AFC Bournemouth – Season Preview
As the countdown to the new football season reaches its climax, the anticipation among with the Cherries supporters at the Goldsands stadium is unrivalled as they prepare for their long awaited return to the Championship. The club makes its return after its relegation from the second tier in 1990 after a remarkable turnaround under returning boss Eddie Howe who masterminded his second promotion at the south coast club after his homecoming to the club in October.
As the Cherries pre-season preparations fit into shape, Howe has been tactically astute in the transfer market with the signings of three free transfers to add to his already well assembled squad. The club have added experienced duo Elliott Ward and Ian Harte to the clubs ranks to bolster the defence whilst also brining in unknown quantity Mohamed Coulibaly from Grasshoppers after he impressed whilst linking up with the squad during their tour to Zurich.
As a result of the large squad inherited by the former Burnley boss as the Cherries lay in a perilous position in the relegation zone, Howe has now managed to trim the squad to fit in with the financial fair play rules which have been implemented. The departures from the squad are, Jon Meades who has joined Oxford, Charlie Sheringham has left for AFC Wimbledon, defender Stephane Zubar has joined Bury permanently after a successful loan spell and Frank Demouge has left the club to go back to Holland after a disappointing season in English football. The other departures from the squad have seen Matt Tubbs join his former boss Steve Evans at Rotherham whilst club legend Steve Fletcher has taken on a scouting / ambassadorial role at the club.
One to Watch
As all eyes will be on how star winger Matt Ritchie will fair in his first season in the second tier of English football. After catching the eye with some stunning displays for Swindon, he joined the Cherries in January and has proved to be a bargain buy at £500,000. Ritchie’s wand of a left foot will be a crucial asset this season as he cuts in from the right hand side. The amount of assists and goals that Ritchie provides will be crucial as to where the Cherries will be, come the end of the season.
As a result of a superb promotion season for the club, it has been hard to see where a clear weak link in the side could be, however after the pre-season performances it has been evident that the lack of goals could be a problem with the season under a week away. The blanks against West Ham and Bristol City where chances have been at a premium have left many of the Dean Court faithful hoping Howe can bring in a striker before the opening day. The options at his disposal are Lewis Grabban, Wes Thomas, new signing Mohamed Coulibaly and Brett Pitman whilst Josh McQuoid is out injured and youngster Jayden Stockley is unlikely to be able to make the step up to the Championship. Whilst Mohamed Coulibaly has shone during the early stages of his Cherries career, star striker Brett Pitman is facing a race against time to be fit for the opening day game against Charlton.
End of Season Prediction
With the Championship being one of the most competitive in Europe, 3 straight wins can propel you to the edge of the play-offs, whilst 3 defeats on the trot can leave staring at a relegation battle. As a result it means that the consistency of the Cherries side will be the determinant factor as to how the season involves. The squad has enough quality to ensure they have another successful season however despite adding Elliott Ward and Ian Harte to the squad, it is still relatively inexperienced as they make the step up to the Championship. Overall, I believe the Cherries will finish in 11th place which would represent a wonderful season for the club, who just 5 years ago were faced with a 17 point deduction and at the basement of the football league.