Nine games and one win, a statistic that speaks for itself. It’s easy to be critical, but is the poor return a reflection of the personnel or tactics?
Eddie Howe has a distinct plan and style for his AFC Bournemouth team, but does he have the right personnel to execute it? The answer would be yes, but injuries to key members of that team mean that it is much harder for his team to play the way he wants. So, what we get is a sub-standard version of the team we should be getting.
A perfect example is when Charlie Daniels is injured. Marc Pugh is nowhere near as effective as he is when Daniels is fit. Pugh finds it difficult to get into a game, but he is still left out wide with little or no support. He gets less time on the ball and when he is one-on-one he only seems to have one trick, and defenders at Championship level are not as forgiving as League One.
“Has Eddie Howe been found out? We are not so sure, but one-dimensional is how we would describe his team”
Looking into central midfield we have Harry Arter and Eunan O’Kane, but these are not the first choice pairing. When fit Shaun MacDonald is always a starter. He breaks up the play which provides the platform for the more creative midfielders to pick a pass to open up the opposition. What happens when we don’t have MacDonald in the team is that becomes easier for the opposition to take control of the midfield. We simply don’t have another player who can do his job.
But, we cannot always rely on a full-strength team. As a manager it is Eddie Howe’s job to deal with injuries and put out a team that he thinks will do the best job. Its hard to criticise a man who has overseen so much glory at AFC Bournemouth, but sometimes he is going to get it wrong. He was right when he recently said that AFC Bournemouth fans should moderate their expectations. But, we find it very difficult to agree with his assumption that Derby were the best team to come to Dean Court this season. They were workman-like, a team very typical of the Championship. They knew how to defend, but then we made it pretty easy for them.
Has Eddie Howe been found out? We are not so sure, but one-dimensional is how we would describe his team against Derby and this wouldn’t be the first time we have played to Plan A without little success. It seems the passing brand of football has slowly been eroded over the season. The ball is worked down the wings for crosses into the box. A pattern that appears over and over again. I remember Jimmy Quinn having a similar mantra, balls in the box, balls in the box.
The right combination will bring success, but we currently don’t have a player that fits the bill. This means that crosses have to be more accurate, which in turn reduces the number of chances created. Our strikers are quick and pacy or link well with the midfield. Let them run at defences, they don’t like it.
Our biggest bone of contention is Tokelo Rantie. We have splashed out £2.5M on a player who will score goals, but has only managed to find the target once this season. Its easy to say that he’s a waste money or it takes time to adapt. But, maybe the reason is that AFC Bournemouth don’t play to his strengths. He has pace, he can turn a defender and run at goal, which gives him more chance of scoring. After spending 90% of a game feeding balls to his head, mostly unsuccessful, maybe try feeding the ball to his feet, it might just work. Matt Ritchie’s return against Derby undoubtedly made a difference. He is a man who can cross a ball and play along the ground. Someone Rantie will be happy to play with.
There is no simple answer, or is there? We would say if Plan A isn’t working, then perhaps its time to perfect Plan B.