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Winter downturn yet to tell in Cherries’ league position - Interviews
Thursday, 23rd Dec 2021 14:50 by Clive Whittingham

Three Bournemouth fans for the price of one this week as Jon Spark from the Cherries Red Army Podcast, Tom Jordan from the Back Of The Net - AFCB Podcast, and our regular contributor @RobMatLee assess the season so far and recent downturn in form.

How's the season gone so far?

JS: Certainly the season couldn't have started much better than it did. No Bournemouth fan could seriously have told you they expected us to remain unbeaten and look quite as good as we did in the first few months. However more recently our form has dipped to such an extent that there is a growing level of anxiety in the fanbase. Had our performance levels been more consistent over the course of the season so far, then the fact we are actually still second after 23 games would feel better than it currently does.

TJ: - We Bournemouth fans can’t have too many complains about the season so far. We’d have all taken a place in the automatic promotion spots come Christmas. Our form has fallen off a cliff of late, but that’s the Championship for you. Fortunately everyone remains consistently inconsistent.

RML: The season had gone brilliantly, up until December. The players have bought into Parker’s methods quicker than anticipated, with the likes of Jordan Zemura, Jaidon Anthony, Gavin Kilkenny and Mark Travers all coming into their own having all started the season on something like 12 appearances for the Cherries between them.

Bournemouth’s league results so far…
Bournemouth 2-2 West Brom Marcondes 12, Billing 52 – O’Shea 33, Robinson 67
Forest 1-2 Bournemouth McKenna 48 – Brooks 28, Billing 58
Birmingham 0-2 Bournemouth Solanke 77, Anthony 87
Bournemouth 2-2 Blackpool Solanke 6, 19 – Hubans 57, Yates pen 60
Hull 0-0 Bournemouth
Bournemouth 3-0 Barnsley Zemura 8, 82, Solanke 46
Bournemouth 2-1 QPR Anthony 11, Solanke 38 – McCallum 52
Cardiff 0-1 Bournemouth Billing 54
Bournemouth 2-1 Luton Billing 17, Solanke 31 – Kelly og 64
Peterborough 0-0 Bournemouth
Bournemouth 2-1 Sheff Utd Solanke pen 62, Billing 65 – Gibbs-White 56
Bristol City 0-2 Bournemouth Lowe 21, Zemura 45
Stoke 0-1 Bournemouth Solanke 51
Bournemouth 3-0 Huddersfield Solanke pen 10, 21, Kelly 64
Reading 0-2 Bournemouth Solanke 43, Lowe 59
Bournemouth 1-2 Preston Billing 60 – Whiteman 52, McCann 78
Bournemouth 4-0 Swansea Solanke 26, 49, Anthony 64, 90
Derby 3-2 Bournemouth Knight 13, Lawrence 62, pen 69 – Anthony 19, Solanke 38
Millwall 1-1 Bournemouth Afobe 67 – Solanke 44
Bournemouth 2-2 Coventry Anthony 45, Billing 66 – Godden 85, Kane 90
Fulham 1-1 Bournemouth Tosin 84 – Solanke 46
Bournemouth 0-2 Blackburn Pearson og 21, Van Hecke 65
Middlesbrough 1-0 Bournemouth Sporar pen 53

What has Scott Parker changed from last season?

JS: As QPR found out in the earlier match this season, our high pressing has been a much greater factor this season. Having said that its effectiveness has dropped off a cliff in the last couple months. The strong press, high line and fluid passing patterns that we were enjoying watching as Bournemouth fans has seemingly disappeared as of late. The fact things were working so well early shows that the team is capable of getting back to its best at some point but confidence is very much low at the moment and the results bear that out.

TJ: A new manager in Scott Parker, and definitely a new style for Bournemouth this season. Predominantly a 433 system with a focus on a high press has worked well in the main, albeit frustrations remain over the ‘sit back and hold the lead’ approach when ahead. Gary Cahill and Ryan Christie have been solid additions, along with plenty of opportunities for the younger/fringe players this season.

RML: Again, pre December, Parker instilled a steeliness and determination as well as a confident mentality. Hopefully that comes back soon.

Why the dip in form? Are you worried?

JS: The initial cause of the dip in form was definitely injuries. Lloyd Kelly and Jordan Zemura were big misses not only defensively but also in our ability to attack and build play from the back in the way that Parker want to. More recently the very strange decision by the FA to extend the ban of Jefferson Lerma have meant he is a big miss as well, though he is back for this fixture. While the team's squad depth is decent, any team would suffer from a loss in key personnel. There has also been a loss of form amongst key creative players like Jaidon Anthony, Ryan Christie and Philip Billing. Jack Stacey has also been making a lot of mistakes defensively unlike earlier this season and Cahill also has looked a bit unsure at times since losing his partnership with Kelly. Had this loss of form come at another time this season we may have muddled through better, but playing so many top teams in this spell has left us with no wins since early November. We will start picking up wins again at some point but we are all very thankful Fulham has had a similar rough patch at the same time as us.

TJ: We’re bang out of form right now with only one win in our last eight games. It’s a concerning pattern, which has coincided with various injuries and suspensions. That being said, the performances have been worrying and a ‘back to basics’ approach is needed… and fast!

RML: Injuries are easy to blame, and we have played games without our preferred back four all at once. But I think it's more than that in all honesty. Maybe the pressure is getting too much for a young side again? Arguments also for Parker not being reactive enough in game, and some tactics being a little poor

Any January rumours? What positions need strengthening?

JS: I have seen very little in the rumour mill about us bringing players into the club this January. Considering the size of the squad at the moment and the cover we have in basically every position, it would be unlikely that any significant transfer would be made. The only dealings are likely to be outgoings with the likes of academy products Zeno Ibsen Rossi and Christian Saydee likely to be given time on loan. The other major talking point is Steve Cook who is probably unlikely to stay beyond the end of this season and may well leave the club next month. It sounds like QPR have thrown their hat into the ring to get his signature, but I honestly don't see why he would move to another Championship side when he's very much capable of performing in the Premier League. His old boss Eddie Howe apparently has him on his wishlist and Watford are also interested. This will be a big loss for the supporters as he is a club legend with more than ten years at the club, but for whatever reason Scott Parker doesn't seem to fancy him and he is fourth maybe even fifth choice centre back at the moment.

TJ: In terms of January, I don’t expect too much activity. Fringe players may go, loan deals may end, but I expect to keep hold of our key assets. I don’t expect a load of incomings either, potentially a loan or two. I think most Bournemouth fans would say a striker to compliment/take the burden off Solanke would be ideal.

RML: The only one I've heard is Steve Cook to you. I think ins there was talk of Balogun from Arsenal coming in on loan, but apart from that, quiet at the moment. According to Kris Temple from BBC Solent, the big players aren't for sale at all, and it would take a stupid amount of money for it to be even considered. Cook is in the last year of his deal, not going to get a new one, club legend, they'd want to do right by him I think.

Needed, potentially a creative midfielder, someone who can spark a little bit of magic when we're up against it

Ins >>> Ryan Christie, 26, AM, Celtic, £2.6m >>> Jamal Lowe, 27, RW, Swansea, Undisclosed >>> Gary Cahill, 35, CB, Palace, Free >>> Emiliano Marcondes, 26, AM, Brentford, Free >>> Orjan Nyland, 30, GK, Norwich, Free >>> Leif Davis, 21, LB, Leeds, Loan >>> Morgan Rogers, 19, LW, Man City, Loan

Outs >>> Arnaut Danjuma, 24, LW, Villareal, £21m >>> Sam Surridge, 23, CF, Stoke, £2.6m >>> Diego Rico, 28, LB, Real Sociedad, £450k >>> Kyle Taylor, 22, CM, Exeter, Undisclosed Nnamdi Ofobohr, 21, CM, Rangers, Free >>> Asmir Begovic, 34, GK, Everton, Undisclosed >>> Jack Wheelchair, 29, CM, Le Tabac, Free

Best players and weak links?

JS: Play with the season so far is definitely Dominic Solanke. There really aren't too many other players at the club so far that are showing the consistency and ability that he has and were he to get better support more frequently in matches, could be on an even higher goal scoring count (and certainly assist count) than he has now. I would also say that a number of our youngsters have really impressed this season too. Anthony, Zemura and Kilkenny have earned their starting positions this year and our goalkeeper Mark Travers has been vital in us earning any points at all over the last month with his performances. Our current biggest weakness is the full backs. Our LB is always tasked with being the more attacking and have shown themselves to gamble too much on intercepting, leaving space in behind. I've already mentioned Jack Stacey's loss in form at RB. In the four games before our loss to Blackburn we went in front in every match and only got two points. However, with no goals in the last two as well, it's tough to find a place we aren't showing weakness at the moment.

TJ: So far this season Dom Solanke has been the main man, I worry where we’d be without him. Adding more goals to his incredible work rate and link up part of his game, he’s been fantastic and consistent. I don’t see a glaring weak link within the side, but of late it’s been evident that when a few injuries occur, our squad may not be as strong as we had anticipated.

RML: Surprinsgly Zemura has been one of our best players, it’s very noticeable when he's not playing, particularly the affect that has on Anthony. The main man is of course Solanke, he's been great, but hitting a bit of a sorry patch. Weak link currently, Jack Stacey, that's only because he's been in shocking form of late, and seems to be struggling

Revised expectations for the season?

JS: Given our unbeaten start and the gap we developed between ourselves and third place, expectations certainly rose. Most fans would definitely have taken a playoff position at the start of the season but now that feels somewhat different. Automatics is very much a realistic aim for the season and were we not to get promoted at all, then that would feel like failure. Parker is somewhat a victim of his own success. He's shown what the team is capable of and if those standards aren't reached again, then worries about his ability to manage and utilise this squad will start getting too uncomfortably loud.

TJ: The fact we are still in the top two after this horrendous run is mad. So that being said, I’d expect it to end soon and us to achieve our goal of promotion. I wouldn’t be shocked if we ended in the play offs, but I wouldn’t take it. The chasing pack are just as inconsistent, we should still be aiming for top two.

RML Now, it would be incredibly disappointing if we don't finish top two. I think if we were to drop into playoffs come May the players’ heads will be on the floor and unable to pick themselves up.

Links >>> Bournemouth official website >>> Bournemouth Echo – Local Press >>> Up The Cherries – Forum >>> AFCB – Blog >>> Cherries Red Army – Podcast >>> Back Of The New – Podcast

The Twitter @loftforwords, @jonsparkafcb, @CherriesRedArmy, @TomJordan21, @AFCBPodcast, @RobMatLee

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TacticalR added 14:42 - Dec 27
Thanks to Jon, Tom and @RobMatLee.

Interesting that Jaidon Anthony has lost form - we couldn't handle him in our away game at Bournemouth. Also interesting that pressing, which everyone says they want to do, is not always easy to maintain.

I hadn't heard about the rumours linking us with Steve Cook. Parker seems to have these fallouts with people.

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