Date: 1st February 2017 at 7:16am
Written by: Neil Dawson

It was like a scene from the Hobbit. Bournemouth`s dwarves and elves emerging from the mist into open green space to take on some bearded giants that thwacked them into the middle of next week. The recent horrible run, extended now to one win in eight, saw a home team set up with the wrong formation, with the wrong personnel, bereft of confidence and ending a run of three must win fixtures with one point out of nine. Worrying times indeed.

Eddie made three changes from the team that had limped to a point against Watford. The revolving door centre forward policy continued with Afobe`s turn to play and Wilsons to come on. Expect the reverse of that on Saturday and the reverse again v City. Francis was back for Mings. Daniels must have picked up a knock and Brad Smith stepped in. This meant once again the “doesn`t gel at all” formation of Wilshere in deep centre midfield and King trying to work out where he is playing got another airing (hopefully for the last time).

The game started as it would largely continue for the first 70 minutes until the 70 minute overdue arrival of Arter. Palace huffing and puffing and gradually growing from no confidence to Real Madrid over the course of it. Bournemouth getting the ball, giving it to wingers bizarrely stationed in field facing backwards who would lay it to either Wilshere who would start the play all over again??or Surman who would look for Boruc. No rhythm, no tempo, no desire and the worst display of sideways football since the retirement of Ray Wilkins.

Palace gradually woke up to the fact that for the first time in many a month they could actually win an away game. Zaha rattled the post with a long range drive. This stung Bournemouth into a huge desire to pass the ball sideways and backwards to see if this would confuse the opposition into decamping from their own half. It didn`t. Passes went astray, Stanislas – who has a one game George Best three games Leon Best ratio is in the middle of the latter and was especially entertaining with the worst array of free-kicks and corners to darken a door in many a year.

Bournemouth had the sum total of one shot on target in the first half, a daisy cutter from Stan that limped into the keeper`s arms apologetically. A stinging deflected drive from King and a routine save by Boruc to beat out Zaha`s drive the only other things that happened in a dire, dire half of football.

HT Bournemouth 0 Palace 0

The second half saw Bournemouth lethargically stroll back out onto the pitch and quickly concede. Anyone that has never seen us may be surprised to learn that this was from an undefended cross from a set piece to an unmarked player DANN to slide home unopposed. Everyone else won`t be.

From then on it fell apart more with Palace threatening constantly, Mcarthur was inches away with a curling drive as was Puncheon as chance after chance rained in on Boruc. Bournemouth could just not get the ball in midfield where they were overran leaving four players stood up front with hands on their hips.

Howe threw Ibe and Wilson on for Stan and Afobe but once again this was a personnel change when a formation change was needed. It made no difference as a result. The change in style eventually came in the 70th minute with the arrival of Arter, a move to a back three and some bite and numbers in midfield. King ruffled the roof of the net with a header when he should have scored. Ibe was looking dangerous although as with Fraser didn`t release crosses always quick enough allowing Palace to settle.

The game ended with Bournemouth pushing up – Cook firing just wide from distance and Wilshere`s curling free-kick drawing a good save form Hennessey. The board went up for four minutes and the crowd hoped for a grandstand finish. Francis had other ideas though, suicidally giving the ball away to Townsend who crossed for BENTEKE to score yet another header against our porous defence.

FT Bournemouth 0 Palace 2

Boruc 5 – Flapped at a few corners. Unsettled this week?

Smith 5 – Couple of good runs/ poor first touches at crucial moments.
Francis 5 – Poor mistake on his return- lack of leadership at set plays.
Cook 5 – Solid enough and good with ball at his feet, missing for first.
Smith 5 – Ok first half but dreadful second half. Questionable outlay.

Stanislas 4 – No point in a player so inconsistent. Non existent.
Wilshere 7 – The only player to put on a premier league display today?
Surman 4 – Words fail me. Offers no key skills of a midfielder at all.
Fraser 5 – Tried hard but no service and poor distribution at times.

King 6 – Worked his socks off /some great runs. Out of position?again
Afobe 4 – I only remembered he was playing in the 25th minute.
Verdict
I can only start at one place – my current concern with Eddie Howe. He had three games to play his best eleven in the right formation. A formation that had beaten Liverpool, played Arsenal off the park and destroyed Swansea. You didn`t have to be Bill Shankly to work out what to do. That team was more than capable of 7 or 9 points against three opponents on dreadful runs. Then he could have experimented against some of the top teams coming up with relegation out of the picture.

Instead, god only knows what went through his mind but with four very tricky games coming up before we play a resurgent West Ham at home, forget the points total – start worrying. He has royally messed up in January. Wilshere is not a deep player – not the energy, great though he is. Surman on the pitch with Arter on the bench??.Jesus. This team had two good spells last season and two dreadful ones. Harry Arter`s presence, and absence, was the sole reason for both of these. Guess what happened when he was taken out of the side again. Criminal.

Playing Wilshere as a link player with two covering the defence and letting him work his magic close to goal for King or Wilson to run onto was working a treat. We now have a line of six at the back with a line of four miles away and nobody working the gaps. I spoke to Tony Gale at half time and he said “why on earth did you change your formation – nobody is giving the ball to the forwards and you are swamped in the middle”.

Due to his failure to put any sort of team out in the cup we also now have long spells for the players to dwell on their poor performances and eat themselves up before the next one.

You judge a manager on certain key things. 1) Recruitment making the side stronger 2) Putting the right personnel on the pitch 3) Putting them in the correct formation 4) Coaching your side to defend set pieces 5) Coaching your side to be dangerous with your own set plays. On every aspect Eddie Howe is badly failing at the moment and raising question marks about his ability to manage at this level. I think he will answer these, he normally does, but it is taking him longer than normal to spot what is wrong and issuing a statement that “defence was not the problem today” after your side has gifted the opposition two goals is another example of his recent plot losing.

His recruitment team have also failed him badly this window again.

Time to lose the mates on and off the pitch and show people he is not too stubborn to turn this around.

Report by Neil Dawson