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Cherries' faith in Iraola handsomely rewarded after poor start - Interview
Friday, 5th Jan 2024 20:54 by Clive Whittingham

Two seasons ago this was a league game between two teams going for second spot in the Championship, now it's a forgone conclusion cup tie with Bournemouth powering ever higher up the Premier League - Jon Spark from the Cherries Red Army Podcast is our sympathetic visitor.

How's the season gone for Bournemouth?

Couldn’t really ask for more right now, especially given the start. We lost our most recent game to Spurs (away) but that ended a seven-game unbeaten run, a club record in the Premier League and a series of four straight away wins, another club record at this level. Twelfth and safe in mid-table are where I think a lot of fans’ expectations were this season, but it’s more than just the position in the table that have Cherries’ fans loving games recently. Bournemouth have been fun to watch again for the first time since Eddie Howe left.

Bournemouth in the league so far…
Bournemouth 1-1 West Ham Solanke 82 – Bowen 51
Liverpool 3-1 Bournemouth Diaz 28, Salah 36, Jota 62 – Semenyo 3
Bournemouth 0-2 Spurs Maddison 17, Kuluvsevski 63
Brentford 2-2 Bournemouth Jensen 7, Mbeumo 90 – Solanke 30, Brooks 77
Bournemouth 0-0 Chelsea
Brighton 3-1 Bournemouth Kerkez og 35, Mitoma 46, 77 – Solanke 25
Bournemouth 0-4 Arsenal Saka 17, Odegaard pen 44, Havertz pen 53, White 90
Everton 3-0 Bournemouth Garner 8, Harrison 37, Doucoure 60
Bournemouth 1-2 Wolves Solanke 17 – Cunha 47, Kalajdzic 88
Bournemouth 2-1 Burnley Semenyo 22, Billing 76 – Taylor 11
Man City 6-1 Bournemouth Doku 30, Silva 33, 83, Akanji 37, Foden 64, Ake 88 – Sinisterra 74
Bournemouth 2-0 Newcastle Solanke 60, 73
Sheff Utd 1-3 Bournemouth McBurnie 90 – Tavernier 12, 51, Kluivert 51
Bournemouth 2-2 Villa Semenyo 10, Solanke 52 – Bailey 20, Watkins 90
Palace 0-2 Bournemouth Sensi 25, Moore 90
Man Utd 0-3 Bournemouth Solanke 5, Billing 68, Senesi 73
Forest 2-3 Bournemouth Elanga 47, Wood 74 – Solanke 51, 58, 90
Bournemouth 3-0 Fulham Kluivert 44, Solanke pen 62mm Sinisterra 90
Spurs 3-1 Bournemouth Sarr 9, Son 71, Richarlison 80 – Scott 84

Few eyebrows raised at the managerial change in the summer after the job Gary O’Neil did last year, any concerns when results were poor at the start?

There was a growing undercurrent of discontent after the 3-0 loss away to Everton. Despite some encouraging displays in the first six games, the performances against Arsenal and Everton were verging on diabolical and I said that if he couldn’t pick up results in the next few games, then we might have to consider his position. The following game we then lost at home to GON’s Wolves and it was looking grim. Gary’s appearance on MNF a couple days later rubbed an extra healthy dollop of salt in the wound too.

My goodness it's turned around since though, what's Iraola getting right?
The Burnley win was a huge result for us and despite a drubbing away to Man City, things started looking up again very quickly. Dom Solanke, who’s goalscoring has certainly improved our fortunes of late, gave an interview in The Times where he said that Iraola’s instructions were basically overwhelming in the early games. I also think he stripped back a little bit on some of his tactical complexities after the Arsenal game, and the high pressing has worked like a treat since. The level of competition we’ve played has helped as well. It was a very tough first ten games, but we’ve beaten a fair few bottom half teams in the eight games before last weekend. The confidence is riding pretty high at the moment in the team and the fans.

Any January rumours? What needs doing?

So far just two rumours: one in and one out. A 19-year-old Ecuador midfielder Óscar Zambrano is a youngster every Cherries fan has been searching for highlight reels of recently. The club is trying to be the next Brighton to the point it’s even looking to bring in youngsters from Ecuador. I mean if we can sell this guy on to Chelsea for £125m too then I won’t mind. As for the outgoing, that’s Kieffer Moore who is heavily linked to Cardiff. He’s not getting any game time here, the issue being that we’d need to replace him. On top of striker competition, I think we need to bring in another LB, probably on loan. The three players we’ve had play there this season are all currently out injured.

Ins >>> Tyler Adams, 24, DM, Leeds, £22m >>> Hamad Traore, 23, AM, Sassuolo, £21m >>> Alex Scott, 20, CM, Bristol City, £20m >>> Milos Kerkez, 19, LB, Alkmaar, £15m >>> Romain Faivre, 25, RM, Lyon, £15m >>> Justin Kluivert, 24, LW, Roma, £10m >>> Max Aarons, 23, RB, Norwich, £6m >>> Luis Sinisterra, 24, LW, Leeds, Loan >>> Ionut Radu, 26, GK, Inter, Loan

Outs >>> Ben Pearson, the goblin boy, nobody knows how he was born, Stoke, £1m >>> Siriki Dembele, 26, AM, Birmingham, Undisclosed >>> Christian Saydee, 21, CF, Pompey, Undisclosed >>> Jefferson Lerma, 28, DM, Palace, Free >>> Jordan Zemura, 23, LB, Udinese/Watford, Free >>> Jack Stacey, 27, RB, Norwich, Free >>> Romain Faivre, 25, RM, L’Orient (typical, fucking, Leyton Orient), Loan >>> Jaidon Anthony, 23, LW, Leeds, Loan >>> Mark Travers, 24, GK, Some Of These People Have Come From Stoke, Loan >>> Jamal Lowe 29, AM, Swansea, Loan (good luck with that) >>> James Hill 21, CB, Blackburn, Loan >>> Will Dennis, 22, GK, Kilmarnock, Loan >>> Junior Stanislas, AM, 33, Free Agent

We were massively impressed with Alex Scott when he played here last May, how's he done?

Unfortunately, he’s been injured for a lot of games this season. Thankfully, unlike Tyler Adams, he has played a few matches and we are all loving what we are seeing. As a young professional he is still going to make mistakes (see Forest’s first goal a couple weeks back) but he’s also got the whole package as a technically brilliant and intelligent midfielder. He got his first assist against Fulham and scored his first goal against Spurs in the last couple weeks. The competition we have in midfield is really good right now, so we should be able to manage his minutes and keep developing him. No doubt that, as long as he stays fit, he won’t be at Bournemouth for long and an England cap is surely just around the corner.

Revised expectations for the season?
I think I predicted 13th and I would still be very happy with that finish, but we are definitely looking up not down right now. We have a really good chance to make a top half finish from this position, and beating our record points tally of 46 is certainly an achievable target.

Given you're safe, midtable, might the FA Cup be something to aim for? Or are we expecting 11 changes?

I would love to play a small violin here and whine about injuries to extract some sympathy, but really despite the players we have out, Iraola could still feasibly make 8-10 changes. The only player who started against Spurs that I am confident will start against the R’s is Marcos Senesi, as he is suspended for the next league game on five bookings. However, some of those who will want to come in and make an impression are the likes of Billing, Brooks and the aforementioned Scott. There’s enough quality in the squad that, despite a change of over half the team, I’m confident of a win.

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

Pictures — Action Images

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TacticalR added 21:57 - Jan 13
Thanks to Jon.

Sacking Gary O'Neil looked a mistake, but Iraola really seems to have got the team going now.
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