Not only are Arsenal playing well and feeling the positive energy from their supporters, but they are tied atop the Premier League with Manchester City. The Gunners are one of only two teams to win both of their opening fixtures. And if the Amazon series wasn’t enough of a reminder of how different the start of this season has been, they can look north to where Manchester United sits bottom of the table. Up next is a pair of newly promoted clubs starting with Bournemouth this Saturday.
Bournemouth is back in the Premier League after two seasons in the Championship. As they look to avoid the difficulties that now face newly promoted sides returning to the top flight, they’ve already picked up three crucial points. The Cherries opened the season with a win against Aston Villa before falling at Manchester City this past weekend. Time to catch up on their time in the Championship, their new squad, and a prediction for the match.
TSF: After finishing 6th in Bournemouth’s first season in the Championship during the recent stint, the club earned automatic promotion last year. How did the squad change between those seasons and how different is this version of Bournemouth compared to the one we last saw in the Premier League?
LWOF: The change between the two Championship seasons was bigger than it seems. Only about £4 million was spent last summer, but it saw us bring in Ryan Christie, who is a class player; Jamal Lowe, who came off the bench to score countless late goals; Gary Cahill, who provided some fantastic experience and calmness in the backline during the first half of the campaign; and more too. There was also the big boost of having Scott Parker, an experienced boss in the English second tier, in charge. The combination of all of those led to us being a completely different side when last August rolled around.
This Bournemouth side is completely different to the last one we saw in the Premier League. Many of our highest profile players (Ake, King, Wilson, Ramsdale) have left and been replaced. We’ve now got a Solanke who is full of confidence, a physical monster in Kieffer Moore, the new and extremely talented Marcos Senesi (who I am very excited to see more of), and Mark Travers who was exceptional in goal last season. This is just the tip of the iceberg too, with plenty of exciting players getting their first taste of regular PL football this season.
TSF: This summer they’ve brought in Neto, Marcos Senesi, & Ryan Fredericks, and a few Championship players. How would you grade their transfer window activity thus far and which of those signings do you anticipate has the biggest impact this season?
LWOF: It’s been a solid window, but I’m definitely hoping for more. Senesi is a brilliant signing, and I’m sure he’ll start against Arsenal. Our other “big-money” addition of the summer is Marcus Tavernier, who has been great in the first two games of the season. He’s got versatility too so can play on the left or as a CM. Our other free signings are important too, but I don’t see any of them becoming undroppable starters. Our window hasn’t been as good as Forest’s (how have they spent five times as much as Bournemouth?!), but still solid, I’d give it a B+. Regarding who will have the biggest impact, I have to say Senesi. He and Kelly could develop a really good partnership, with Mepham in there as well if we use a back three (and this will free up Lerma to play in a more advanced role which is where I prefer him).
TSF: When the Premier League last saw Scott Parker it was relegation with Fulham. Since then he’s switched to Bournemouth and brought them back to the top flight. How do you rate him as a manager and what is the general opinion from the supporters?
LWOF: He’s a great manager, no questions asked. Last season there were times when our promotion wasn’t guaranteed, and a small portion of the fanbase was looking for a replacement, but in general, we’re very happy with Parker. I genuinely believe he can lead us to safety this season, and I think the first two games of the season have shown him in a positive light (the City game was expected to be a thrashing, but we didn’t look as bad as United did in their loss against Brentford).
TSF: Three points from the opening pair of games. I’m guessing you would have gladly taken that before the season, especially given the trip to Manchester City. Two dramatically different results but two very different opponents. What has worked well so far on the pitch and where are improvements needed?
LWOF: Yeah definitely happy with this. Any points from the City game or our next two in the league against Arsenal and then Liverpool are a bonus really. City are an exceptional team, and the performance against them was promising even though we conceded four with no reply. And against Villa the defence was superb, and we took our chances well. This team is extremely well balanced, and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where improvements are needed. If anything, it would be ideal if we could get a bit more control of games, but considering we’re newly promoted and can be devastating on the counter I don’t have any massive complaints.
TSF: What formation and starting XI should we expect from this version of Bournemouth? With a win and a loss, but back at home, what is your prediction for the match?
LWOF: It will likely be a five at the back with three in midfield and two up front again (our formation has been pretty fluid but that’s the basis of it). My predicted lineup would be: Travers, Kelly, Mepham, Senesi, Smith, Tavernier, Pearson, Lerma, Cook, Solanke, and Moore (if Solanke is still injured it will probably be Christie instead of him). Unfortunately, I think we’ll lose, but it’s not going to be by as big of a margin as the City game, and we might even get a goal. I’ll say 2-1 Arsenal.