AFC Bournemouth Season Preview: Cherries seek another ripe top-flight campaign
Photo: Getty / Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth

Seemingly only weeks after the 2018/19 Premier League reached its' conclusion, the new campaign hurtles inexorably toward us this weekend.

With the traditional curtain-raiser having seen Manchester City beat Red-hot rivals Liverpool in the Community Shield on Sunday, the season proper is now just days away.

On the heels of another fervent close season of frenzied transfer action from all 20 top-flight teams, the fresh term of pupils and old new is set to be the most competitive yet, with the riches of the Premier League playground in greater evidence than ever.

For AFC Bournemouth, in their fifth consecutive season in the top tier, the new season will see Cherries' fans full of optimism as a now fully-fledged Premier League outfit, but with that comes the pressure of expectation in maintaining what has been the ripening of the South coast outfit.

But what can we expect from Bournemouth in the coming nine months, and how are the Cherries shaping up?

Transfer Business

Bournemouth main intentions during the summer has been to keep hold of the prized assets, and with just days to go until the window closes, that has been achieved.

Callum Wilson has returned to his very best form after injury, and with Chelsea largely banned from bringing new faces into the club, the Cherries striker is set to lead the line with Josh King once more.

Ryan Fraser was also strongly linked with a move to the capital, but any move from Arsenal for the winger’s services failed to materialise.

In terms of new recruits, Howe has brought in winger Arnaut Danjuma from Belgian side Club Brugge in the past days, combative midfielder Philip Billing from relegated Huddersfield Town, defender Lloyd Kelly as well as Jack Stacey from last season’s League One winners Luton Town.

The addition of Billing, in particular, is perhaps the most keenly anticipated one, with the Dane set to provide competition in the Cherries’ engine room for Jefferson Lerma, Lewis Cook and vice-captain Andrew Surman for the upcoming campaign.

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Where the season can be won and lost

Bournemouth’s team ethic has been at the forefront of the development from promotees to now established Premier League competitors in the past four seasons.

Where previously their defence has often been the recipe of Cherry success during their early days in the top flight, the Bournemouth attack has been an increasing factor and last season were frequently amongst the goals – often prolifically.

As documented the competition in the Premier League is set to be hotter than ever, especially in mid-table, with the battle to stay away from the drop a priority early on.

Bournemouth’s season may rest heavily on the status of Fraser come Thursday evening, as his link-up with both King and Wilson was central to the Cherries' offence last year.

Howe has recognised the need to strengthen in central midfield with Billing and his addition may become a big influence as the term progresses.

The full-back areas have also been a key facet also for Howe’s set-up and the efforts of the likes of Adam Smith, Charlie Daniels and Diego Rico will again need to be on point.

Having struggled in the early weeks and months of last term, Bournemouth can ill afford a similar story this season, with all three promoted sides set to make life difficult for the usual suspects.

One to Watch

Lewis Cook

The upcoming season is the chance to once again shine on the big stage for Bournemouth's ranks, and for Lewis Cook, the case in no different.

The 22-year-old midfielder was tipped for big things after his move from Leeds United in 2016 – already earning his first senior England cap against Italy in March 2018.

As one of five players on standby for last summer’s World Cup in Russia, Cook had an impressive beginning to last season, before his campaign was cut short.

Cook, the skipper of the U-20 side that lifted their respective World Cup a year earlier, ruptured his ACL last December, ruling the midfielder out for between six to nine months.

Having returned to full training during pre-season, Cook is now approaching full fitness and is looking to return in better shape than ever.

As Howe himself has stated, the road to recovery is still not yet completed,  but with the new season arriving at just the right time on his schedule, the 2019/20 season could the Cherries midfielder as one to keep an eye on.

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Potential wildcard

Mark Travers

Bournemouth again approach the new campaign with a plethora of goalkeeping options, with both Asmir Begovic and Artur Boruc amongst their ranks, however in Mark Travers, the Cherries may have a jewel in their midst.

Surprisingly named in Howe’s starting XI against Tottenham Hotspur in Bournemouth’s penultimate game of last season, Travers became the first teenage goalkeeper since Joe Hart in 2006 to start a Premier League match, making a number of saves to help the club record its first-ever victory over Spurs, in a 1-0 win. 

The Irishman kept a clean sheet and received Man of the Match for his showing and having now signed a new long-term contract at the club, Travers will provide stern competition for both Bosnian and Polish stopper alike, and could quickly become the Cherries no.1 this season.

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What to expect

Having finished the term in 14th spot last season, the Cherries have see-sawed between 12th, 9th and 16th in their three prior campaigns in the top flight to date, making any prediction tricky.

Expectation will again be built on Bournemouth's fluid and attacking style, with the emphasis on flank play, but Howe now has a midfield capable of both the bullish and elegant.

With an opening double again two of the promoted sides in Sheffield United and Aston Villa, the opportunity for precious early spoils is there to build upon.

However, staying in the Premier League come May will still be a tough assignment with the sheer competition expected in all areas of the table - except the very upper echelons of it.

Few expect the Cherries to be in danger of a drop-down to the Championship at the business end of the season, but if things do not click, it could become a nervy campaign.