Everton return to a ground they do not have happy memories of when they visit AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.
The Blues have never won away in the Premier League at the Cherries, drawing 3-3 in 2015-16 after being 2-0 up with ten minutes left and 3-2 ahead in stoppage time, before a 2-2 stalemate last season having led 2-0 with a quarter of an hour remaining.
They won there in the FA Cup in 2016, but have lost both other league meetings away to Bournemouth, who are 15th with four points after as many games.
Only Norwich City and Chelsea have conceded more than Eddie Howe’s side, who have lost their last two league matches by a 3-1 scoreline.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, we spoke to Bournemouth fan Peter Bell of the Cherry Chimes blog:
RBM: Firstly, has Bournemouth’s rather slow start to the season taken you by surprise at all?
Peter: I can’t say I didn’t expect the season to be tough from the start. Bournemouth had two promoted teams to play back-to-back and that was always going to be tricky in the first two games. I don’t think many fans give their team much chance against Man City, bit the Leicester City game might have gone either way if Bournemouth had played better but we didn’t deserve anything from that game. The team has a lot of injuries already and this season looks like it will be a battle for survival.
RBM: What would represent a good season for Bournemouth in your opinion?
Peter: Anything around 10th to 12th place would be seen as a positive season and perhaps a good cup run of course. Bournemouth have got to the quarter-finals of domestic cup competitions, but never any further. Everton actually stopped one of our rare FA Cup runs in 2016 and it was annoying as Bournemouth were at home and Eddie Howe didn’t pick a strong side on the day.
RBM: Bournemouth have one of the Premier League’s defences so far with eight goals conceded in four games. Is there anything in particular you would put this down to?
Peter: I guess you are trying to say one of the worst defences? I’d agree. We are shipping goals for fun but it’s not because of our keeper. Aaron Ramsdale has been superb and has been unlucky to play in a team with such a poor defence. Eddie Howe has only brought in Nathan Aké who is truly better than the defenders that Bournemouth were promoted with in 2015.
This summer Bournemouth bought Lloyd Kelly from Charlton Athletic who has been injured since pre-season and Jack Stacey from Luton Town who is not good enough to start a game at this level. You can add Diego Rico who was bought from Leganes in Spain before last season that has not made the grade and the jury is still out on Chris Mepham, bought from Brentford in the Championship, who showed how he can’t give Jamie Vardy a head start last match.
Unless Bournemouth start investing in defenders that are better than what they have, they’ll continue to be one of the leading contenders for goals against in the Premier League. Bournemouth will splash out £25m on attackers but Aké is the only defender we have in that bracket, especially as we sold Tyrone Mings this summer who should have been given more of a go at Dean Court.
RBM: For a while, the main criticism of Eddie Howe seems to be that his Bournemouth teams have struggled to defend. Is this the main area he needs to improve as a manager to take the Cherries even further?
Peter: Eddie Howe is still working out how best to set up the team. He has tried moving away from the 4-4-1-1 formation that brought the club a lot of success. He has lots of centre-backs and clearly thinks the side would benefit from playing three at the back, but we have seen if fail against Sheffield United and Leicester City.
He relies on Steve Cook who can be indifferent. Adam Smith and Charlie Daniels are our best full backs but both are injured, Daniels is out for the season. Simon Francis is still injured having done his cruciate ligament in against Tottenham last Boxing Day and Chris Mepham has just pulled out of the Welsh squad this week with an injury.
Last season Bournemouth let in 70 goals only beaten by two of the relegated teams. So I don’t think you are far wrong if you say Howe still has much to learn as a defensive coach and that is surprising having been a central defender himself.
RBM: Some may have been surprised that Howe loaned out experienced goalkeeper Asmir Begović in favour of youngsters Aaron Ramsdale and Mark Travers. Has he made the right call?
Peter: Asmir Begovic was a disaster! He couldn’t keep hold of any shots and the fans wanted him out quicker than you could say Azerbaijan, which is where he has ended up. Aaron Ramsdale and Mark Travers are the future for the club. Both of them are top quality and it’s great to see that Howe has given youth a chance. Travers was sensational against Tottenham at home last season to keep a clean sheet and Ramsdale is probably a better candidate at the moment for the top spot as he has a slight louder presence and is more fully confident that he is a Premier League keeper in his abilities. It should be interesting to see if Ramsdale can keep the shirt all season, but I expect him to.
RBM: David Brooks impressed in his first season in the Premier League with Bournemouth last year, including in their defeat at Goodison Park in January. How much are the team currently missing him as a result of his ankle injury?
Peter: David Books was a breath of fresh air and he attacked the Premier League without worrying who he was playing against. He was unlucky to get injured against Cardiff City in a pre-season game, but he’ll be back in a month or so I reckon. Meanwhile, Bournemouth made an astute loan signing of Harry Wilson his Welsh team-mate from Liverpool. He has started similarly well to how Brooks did last season and while he had a quiet game against Leicester City, he is the type of player that will make Brooks absence less important than it might have been.
RBM: How do you expect Bournemouth to set up on Sunday?
Peter: This is the million-dollar question. Our players are dropping like flies and I might have to get my boots ready at this rate! Much will depend on whether Howe decides to stick with three at the back or revert to a back four – I hope he does the latter. But I fear he won’t! I just don’t think he trusts Jack Stacey at right-back or Diego Rico at left -back.
S Cook, Simpson, Aké
H Wilson, Lerma, Billing, Surman, Fraser
C Wilson, King
RBM: Who do you think can cause Everton the most problems?
Peter: Harry Wilson is not afraid to shoot from anywhere and he is not yet fully contained by playing Bournemouth’s style so could do the unexpected. Fans kind of like that about him, although Eddie Howe will want to get him used to being more of a creative provider for Callum Wilson and Josh King as the season progresses I’d imagine. Josh King has been a bit off form and Callum only got his first goal last weekend, while Ryan Fraser hasn’t scored yet. So, the goals are not exactly flowing yet.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
Peter: If Bournemouth get a draw I’ll be over the moon. I do believe the team is searching for a result to give it some momentum and sometimes in the past, Everton have been a good team to play when things haven’t been going so well. I’ll hope for a 1-1 draw as I think that’s the best Bournemouth can do at the moment.
Our thanks to Peter for his time.