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

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Premier League -

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

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