Date: 29th October 2017 at 6:08am
Written by: Neil Dawson

Eden Hazard struck a Halloween weekend blow for Bournemouth as Franno went bump in the night. A tight encounter was settled when a slip from the Bournemouth skipper allowed the mercurial Belgian in.

Eddie made two changes from the team that had won at Stoke, Ibe and Mousset dropping to the bench and Steve Cook and Defoe stepping in to make a 3-5-2 formation with Stan in the hole.

There was no early ascendancy from either team with some zippy football on both parts. Bournemouth were confident in possession but badly missing King with both Defoe and Afobe unable to stretch Chelsea down either the flank or the middle. Pedro fired narrowly over for the visitors with the first chance of the game but there was little to offer for the hosts. Their first chance came and went when Afobe turned himself into a great position to draw back his left peg but inexplicably passed to Daniels with just Courtois in his sights.

Gradually Chelsea grew in ascendancy with some slick passing, Hazard particularly prominent. They should have scored when a poor miskick from Begovic found Hazard who ran at the big keeper before squaring to Morata who sidefooted wide when it seemed easier to score.

The home keeper quickly made amends with a fantastic blocking save after Morata had turned on a sixpence and fired a bullet at goal. Bournemouth huffed and puffed in return but never had enough people forwards to trouble Chelsea and with slow central forwards and the wing backs playing as full-backs it was all a little safe and predictable. When they did threaten poor corner kicks from Stanislas failed to add any pressure.

HT Bournemouth 0 Chelsea 0

At half time Eddie moved to a 4-3-3 removing Defoe and pushing Ibe and Stanislas either side of Afobe. Clearly a move to inject pace and push Chelsea’s full-backs back.

As a tactic it was clever and initially it worked. Bournemouth got stuck in higher up the pitch and enjoyed more possession. Cook grew into the game in particular with this added space having been robbed on several occasions in the first half. Unfortunately it was in this good spell that the home side fell behind. A routine chip to Hazard by Morata should have been stopped by Franno but he lost sight of the ball missed his clearance and fell over by over-straining to make a recovery. HAZARD needs little encouragement to run into space and he murdered the gap before firing past Begovic who will be annoyed to be beaten near post.

Bournemouth nearly hit back with a wicked (saved?) deflected drive from Ibe and kept playing high up the pitch but again Stan wasted two corners before pulling up sharp on the run and being replaced by Pugh. It looked like a costly afternoon when Afobe then slumped to the ground and Wilson arrived for the last twenty minutes.

The much heralded striker nearly scored with his first touch but Courtois was quick to block from Ibe’s cross. The home-side were building up a head of steam but constantly wasted the final ball – Ibe in particular – and failed to capitalise on any possession. They were nearly punished when Fabregas was inches away from repeating Hazards near post trick. Only a late drive from Steve Cook which Courtois caught comfortably offered any threat of an equaliser.

FT Bournemouth 0 Chelsea 1

Begovic 6 – Two fantastic saves, dodgy kicking, beaten near post.

Francis 5 – Slipped crucially and some wayward passing. Solid else.
Cook 8 – Great blocks and good leading attacker of the ball.
Ake 7 – Solid enough against old team in left sided role.

Smith 6 – Lung busting game with a generally watchful eye on Hazard
Cook 6 – 5 for first half 7 for second. Grew in stature and composure.
Surman 7 – Pick of midfield again, composed and in control.
Stanislas 6 – Odd classy moment, poor delivery set pieces.
Daniels 6 – Hesitant in attack but solid at the back.

Defoe 4 – Non-existent and in wrong role completely.
Afobe 6 – Battled hard and held up play generally well….tired at end.

(Ibe 4 – wasteful, Pugh 5 – quiet, Wilson 5 – not much to do)

There is no shame losing to Chelsea. As often discussed on here these are free games. It is interesting how Eddie has bent his teams style against top teams this year and plays much more cautiously with largely a back five and two sitting midfielders. I can go either way on this – I think it is the right formation but only when King is available to stretch teams and pull them back. Today, with Defoe, it was never going to work and maybe a 4-5-1 would have been better to counteract the width.

We have now lost by one goal to Spurs, Man City and Chelsea – a sign of how much this formation works defensively. However, one shot from Daniels that 99 times out of 100 wakes up the away supporters coach driver as it takes out his wing mirror aside, we have never looked like scoring either. This is a big concern. We are a team likely to concede so you can argue we need to score two to win any match. Perhaps we were better just keeping our attacking game going at all times because at least we were in a groove when we played the poorer teams. Three goals in 5 home games…..not very Bournemouth.

The other point is that teams that sit back need great set piece ability and we have neither the delivery or the height to capitalise on a defensive performance like other teams in the division have done when opting to play stalemate football.

Final point for me is the continued dilemma of Defoe who is in the side on reputation rather than performances. We do not play to out and out goal scorers and never have. The Bournemouth way is for forwards to dominate the game and feed each other. All our successes have that in common. We struggled with Glen Murray and Defoe’s performances are a replica, although not in height, of this. Like Murray (as today’s visitors will testify) he may be better when chasing a tight game than starting. A real issue as he didn’t come her for the bench and Eddie promised he would show-case him for the world cup squad.

So – a big month ahead and its a worry to go into it without the invention of Stan and possibly the pace of King. Wilson’s return now more welcome that ever (if that is possible) and Mousset probably needs to find himself quickly. We need to go back to Bournemouth style football which Eddie normally does against the bottom teams to be fair.

No point going out with a whimper – we might as well go for teams again. Yes it’s a risk but I doubt it would have yielded any less points had we done it all season and it may well have yielded more. We need the gung-ho Eddie we know and love back!

Report by Neil Dawson

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