It was a very strange game on the south coast Saturday between AFC Bournemouth and Southampton – as a Cherries fan I was begging for us to limp to half time without conceding, but at the full time whistle I was left bitterly disappointed that we hadn’t won the game.
So without further ado, here are what I think were the five main talking points to take from the match from an AFC Bournemouth perspective…
The main talking point of the match was Harry Arter’s penalty – which I assume is still in orbit. It was incredibly soft decision in our favour for it to get given in the first place, but it still hurts a great deal not to take advantage of such a gift from the referee.
What is an even larger concern is that we’ve now missed our last three penalties, with a different player not hitting the target each time. The pressure will now seriously be on the next person in line to take one, but I personally think Charlie Daniels – who took some belting spot kicks last season but stopped after missing one in the FA Cup – should be next up.
Sadly I think the club has a rotational policy when it comes to penalties, and so we have no idea who’s next in line – I just hope they can hit the target when the time comes.
Other clear chances wasted
It wasn’t just the penalty where we were guilty of some errant finishing though, with Benik Afobe missing a great chance before that decisive moment – it was an opportunity that a striker with confidence buries first time, but the Democratic Republic of Congo international decided instead to take a touch and gave Fraser Forster the chance to close down the space.
Spurning such a chance is worrying, as Afobe – after bagging a goal in our previous game against Swansea City – should of been in confident mood, but instead he still looks nervous and unsure of himself in front of goal. Although I still have a slight hope he can make it at this level, the evidence that he might not cut it is piling up against him at a worrying pace.
It wasn’t just Afobe who was at the centre of some of our best chances however, as there were many times where the ball was flying around the Southampton penalty area – yet nobody in red and black (well, blue in this game) was calm enough to control the ball and slot it home. After demonstrating some clinical finishing in our victory against Swansea last weekend this was more than a little disappointing.
Fortunately enough for our strikers our defence did its job very well in the game, with Simon Francis and Steve Cook working well as a centre back pairing throughout – often snuffing out any danger before it developed into a real problem, and remaining solid despite a first half where the ball seemed to be constantly coming back at us. The main reason for this seemed quite obvious…
Two up front does not work away from home
I stand by my belief that we look unbalanced with two up front, despite our recent good run of form with a 4-4-2 formation. Benik Afobe and Josh King simply do not work well together as a pair, and we lack enough of a presence in midfield to give them any consistently decent service.
There’s been a lot of criticism from a large group of people from outside the club about Jack Wilshere not playing in our starting eleven, and although I don’t like to agree with mobs as a general rule we did look so much better once both the on-loan Arsenal man and Harry Arter were introduced into the middle of the park.
All of a sudden we had some real drive going forward, and just looked a far more threatening outfit overall. My worry is that if Howe has us playing in a 4-4-2 formation for our trip to Liverpool on Wednesday then we could be well out of the game before he even has the chance to change it to what actually works for us – Jurgen Klopp’s outfit will not be so generous in front of goal as Southampton after all.
Our left side is strong
The left side of the team looks more balanced now than it arguably has all season, and it’s all down to the Marc Pugh and Charlie Daniels combination. They seem to have an unspoken understanding on the pitch when defending and attacking, and it will be interesting to see if Howe decides to break up this partnership when Junior Stanislas is back to full fitness.