AFC Bournemouth: Cherry Picking Episode Two

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Welcome back to Cherry Picking for Episode Two. The last part saw me traverse pre-season, struggling to work out my best starting XI whilst also conceding the usual sloppy goals typically associated with the majority of my defenders on every save.

After winning five games out of the six, I came into the start of the league campaign relatively happy. But now comes the difficult bit – the actual test that will decide the club’s fate at the end of the season, and my own.

With the objective of stringing together as many wins as possible at the start of the season, we headed to the Vitality Stadium for our first Premier League against West Ham.

After going one-nil down at the break, I hooked off my extra midfielder and introduced Josh King – who thankfully flicked home the equaliser late on. Full time came and went with a feeling of frustration, we have to be picking up maximum points at home if we’re going to stay in the division.

As shown by the stats, the game was an extremely tight affair, with limited opportunities for both sides. Subbing off Jorit Hendrix was necessary to add more attacking impetus, providing by King playing off Defoe. Thankfully the change in tactic worked, and a point on the first game of the season will have to do.

The focus of our attacks were primarily down the middle against the Hammers, which is the complete opposite to the tactic that I’m currently training the squad with. I’m sure that this will get better with training, but the wingers weren’t used enough when moving forward and even when they did receive the ball they were extremely poor – as shown by Jordon Ibe’s shocking performance.

The second game was a tricky away day at Newcastle United. I decided to start with two strikers up top, with King supporting Defoe. This seemed to work well against West Ham and I knew I would have to score goals to get anything from the game, judging by our defensive frailties.

However, the risk was leaving just two central midfielders against Newcastle’s front-line. Thankfully it didn’t matter in the end, as my big Norwegian striker cropped up with another goal and we held on for all three points to move us into a mid-table spot.

Once again it was another close game, with limited chances. Nathan Ake’s injury picked up against the Hammers ruled him out for a couple of weeks, so loanee Christian Zapata started next to Cook. The centre-half partnership worked brilliantly, and both players performed well when called upon.

A goal on the break, with Defoe playing through King, showed that a two-striker formation could be the best idea for the future.

Next up, a Carabao Cup second round tie at Bristol Rovers awaited, a typical banana skin for Bournemouth in real life. And sure enough, after 12 minutes I was one-nil down following Brad Smith’s dismal attempt to run back after giving the ball away.

But in the 69th minute, Luciano Narsingh buried in an effort at the near post, his first goal for the club, and I opted for more direct passing to try and find a way through.

Bristol Rovers held out until penalties, where I scraped through the tie having won 3-2 on spot-kicks after temporarily being confused by the new penalty system.

A cup run would be brilliant for our season, but I still decided to rotate my squad with a focus on our next Premier League game at the Vitality. In came the likes of Artur Boruc, Tyrone Mings and Lys Mousset – but none particularly impressed, in particular Mousset who didn’t influence the game at all.

The only positive to come out of the tie is that we progressed, and will play Crystal Palace away in the next round.

All in all, at the end of this first episode, I’m satisfied. I like the look of our new signings, in particular Narsingh, and it’s always a positive knowing that other talented players like Junior Stanislas and Callum Wilson should hopefully make a swift return. In the next episode, we host both Huddersfield and Watford in consecutive home games before travelling to Brighton in the League and Crystal Palace in our Carabao Cup third round fixture.