Bournemouth were among many people’s favourites for an automatic promotion place at the beginning of the Championship season. With the campaign now well into its second phase, the Cherries’ form continues to fluctuate and the likelihood of promotion for the south coast side seems more open to question.
The beginning of the new season foresaw the Cherries fulfil the expectations of even the most ardent fans, getting off to a positive start in their bid for a return to the Premier League at the second time of asking. Unbeaten in their first 14 league games, Scott Parker’s side seemed a shoo-in for automatic promotion on the Betdaq betting exchange.
Steely at the back, with goals coming from all over the park at the other end, the team, under Parker’s first full season in charge, appeared to be heading back to the top flight after a disappointing play-off loss to Brentford.
The Championship, however, as is proven year-on-year, gives no-one an easy ride. It is a gruelling and unforgiving league, capable of ruthlessly tarnishing a team’s ambitions with just a few poor results — as was the case for Bournemouth. A run of one win in eight from November to mid-December saw the beacon of hope of a swift return to the Premier League somewhat dimmed and Bournemouth have found themselves in the trenches.
Despite sitting third in the table at the time of writing, Bournemouth’s form since before the turn of the year has been distinctly on the slide. The early advantage gained from a strong start has been chipped away at week-by-week and the chasing pack are closing in on the south coast side.
Further damage was inflicted when the Cherries prematurely exited the FA Cup in the fourth round — losing 1-0 to non-league Boreham Wood in a match where the bulk of their new January arrivals debuted, but flattered to deceive. Todd Cantwell, Freddie Woodman, Nat Phillips, Siriki Dembélé and Kieffer Moore all arrived at the Vitality Stadium, with Parker strengthening the side ahead of a massive second half of the season, one in which they would do well to finish second in let alone compete for the title.
The key issue appears to be more to do with the fact that Parker’s team, despite playing neat and intricate football, consistently have difficulty converting their chances. Unlike fellow title rivals Fulham, their seeming inability to blow teams away they are otherwise dominating outside the final third, and while Dom Solanke had been reliant on scoring the goals, Moore’s introduction will alleviate some of that pressure. Too often Bournemouth have failed to put a game to bed and regularly left themselves open for their opponents to steal a result — as demonstrated by the FA Cup capitulation.
As far as Parker is concerned, there is still a chance the Cherries can lift the title come May, although it could come down to an out-and-out grudge match when they host Fulham in late April. It seems very unlikely that they could drop off so significantly as to lose their automatic promotion place with a six-point lead, a vastly superior goal difference and significantly better firepower in their squad, as Aleksandar Mitrović, the club’s talisman, has already smashed 30 goals this season.
It will be interesting to see if the Cherries can close the gap on Marco Silva’s side, or indeed the likes of Blackburn Rovers or Queens Park Rangers hurdle them to steal second place, and Bournemouth are left to endure the trepidation of the play-offs for another year.