs.
Local media suggest the Cherries are unlikely to take up the option of signing Davis, who was second or third choice at left-back for much of the campaign, on a permanent deal. Laird, a right-back, similarly struggled for opportunities after a January move to the south coast.
Jack Stacey, one of three senior full-backs permanently on the payroll at Bournemouth, doesn’t seem to be part of Parker’s plans, meanwhile. The right-back did make 24 starts in the Championship but was only deputising for the injured Adam Smith and he ended up third choice in his position once Laird arrived. Again, Dorset Live think he will be on his way this summer.
That only leaves Smith and Jordan Zemura to discuss, Parker’s first choices at full-back when fit.
The versatile Smith, able to play on either flank but more of a natural on the right, is someone FPL managers will be aware of, having come to the fore as a playing £4.0m enabler in 2015/16 and then banking a respectable six attacking returns from a £4.5m starting price the following campaign.
Zemura is a new name to many of us, however, with 2021/22 being his breakthrough season.
More attacking than Smith and a key cog in the Bournemouth machine (the Cherries won just two of the 13 matches he missed), it’ll be interesting to see if Parker trusts him with regular starts in the Premier League given his inexperience and defensive shortcomings. A move to a wing-back system would be one way of compensating for that, allowing him the freedom to get forward.
“Mepham and Stacey will leave I think. I would expect Zemura, Anthony and Christie to be very much challenged for game time from new signings. Possibly Travers too if a new goalie comes in, but I hope not.” – PaulRUK3
Zemura’s underlaps are worth mentioning. Not a touchline-hugger or prolific crosser from out wide (he completed just four deliveries all season), he frequently wandered into more central areas during Bournemouth attacks. His brace against Barnsley came from two infield forays, while his total of six shots in the six-yard box was beaten only by Dominic Solanke and Phillip Billing among Cherries players in 2021/22; Smith registered zero.
Above: Jordan Zemura’s heatmap in 2021/22
Zemura and Smith are much of a muchness for chance creation, with the former more of a goal threat.
Zemura’s minutes-per-shot averages are nevertheless more Nelson Semedo than Marcos Alonso, to temper expectations:
|Mins per shot||Mins per shot in the box||Mins per chance created|
Travers and Zemura are the only two names that stand out at present from the Cherries’ backline but, even if they retain their shirts after the inevitable round of summer recruitment, they will be competing against more seasoned Premier League players from the likes of Crystal Palace and Brighton for our investment in the £4.5m bracket.
History tells us that newly promoted sides will struggle to exceed 10 clean sheets in their first season back in the Premier League but there are some rare success stories, such as Sheffield United in 2018/19.
Parker being a more cautious manager than Eddie Howe should at least boost the shut-out potential a tad.
For two-thirds of Parker’s last season as a top-flight manager (Gameweeks 4-27 of 2020/21), Fulham had one of the best defensive records in the Premier League, albeit while overachieving their expected goals conceded (xGC) tally.
Above: Teams sorted by goals conceded from Gameweeks 4-27 of 2021/22
Even the final ‘goals conceded’ count of 53 wasn’t terrible, especially considering that 10 of those strikes arrived in the first three Gameweeks.
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