AFC Bournemouth’s story is one of the most heart-warming in world soccer.
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A tiny club from a sleepy seaside town on England’s south coast, Bournemouth almost went out of business seven years ago as a fourth-tier team. Young manager Eddie Howe led them all the way through the leagues and last season was their first-ever in the top tier of English soccer.
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They play an attractive brand which is easy on the eye and they comfortably secured a second-straight season in the Premier League with some big wins thanks to plenty of talented youngsters who are flourishing under Howe’s trendy tutelage.
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Bournemouth’s bubble will burst and they’ll be relegated because… a sophomore slump, if you will. They will be hit by injuries early in the season to key players and Howe will be tempted to take on a bigger job come December time with the Cherries struggling.
Yet, they do have a chance of doing something special: That’s right, they actually do. With Howe’s boys having a year of PL experience under their belt and some exciting attacking additions in Jordon Ibe and Lys Mousset this summer, they might just surprise everyone and push for a top 10 finish. Underestimate the underdogs at your peril. This is a very good squad which is now two-strong in every spot.
Best possible XI
—– Boruc —–
— Francis — A. Smith — S. Cook — Daniels —
— Ibe — Surman — Arter — Gradel —
— Afobe — Wilson —
Transfers In: Emerson Hyndman (Free, Fulham), Jordon Ibe ($29 million, Liverpool), Brad Smith ($3.9 million, Liverpool), Lys Mousset ($7.1 million, Le Havre), Mark Travers (Free, Cherry Orchard), Mikael Ndjoli (Free, Millwall), Lewis Cook ($9.2 million, Leeds United)
Transfers Out: Tommy Elphick ($3.9 million, Aston Villa), Matt Ritchie ($15.8 million, Newcastle United), Lee Tomlin ($3.9 million, Bristol City), Josh Carmichael, Sylvain Distin, Jon Muleba, Jayden Stockley, Mason Walsh, Josh Wakefield, Stephane Zubar (All released), Glenn Murray (Loan, Brighton and Hove Albion), Joe Quigley (Loan, Gillingham), Harry Cornick (Loan, Leyton Orient)
Last season: In their first-ever season in the top-flight Bournemouth did themselves proud with a 16th place finish. Despite a slow start they were never in real danger of relegation and pulled off shock wins against Manchester United and Chelsea. A season to remember for a team who play attractive, attacking soccer.
Star player: Callum Wilson – He burst onto the scene early last season but then suffered a horrendous knee injury. Battled back well to get some minutes late in the 2015-16 campaign and has looked incredibly sharp over preseason. Expect the powerful striker to cause plenty of problems.
Coaches’ Corner: Eddie Howe is Mr. Bournemouth. The youngster manager in the PL at 38 years old, he has taken the Cherries on a dramatic ride from League Two to the Premier League. The former Bournemouth defender has a clear philosophy of open, expansive soccer and they didn’t stray away from that during difficult spells last season. His teams are fun to watch and Howe was touted as a contender to be the next England manager over the summer. Luckily for Bournemouth he’s still around and he’s now aiming to take this project to the next level.
PST predicts: Many will expect Bournemouth to be struggling around the relegation zone but given the amount of money they’ve spent and the fact that their current squad has had a full year to acclimatize to the PL, you get the sense they’ve flown under the radar in recent months. If Ibe, Wilson, Gradel and Afobe click early in the campaign then Bournemouth has the potential to finish in the top 10. That said, PST believes they will finish safely in midtable and have some good runs in the cup competitions.