The metaphorical storm clouds that were starting to appear and threaten to ruin AFC Bournemouth’s season just a few weeks ago have begun to depart after recent results – namely a heroic draw against Manchester United and a thrilling win over West Ham United – and as a supporter of the south coast side I couldn’t be more relieved.
Just a fortnight ago we looked like we were performing a death-defying plunge into Championship, but after finally stopping the rot we’ve now given ourselves a real chance of survival.
But we can’t just rest on our laurels because of two decent results, we need to push on – starting with our home fixture against Swansea City on Saturday. With the following set of fixtures including trips to Southampton, Liverpool, and Tottenham – and Chelsea at Dean Court – it’s imperative we get a result against a fellow struggler this weekend. Here’s how we can do it.
Learn from the Andy Carroll experience
No, the Andy Carroll Experience is not a rubbish Hendrix cover band – but instead what our back four experienced last week when playing West Ham United.
We largely neutered the hulking frontman’s ability to dominate in the air thanks to Steve Cook and Simon Francis knowing exactly when to compete in the air with him, however – and when to back off and win the second ball. Our full backs and wingers also worked tirelessly to make sure dangerous deliveries in the box were kept to a minimum.
We’ll have to adapt similar tactics on Saturday considering Fernando Llorente is Swansea’s main attacking threat. With Gylfi Sigurdsson the Swans certainly have the man able to offer up the Spanish target-man some dangerous crosses to attack, so we need to keep him quiet as well.
Make King the main man
I’ve said this a few times, but Josh King is great. Like really really great. Perhaps that’s not the most eloquent description of him that you’ll find out there, but hopefully, it gets across that I rate our Norwegian striker quite highly.
After his recent goal-scoring exploits – seven goals in five games! – he should be the focal point of our attacks. He may have bagged a hat-trick last week despite playing slightly behind Benik Afobe, King has undoubtedly earned the right to be right at the very front of our, er, frontline.
He’s even said it’s his preferred position, and with his excellent record against Swansea – having scored against them in our last three meetings – I want to see him leading the line on Saturday.
Draw on past form against the Swans
Going from previous meetings in the Premier League there’s no better team for us to play than Swansea city – in three games against the Welsh side we’ve bagged seven points, and the match we drew (2-2 last season) we arguably should have won.
So with that in mind, we should go into this weekend’s game with a positive mindset and knowledge that we’ve bested many of the Swans players before – even though under Paul Clement they are a much different beast to the shambles of the side we swatted away in December.
Solve the Wilshere conundrum
Jack Wilshere is a talented player, of that there is no doubt. But there’s also a case that AFC Bournemouth perform better as a team without him, going from recent displays against Manchester United and West Ham United.
He can often slow down our play, so considering in recent years our strength is attacking at the pace this is an obvious problem. Our players can often be seen relying on him to create a piece of magic when he’s on the pitch too, rather than taking responsibility themselves.
With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wilshere on the bench again this weekend, although if he does play I hope we’ll see him playing behind Josh King as a number 10.
Show no mercy
As I mentioned above, Swansea City are not the side they were when we played them back in December – but they’re still conceding a lot of goals (at least two goals in each if their last four away games), so we should show no mercy if we score first, aiming to close out the game at the earliest opportunity.
Too many times this season we’ve taken the lead and subsequently collapsed – Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Hull City – and we’re at a point in the season where we simply can’t allow that to happen anymore if we’re to survive.
Their first team full-backs will also miss the game on Saturday, so we should get at them in as ruthless a manner as possible. I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet, so we simply need to play to our attacking strengths – and hope we end up scoring more than we concede.