SHOULD THEY GO ALL OUT TO WI N A TROPHY?
In a number of ways, Bournemouth’s relatively quiet 12th-place finish last term was more impressive than their stunning second season in the Premier League, when they ended up in ninth. In 2016-17, they defied expectations by posting the highest league position in the club’s history, and doing it with positive, fun, even gung-ho football. Maintaining a mid-table berth, however, without the impetus of making history and with rivals knowing what to expect from them, showed it was no fluke. Last season, the good ship Bournemouth became slightly – slightly – less leaky: while they scored fewer goals themselves, they conceded 61 instead of 67. They’re still a better proposition going forward than they are in defence, as only West Ham, Stoke and Watford conceded more often, but collectivism and application allowed the Cherries to overcome teams with far more star quality. If the defenders who got them here in 2015 can cut out an increasing number of brain farts – yes, you, Simon Francis and Steve Cook – then Bournemouth can be sturdier still. Maintaining mid-table stability is paramount, but the question remains: with manager Eddie Howe being their prize asset, and the natural concern being that he is lured away and the wheels fall off, should the club go all out to secure some silverware? It’s an old-fashioned whinge in an era where calculator-clutchers in the boardroom can’t see past the zillions that Premier League safety ensures. But Howe’s men look capable of breaking another duck for the club by putting something really significant in the trophy cabinet (with no disrespect meant to their 1984 Football League Trophy win). The Cherries do, after all, have a never-say-die attitude: they won 18 points after going behind in a game – the most in the top flight – and their away form was superior to top-half Arsenal and Everton. Howe often talks about leaving a legacy over the next few decades, and the Premier League cash will fund a new stadium and training ground soon. The exciting purchase of 21-year-old David Brooks for an eight-figure fee shows the manager is looking towards the future. A legacy of success from an FA Cup or League Cup triumph, however, and they will need extra funds left over for a statue or two.