Bournemouth afloat despite boom-and-bust record
Howe must make patchy form a thing of the past for club to maintain progress, writes Jeremy Wilson
For a club built around such sustained and consistent growth as Bournemouth, any association with the phrase “boom and bust” may seem strange. But even amid their very definite Premier League stabilisation since 2015, it is hard to miss a definite trend. Streaks of wins and draws. Streaks of defeats and draws. Bournemouth went nine games without winning in November and December last season. There was a similar nine-game sequence after Christmas in the previous season.
Before that, and in their first Premier League season, a period between September and December sounded some alarm bells.
The slump is again on, with Bournemouth going into today’s match at Everton on a run of 10 defeats in 13 matches, including exits from both the FA Cup and League Cup.
Their strong start has already made relegation highly unlikely this year, but it does still prompt a question in what is now the club’s fourth Premier League season. It is not so much whether this current rut might yet push Bournemouth into relegation danger – they surely have the attacking flair to pick up sufficient further wins – but whether Howe can maintain that sense of renewal and upward trajectory.
New signings are one solution and Bournemouth have already been active in this transfer window. The arrivals of both Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke from Liverpool underlined a very definite ongoing shift in how the rest of the Premier League views Bournemouth.
As Neil Warnock very publicly outlined, Clyne had the option of joining Cardiff City while Solanke might have moved to Crystal Palace. That they viewed Bournemouth as a better option was in itself instructive. Both players cited Howe as a big factor in their decision and they believe that he shares much with Jurgen Klopp in his footballing philosophy. They also stressed that there was a wider feeling that Bournemouth are now firmly established in the Premier League.
“I think the manager is fantastic and it is a fantastic club as well,” said Solanke. “Those two mixed together definitely influenced my decision. The club is going somewhere; they have played some really good football over the last few years.”
Clyne added: “They have taken quite a bit of dip recently, but I could see the quality in the team and way they train. The style of play is attractive – I think that’s why a lot of players would like to play for Bournemouth.”
Howe himself believes that the club can still further exploit their unique geographical appeal to prospective signings, but admitted last summer that a big priority and motivating force now was the wider development of the club. “It’s pushing the club forward in a deeper sense,” he said. “Building a stadium, building a training ground – I know that these things costs millions and it is easier said than done but, for me, that’s the only way to go. We want to keep moving Bournemouth forward into unchartered territory.
“We want to find ways to stimulate people, to keep everyone motivated to keep progressing and improving. What’s the next thing that we can achieve now? We know the league position is not impossible to push forward but ever more difficult.
“It’s really important now that we don’t stand still, that we maximise this period and we leave something for future generations that says: ‘We did the right thing. We made the right decisions when the sun was shining’.”
Bournemouth then subsequently admitted that hopes for a new stadium by 2020 were “overly optimistic” and stressed that any future development would not be allowed to “risk what has been achieved to date”.
There is no timescale on a new stadium, but the commitment to squad investment remains firm and it was striking on Friday to hear it noted that the £17million Solanke fee is actually the third-highest for an England striker behind Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll. Solanke has only ever scored one Premier League goal and is currently injured.
Howe had not intended to be active this month, but believes that it became necessary in the context of recent injuries that have included knee operations for both Simon Francis and Lewis Cook.
Callum Wilson is also a doubt against Everton today, and with Chelsea interested and Bournemouth having just signed Solanke and let Jermain Defoe join Glasgow Rangers, the club’s attitude to this situation could become highly significant.
Howe has already outlined his position. “In my opinion – and it’s just my opinion – I wouldn’t sell at any price,” he said.
Go South: Dominic Solanke (left) and Nathaniel Clyne have joined from Liverpool