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Should Bournemouth be worried after opening weekend defeat?

Wednesday 17th August 2016
Much has been made of Sunday's 3-1 home loss to Manchester United from Bournemouth's perspective. Lacking execution up front and showing uncertainty at the back, pundits have been quick to label them as destined for the Championship.

It could just as easily be a blip. It's just too early to tell and certainly too early to write Bournemouth off entirely.

In their top-flight bow last season, Eddie Howe's men went down to Aston Villa 1-0 and were favourites for a swift exit from the Premier League. Bournemouth defied expectations and went on to achieve a magnificent 16th placed finish whilst Villa finished bottom.

However, there is always a huge difference between top-flight debut and sophomore seasons, just ask like the likes of Bradford City, QPR, and Ipswich Town. Expectations change, more money becomes available, and styles of play must adapt.
It's vital that Bournemouth make improvements in order to progress to the rank of an established Premier League outfit and avoid the dreaded second-season trap door.

What hasn't helped Howe's cause is the inexplicable loss of Scottish winger Matt Ritchie, who left for Championship side Newcastle for £12m this summer.

The 26-year-old talisman made 41 appearances last year for the black and reds, scoring four league goals and creating a further six. With only bottom side Aston Villa (76) conceding more than Bournemouth, Ritchie's forward contributions were vital to a side that doesn't have a prolific goal scorer.

In his absence, Howe has gambled on 20-year-old Jordon Ibe from Liverpool, who became the clubs most expensive purchase at £15m. Whilst there is no doubt potential in the England under-21, the fact that he was let go by Liverpool after 41 first team appearances speaks volumes about their faith in his progression.

After having just one shot on goal on his debut, Ibe was substituted after 68 minutes on Sunday, making way for previous club record signing Benik Afobe.
The £10m January capture from Wolves was the second choice to Callum Wilson against United, but has shown flashes of ability, scoring four goals in 15 appearances last season. Fans will be hoping the 23-year-old can push on and recapture the same form that saw him score 23 goals in 48 appearances for The Wanderers.

Coupled with goal scoring worries, there are also concerns at the back. Captain Simon Francis' sloppy back pass allowed Juan Mata to open the scoring on Sunday, whilst an unmarked Wayne Rooney was allowed to double United's lead in the second half.

After letting in 67 league goals last year, Howe has looked to address the sides' frailties by signing Irish centre-back Marc Wilson from Stoke for a reported £2m this week.

Depth will most certainly be the key to Bournemouth's survival, with 10 of last season's squad making 30 or more appearances for the club. Whilst The Cherries have recruited eight new players and one loan signing, they have parted way with 11 others permanently with another five going out on loan. Further transfers are absolutely vital to bolster options.

Despite these limitations, Bournemouth has in Eddie Howe one of England's most coveted young managers and a tight-knit group who are determined to do themselves proud. They have a squad that is arguably stronger than that of Burnley, most certainly Hull, and perhaps equal to Middlesbrough. Given that these four, along with Sunderland, are considered the bookies favourites for relegation, Bournemouth are certainly in with a chance of surviving should luck run their way.

Another season of top flight football would consolidate Bournemouth as one of the Premier League's great overachievers. Whilst there's no need to worry for his status just yet, it's far from guaranteed.
John Howell

A graduate of Media & Cultural Studies from the University of West of England, I am a 26-year-old sports fanatic based in Bristol and an avid supporter of Newcastle United. I have written for several sites before joining It's Round and It's White and although I write primarily on the subject of football, you can catch me playing rugby on the weekends, no pun intended.

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