Most people expected a solid mid-table finish for Bournemouth in the English Premier League this season. That’s what happened in the past three years and there was no reason to believe the performance of the club will change dramatically.
And yet, the side is currently in the 18th place in the EPL and the danger of going down is real. That begs the question – what happened? How did Bournemouth end up in such a mess?
I will try to answer this question in this article by dissecting the club’s actions in the past several years and the changes in the English Premier League environment.
But to get to Bournemouth’s current demise, I would like to explore the rise of the club, as it can tell us a lot about the structure of the organization.
How Did Bournemouth Become a Mid-Table EPL Club?
For the vast majority of its long history, Bournemouth has been part of the lower English leagues. The team was found in 1899 and reached the second tier in the country as late as 2013-14! Two years later Bournemouth earned a promotion to the Premier League and has been part of the elite since.
The rapid rise of Bournemouth can be explained by the structure of the club. The manager Eddie Howe was the key to success, as he’s been at the helm since the League One days.
His ability to build an identity and certain style, combined with the full backing of the board is what led to steady improvement.
Howe had a certain vision of what he wanted on the pitch and was able to identify specific players that suit his needs and don’t cost too much.
Bournemouth’s squad was built by lower league players and footballers rejected by the top clubs in the country. The whole transfer strategy of the organization worked well without big investments which is how Bournemouth got to the Premier League.
Furthermore, it’s how the club managed to keep a competitive squad for the English elite. The problem is that the top-tier league changed and Bournemouth fell behind.
Inability to Adapt to the New Realities of the English Premier League
I believe that Bournemouth had the perfect strategy to compete without spending much until there was no way to compete without spending anymore.
The latest 2019 EPL TV rights deal was a game-changer. The money in English football has been increasing but this time around, the step was massive.
Even clubs from the middle and the bottom of the table can afford to spend insane amounts on players nowadays. Transfer fees in the region of £15-20 million are nothing and you see them frequently.
The change meant that Bournemouth could no longer afford to only count on players from the lower divisions. The team had to add some extra quality to the squad or risked falling behind the rest of the field.
If you add the change in the English Championship and the higher overall level of the promoted sides, it was obvious that Bournemouth’s strategy from the past was no longer working with the same effect.
It still provided a solid backbone, but the club had to adjust and start acquiring top talent. I think this is where Bournemouth ultimately failed.
The club did try to attract solid players and pay good money, but the new acquisitions have failed to deliver. The likes of Dominic Solanke, Jefferson Lerma, Diego Rico, Asmir Begovich, Arnaut Danjuma, and several more were supposed to raise the level of the squad and Bournemouth paid a lot of money to get them.
While some of them have been solid, the overall impact of the group of players acquired in the past several years has been far below what was required.
In my opinion, Bournemouth’s failure to add enough top-quality squad members in the past couple of years is the long-term problem.
However, the club is not yet so far behind to go down under normal circumstances. There’s another big issue that has plaguing Bournemouth’s 2019-20 campaign.
The Injuries Didn’t Help
The other important factor that contributed to Bournemouth’s poor season so far is the bad luck with injuries. A quick look at the EPL injury table shows that the club is currently missing six players and this is not a precedent.
The current campaign has been a disaster on this front. Charlie Daniels is out for the whole year, while the likes of Joshua King, Jack Stacey, David Brooks, Lloyd Kelly, Nathan Ake, Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas, and Steve Cook have missed significant periods this season.
That’s a long list of players and Eddie Howe was forced to rely on youngsters far too often. A club like Bournemouth doesn’t have the depth to cope with such a disaster and it has affected the team’s performance.
I like both Bournemouth and Eddie Howe. The club is an excellent example that the combination of hard work and a clear strategy can work even on the highest level of English football in an era dominated by money and expensive stars.
I believe that the team can stay in the English Premier League and improve in the future. Some luck by the end of the season is what Bournemouth needs to survive.
If the team keeps its place in the elite, the recruitment strategy has to change, though. Bournemouth will have to mix it and find a way to acquire talented players that will lift the overall level of the squad and help it stay competitive.