Beating Chelsea is arguably no great feat at the moment – after all, eight teams have achieved it so far in the 2015/16 campaign – but for Bournemouth FC it represents a genuine achievement; and acts as a marker as to how far they have come.
Just two seasons ago they were taking on Yeovil Town in a bottom half of the table clash in the Championship, and yet this weekend they turned over one of the country’s biggest clubs on a day of bizarre and unexpected results in the Premier League.
And yet….was the Cherries’ victory all that surprising? Perhaps not given the way they have played this campaign. But it was their first in nine games and halts a run of the classic ‘promoted team’ template: playing well, being unlucky and not getting the results they deserve.
The 1-0 win over Chelsea catapults Bournemouth out of the bottom three, an puts them level on points with Norwich in 16th, one behind Swansea in 15th and just two behind the Blues in 14th.
Can their supporters now dare to dream of evading relegation, and can punters back them to do just that with any confidence?
The next month or so will surely define Bournemouth’s season given their run of fixtures, and so punters are advised to act now. Okay, so Saturday sees the visit of Manchester United, and Eddie Howe’s men may or may not expect to get anything from that game, but then follows a trip to the Hawthorns to take on West Brom and a home date with Crystal Palace.
Trips to Arsenal and Leicester over the festive period may not help matters, but back-to-back home games against Norwich and West Ham surely offer an opportunity for progression. An away clash at Sunderland on January 23 is the proverbial ‘six pointer’ as well.
Bournemouth’s success has been built on a fearless approach to the game, with Eddie Howe deploying the same tactics as he did in last season’s spectacular assault on promotion from the Championship. Take Saturday’s win over Chelsea as an example: okay, so they got bodies behind the ball when the Blues were in possession, but that is to be expected. But the Cherries turned defence into attack with consummate ease, and never stopped pushing for a deadlock-breaker. Glenn Murray’s 82nd minute winner was the reward for their endeavour.
So that’s five points from a possible nine against Swansea, Everton and Chelsea; hardly relegation form. And what makes it more impressive is that they have done so without three of their key players: Callum Wilson, who notched six goals in six games at the start of the campaign, marquee signing Max Gradel and record signing Tyrone Mings, all of whom have suffered knee ligament injuries. Bad luck? Sure, but it hasn’t stopped Howe from staying positive.
As mentioned, Bournemouth will attack and attempt to win games – a strategy which ultimately kept Leicester City up last season, and perhaps their secret weapon could be the combined chequebooks of shareholders Maxim Demin and Peak6, the American consortium which recently purchased a 25% stake in the club. Given the amount of riches on offer for staying in the top flight, they would surely consider it a business investment to spend big on new players in January.
And with the injured trio set to make their returns before the end of the season, they might well have the firepower to stay up anyway. The Cherries can be backed from 4/6 to avoid relegation – the first time they have been odds-on this season. Given their upcoming games and potential in the transfer window, now might be as good a time as any to get on board.