January started so well for AFC Bournemouth, but it has ended with the spectre of relegation threatening to cast a shadow over them.
A thrashing at the hands of Millwall in the FA Cup, being out-fought by relegation battlers Hull City and Crystal Palace, scraping an unconvincing draw against Watford - January has been a real month to forget for Bournemouth fans.
Subsequently it’s difficult to pick out players who have really impressed for the Cherries over the past few weeks, but here we go anyway...
The stand out man in January
Despite a truly awful January there have been some players who haven’t let their levels drop and the first one that comes to mind is Ryan Fraser. The diminutive Scotsman burst onto the scene for the club with his sensational cameo against Liverpool in December, and hasn’t looked like relinquishing his place in the first team since.
He’s constantly looking to beat his man or make an incisive run, while many of the Bournemouth team have looked far too static in both defence and attack over the last month, but that’s not a criticism you can level at Fraser.
The only problem is that the opposition’s tactic of handling him; taking him to ground using whatever means necessary is sometimes hard to watch. Fraser must leave the pitch after every match black and blue. For that alone he was worthy of the extended contract he’s just been handed by the club.
Who was also worthy of praise?
Josh King has been working hard despite being played behind another striker; a position he’s not particularly well suited to. He’s harried and always working hard to try and spark his teammates into life, even if he’s not always been successful. That’s been no fault of his own though.
Jack Wilshere’s form in January has been up and down, but he was a large reason why Bournemouth managed to scrape a point against Watford. He never stopped looking for spaces and runs from his teammates and dragged his team towards what could end up being a valuable point when the season ends.
Who needs to improve?
Andrew Surman has come in for a lot of criticism from most Bournemouth fans over the last few months. He’s looked slow and has been found seriously lacking when it comes to putting in a tackle in the middle of the park.
Other than this, the centre backs - other than Steve Cook have looked seriously shaky - Tyrone Mings is still learning the ropes in that position, but Simon Francis can have no excuse for some poor lapses in judgement against Arsenal and Crystal Palace.
Finally, a word must be put in for the manager for this section. For Eddie Howe to change a formation that worked (4-5-1) to one that clearly does not (4-4-2) during the month for no reason is baffling and potentially could have cost Bournemouth a few more precious points. And let’s not even start on his work in the January transfer market; not bringing in any new defensive reinforcements is baffling.