Having won the Championship in style last term, following rapid promotion through the leagues in the past few seasons, Bournemouth are undoubtedly the neutral’s favourites when it comes to the promoted sides.
With a young, forward thinking manager at the helm in the form of Eddie Howe, a swashbuckling playing style and small club feel despite the wealth of their owner, there is a romance surrounding the Cherries’ top flight adventure. That, along with their superiority at times last term is why many pundits are tipping Bournemouth to beat the drop this season.
It may be time for a dose of reality though. Almost none of Bournemouth’s current squad have much top flight experience, and they are led by a manger who, for all his undoubted potential and charisma, is not only untested at this level, but has never faced a real relegation battle. It may well be that the likes of Matt Ritchie, Callum Wilson and Harry Arter rise to the occasion, and take to the Premier League with aplomb. Or, many of the squad may yet be found out.
Tyrone Mings looks certain to make it to the very top, but how he will fair in his first season in the top flight remains to be seen. Of his fellow defensive colleagues, only Steve Cook appears to have the tools to truly thrive at this level. Sylvain Distin has the experience, but is certainly past his best. In front of them, the pivot of Surman and Arter whilst capable, may be exposed by stronger players breaking beyond them.
It may be a cliché, but it is goals that win games, and so often, whether a team manages to stay up or suffers relegation comes down to whether they can find a regular source of goals. Callum Wilson was one of the best strikers in the Championship last term and has pace to burn, but the Premier League affords forwards a lot less space and time, and how he adapts will be crucial.
The same can be said of Ritchie. Somewhat of a creative force as well as a goal threat last term, there will be a lot of pressure on Ritchie to replicate that form. He will be aided by the additions of African pair Gradel and Atsu. Gradel has thrived in France since leaving Leeds and recorded his best ever goals tally last term, but again, will need to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League.
Looking to supply Gradel will be Atsu, who shone at the latest African Cup of Nations, failed to replicate that form on loan for Everton last season.
Key Player: Matt Ritchie notched 15 goals and 17 assists in the Championship last season, and was arguably the division’s best player, despite other impressive performers. How Ritchie handles the step up and his ability to replicate that form will be crucial to Bournemouth’s survival hopes this term.
One to watch: Fast, powerful and technically adept, Tyrone Mings has the ability to excel at either left back or centrally. A crucial part of Mick McCarthy’s ragtag Ipswich over performers last season, Mings was linked to Arsenal prior to his move to Howe’s coastal side, and his signing was a real coup for Bournemouth. Tipped by many to be a future England international, helping Bournemouth beat the drop would only help enhance Mings’ bourgeoning reputation.
Prediction: 18th. Eddie Howe’s side will make a good fist of survival and will no doubt play some pretty stuff along the way, but survival will likely be a stretch too far. Much will depend on how the other candidates for relegation and their new signings adapt, and this prediction could be made a mockery of if the likes of Wilson or Ritchie hit the ground running.