Australian Four Four Two - - PREMIER LEAGUE -

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.

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