Can Bournemouth Secure European Football this Season ?
Under Eddie Howe, Bournemouth have become transformed from a team in the doldrums of English football to a team challenging for a place in next season’s Europa League. After relegation to League Two at the end of the 2007/08 season, the morale at the club was low and was about to get worse for the Cherries.
A points deduction in pre-season meant that Bournemouth started the new season on -17 points and they only reached 0 points in early December. Things were looking bleak for the Dorset club, when, on New Year’s Eve in 2008, Eddie Howe, who was the Centre of Excellence manager, was named as the caretaker manager of Bournemouth’s first team.
Three weeks later, after securing the job on a full-time basis, he became the youngest permanent manager in the top four divisions of English football at the age of 31. He guided the club to safety that season, with the club finishing in 21st place, nine points clear of the relegation zone.
Howe came across as a very intelligent person, and coach, making some astute transfer signings. It was a remarkable turn around for the club under such a young coach, and he continued to impress the footballing world during the following season. Bournemouth were now under new owners and Howe, who had become a fan favourite, remained in charge. Under his guidance, Bournemouth’s fortunes were turned around and despite nearly being relegated the previous season, the Cherries found themselves in the automatic promotion places and heading up to League One.
A Temporary Departure
Howe left Bournemouth in January 2011 to take over as manager of Burnley, leading the Clarets to eighth place in the second half of the 2010/11 season. In his first full season in charge at Turf Moor, Howe took the Lancashire club to 13th place in the Championship. This was to be his only full season in charge, as events off the field would see the Englishman return to Bournemouth. In March 2012 Howe’s mother, Anne, passed away and in October 2012, after what he described as a "difficult six months", he left Burnley to return to Bournemouth.
His return brought instant success for the Cherries, as they finished second in League One in the 2012/13 season, one point behind champions Doncaster Rovers. His first season managing the club in the Championship saw them finish comfortably in 10th.
The momentum Eddie Howe built at the club continued and the 2014/15 season saw Bournemouth finally secure promotion to the Promised Land. They finished as league champions, top scorers and with the best goal difference. Promotion meant that Howe had taken Bournemouth from the bottom of the football league to the top flight of English football in the space of seven years.
Top Flight Troubles?
Right from the off Bournemouth were one of the favourites to be relegated, despite adding some quality players to their ranks. But they managed to hold on, finishing in 16th in their debut Premier League season, five points above the relegation zone.
In a bid to retain their Premier League status once again, Eddie Howe signed Jordon Ibe and Brad Smith from Liverpool as well as Lewis Cook from Leeds and Marc Wilson from Stoke City for a total of £27 million. With the loan signing of Nathan Ake from Chelsea, Howe conducted shrewd business in the transfer window and was duly repaid as the Cherries finished in an impressive ninth place.
However, a look at the table tells you that despite the impressive finishing spot, Bournemouth were closer to Hull in 18th place (12 points difference) than to Everton in seventh (15 points difference).
The 2017/18 season again saw Bournemouth comfortably remain in the Premier League, finishing 11 points above the relegation zone in 12th place. But this season has seen Bournemouth get off to a flying start, picking up 20 points from their opening 13 fixtures, leaving them in eighth place, one point behind Manchester United.
Although the top four might be a stretch for the Cherries, a place in the Europa League is a possibility. In order to be in the Europa League odds, for next season, Bournemouth must first navigate a tricky December, which sees them take on Man City, Liverpool, Spurs and Man Utd.
With Howe as manager this is certainly a possibility and, if he can boost the team morale after three successive defeats, then they should be looking at a top half finish at the very least. Even if they fail to secure European football for next season, keeping Howe as boss and star players Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser will be paramount to any future success. A few new additions would help the club when their star players are lacking form or are out injured.