Bournemouth secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history this season and now face the toughest of tasks – staying up. They’re on the right track so far – making a series of smart moves without really rushing to make an unnecessary splash. It’s never easy to stay up after being promoted, especially for a small club like Bournemouth that doesn’t have the resources to make big moves in the transfer market, but this club has what it takes to at least stay competitive in the relegation race. Let’s take a look at their strengths and needs by position.
If there is a strength on this club, this is it. The Cherries have two different goalkeepers who are capable of playing in the Premier League and have proven to be capable at the top level. Artur Boruc, who played 37 matches for the club last season, has 49 appearances in the Premier League. He kept an impressive 14 clean sheets in 29 matches in 2013-14 for Southampton and despite being prone to mistakes, he has proven to be more than solid as a primary goalkeeper. For a team of Bournemouth’s quality, he will provide them with a level of comfort they definitely need considering their defensive issues. If his mistakes get out of hand and he loses confidence, the team can turn to Adam Federici, who they just signed from Reading. Federici also has some Premier League experience and has an extensive record in the Championship, certainly enough experience for a backup role.
The club should be especially proud for these moves considering that both players came on a free transfer. Federici made a crucial error against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final that saw them get knocked out in extra-time and it seems his suitors were turned off from that, but it’s hard to consider him a bad signing as a backup. Boruc’s mistakes are also well documented, especially the time he conceded a goal from goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (one could argue that wasn’t really his fault), but his reflexes and goal-stopping ability is especially solid when he’s concentrated.
The defense is a different story and is likely the team’s weakest point. The most likely center-back starting duo as of right now features Tommy Elphick, who has never played in the Premier League before, and a 37-year-old Sylvain Distin. Ouch. Distin is an experienced player who has played in the top flight as recently as last season (only 13 Premier League matches) but there is just little optimism for a 193 cm, 87 kg center-back at age 37 being able to cover Premier League strikers.
The only bright spot on the defensive line is Tyrone Mings, who Bournemouth acquired from Ipswich Town this offseason. Mings is a young, athletic left-back who set the Championship on fire last season and can act as a poor man’s Ryan Bertrand. Mings has been scouted by a number of Premier League clubs in the past season and even had a £3m bid from Crystal Palace rejected last September. He upped his stock significantly since then, and Bournemouth had to pay a premium £8m for him. Despite the obvious upside, Mings won’t be able to keep opponents out for the Cherries. He will help them in attack and he will be respectable in his defensive role, but he is not fixing the center-back issue.
Midfield, on the other hand, is a strength for this team. Led by Matt Ritchie’s 15 goals and 17 assists from last season, Bournemouth enter the Premier League with upside at the position. Ritchie had a 7.44 WhoScored rating last year and his 3.3 shots per match were a team high. He likes to attack relentlessly and does just about anything the team asks of him. He excels at setting up teammates, shooting from distance, taking free-kicks, and crossing from the right flank. He’s a phantom point all-star and has the potential to be a fantasy stud in many formats.
Add to that new addition Christian Atsu and you start to see a dangerous attack forming. Atsu joins Bournemouth on a season-long loan from Chelsea after being forgotten at Everton last season, but his playing time is bound to increase. Atsu is better than just about any Bournemouth winger and will most likely start on the left side. He is someone who can beat his man one-on-one and put in dangerous crosses into the box. That’s the kind of player that sometimes makes the difference between relegation and staying up, so he was certainly a great addition for the club. Atsu has some great fantasy potential as well. He averaged a solid 2.3 shots per match during his time at Vitesse Arnhem and picked up five goals and two assists in 28 appearances. Where he’ll make an impact is crosses, shots, and corners won, making him a near certain lock to produce in phantom-point formats.
Forwards are a bit of an unknown for Bournemouth at this point in time. On one hand, they have a very capable Callum Wilson, age 23, who finished with 20 goals and 7 assists last season and a veteran in Yann Kermorgant that got 15 goals and 10 assists in 38 matches (26 starts). Wilson is the star everyone is salivating over but things could get ugly really quickly. There are reports that Aston Villa are lining up a bid for Wilson, and Bournemouth could get greedy and decide to sell. If that scenario unfolds, the team will have to rely on Yann Kermorgant and newcomer Joshua King to lead the line. King is a high upside player but he didn’t really play much last season and doesn’t have the experience necessary for extensive Premier League action right away. Kermorgant is certainly not as good as Wilson and will turn 34 in November. The number of players who got their first Premier League action at age 33 and succeeded is very, very short, and Kermorgant isn’t likely to join it. He’ll be a support piece at best, and the club needs Wilson to stay. A lot could change with the decision on Wilson, and that will likely end up deciding Bournemouth’s future.
Do you think the Cherries have what it takes to stay up in their first Premier League campaign?