Has Eddie Howe missed his big opportunity?
Background Image Via: Flickr/Ungry Young Man. CC BY 2.0.
For almost the last decade, Eddie Howe has often been lauded for his unbelievably brilliant work at AFC Bournemouth. The now 42-year-old guided the Cherries to two promotions in three years, then consolidated their place in the Premier League in pretty emphatic fashion.
In their four full top-flight season's, Bournemouth have often finished comfortably in mid-table, with a ninth-place finish in 2016/17 the particular highlight. This term, though, Howe's boys find themselves locked in a relegation battle. Right now, the Dorset-based side sits just two points clear of the dreaded dropzone. Make no mistake about it, they're in a dogfight for survival.
It wasn't that long ago when Howe was being linked with some stellar vacancies, including the Arsenal hot-seat and even the England manager's role. The question I'd like to ask is this: Has this out-of-character Bournemouth season all-but ended Howe's hopes at landing an elite level job in future?
The first thing I'd like to leap in Howe defence for is something in which the Englishman has no control over; injuries. David Brooks was amongst the Premier League's surprise packages last term. He's yet to play this season due to an ankle injury. Veteran Charlie Daniels is another vital Bournemouth player who hasn't played one single minute of football this term through injury. Joshua King, who has recently been linked with a move back to Manchester United has also missed the last month of football, while summer signing Lloyd Kelly hasn't been fit since November...
While we're on the subject of transfers, money hasn't been spent wisely. The aforementioned Kelly cost £13million. He's yet to feature in the Premier League. Then you have Arnaut Danjuma who cost £16million. The left-winger is yet to make a significant impact in his eleven appearances for the Cherries. Phillip Billing was a good signing, as was the loan move for young Harry Wilson, though on the whole, it feels like there was just too much turnover. Elven players have left Dean Court either on loan or permanently, while twelve new faces have arrived (Transfermarkt). That's a lot of coming and going. and as the manager, it's up to Howe to make these decisions.
When you look at Bournemouth's metrics for both goals scored and goals conceded, nothing really sticks out. They're middle of the road in both categories, though Bournemouth have struggled when going up against the teams in and around them in the table. The Cherries have picked up a miserable five points against the current bottom three sides (Norwich City, Watford and Aston Villa) out of a possible eighteen. It's just not good enough.
I talked about it a little bit yesterday in regards to Norwich City's Daniel Farke, though I feel Howe is in the same boat. An unwillingness to become more pragmatic where tactics are concerned is costing Bournemouth. They love to play fast, attacking football which can often leave them exposed - particularly when star duo Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser aren't playing anywhere near as well as they did last term.
Again, it's not solely down to Howe that Bournemouth find themselves in the mire, but he's certainly a contributing factor. The Cherries take on Chelsea and Liverpool within their next four league fixtures, while they're still to play both Manchester clubs and Tottenham Hotspur. That makes up over a third of their remaining thirteen fixtures and I'm just not sure where the points are going to come from...
For Howe, if he can keep Bournemouth afloat then his reputation will likely remain intact. I'm sure if the so-called Premier League big-boys were considering a managerial change then his name will still pop up in the discussion, particularly if England fail to inspire at the European championships. That said, he'll probably find himself a little further down the list than he did twelve months ago...