Date: 3rd January 2021 at 11:22am
Written by:

Written by kirsikka

After a good performance that garnered no points last time out, AFC Bournemouth manager Jason Tindall set up the Cherries for a potential battle in a snow hit Stoke. Bringing in some heft up front with Surridge for Brooks and adding an extra man to the CB defensive line with Billing dropping out of the squad, presumably injured.

It was a tepid start to the game with the teams mostly holding each other at arm’s length. The ball moving around the pitch but rarely getting into interesting positions and the energy levels from both sides were a bit Sunday League after a heavy New Years Eve party.

Stoke seemed intent on trying to get crosses into the box, peppering a succession of poor balls in from all angles. Their forwards were often first to the ball but never made a decent fist of an effort at goal from any of them.

It’s becoming a theme but again they seemed to be targetting our left-sided defensive position. We were trying to pass the ball out from defence but the press on that side was regularly forcing us back, back, back until either Begovic was obliged to lump it forward or one of the defenders was left close to being boxed in near the corner flag. That player would then attempt a ball down the line invariably for it to end up with Stoke in possession at around the position where we first started passing it backwards. Either that or a poor touch or pass would gift the ball to Stoke somewhere during the passing backwards process.

This is a genuine problem that is being exploited by the opposition. We don’t have the same issues on the other side of the pitch and until we fix this we can expect every team to go after us there as we look vulnerable. I’m not digging out one particular player as several were caught poorly there; Lerma, Simpson, Rico and Kelly.

One sloppy Simpson clearance was too slow allowing a block to come in from which the ball was played into the channel for Allen whose shot from an angle was stopped by the legs of Begovic.

With little in the way of quality playing it out of their half, the Cherries were often resorting to lumping it aimlessly forward in the hope it would land kindly. It didn’t.

Finally, in the 21st minute, Lewis Cook picked up the ball in a central position halfway inside our half in space. For once the Stoke press was nowhere to be seen allowing him to get his head up and play a sumptuous long ball which bisected the Stoke centre-halves with German Brexit English precision engineering for Solanke to run onto. He’d timed and directed his run perfectly, like the player in form he is, and his eyes lit up as he saw the keeper gamble on rushing out. He lofted the ball over the hapless goalie from outside the area and was unfortunate that it didn’t quite dip in time, instead of clipping the top of the crossbar.

After that brief respite, the game descended again into some kind of uncontrolled football ping pong with the ball bouncing from one team to the other with almost nobody showing any class when in possession.

When the Cherries did get forward the formation was causing them problems with the wing-backs far too withdrawn. Instead of bombing down and trying to pressure the corner quadrant, they were often halfway back letting Stoke sit in behind them and leaving us with little width and no space in which to operate. At one point we had an attacking throw and Kelly laughed at what was in front of him – six Stoke players and three AFCB ones. Not committing large numbers to that space is fine but we then need to have the players in space elsewhere for the attack but instead, they were patrolling the halfway line.

Stanislas was meant to be the trequartista feeding Surridge and Solanke but barely a single pass went between them in that first half as possession for the trio was like hen’s teeth.

Solanke still managed to look threatening when the ball game near him at least. On 40 minutes he took another long ball on his chest in a way that opened up the defence and let him play Surridge in from his diagonal run but the pass was a touch overhit. Unfortunate but a highlight compared to most of the dirge that had gone before.

The half time whistle came and I thought to myself that was a pretty good display if we were playing away at Man City. Away at Stoke, it was solid but uninspiring and hardly the stuff of a promotion-chasing team.

Half time rockets duly dished out, AFCB came out of the blocks and started to show us how this formation was meant to be played. Lewis Cook smeared a ball across goal but it didn’t quite land right and then sharp passing and running brought another ball across goal that was begging to be tapped in only for the keeper to push it away before it reached the Cherry shirt. Still, at least the impetus was there and they were finally taking the game to Stoke.

Sadly, it was a short live shot of adrenaline as the pedestrian game from the first half returned. My eyelids started to get heavy as the soporific non-event on screen started to act like a lullaby.

Lump it forward. Control it poorly. Pass it badly. Go backwards.
Lump it forward. Control it poorly. Pass it badly. Go backwards.
Lump it forward. Control it poorly. Pass it badly. Go backwards.
Lump it forward. Control it poorly. Pass it badly. Go backwards.

After the exciting and smooth pass and move of the Brentford game, this was so mechanical and jerky Kraftwerk could probably have turned it into an album track.

Meanwhile, Tindall was a somnambulist on the sidelines. Despite the fact what we were seeing on the pitch couldn’t possibly have resembled his game plan, there was no tactical movement to try and change or influence it.

I’m guessing a snowflake finally drifted into his snoring, open mouth finally jerking him awake and into action on the 70th minute, bringing Brooks on for the disappointing Surridge.

Brooks has been out of sorts of lately, rarely even getting involved in games never mind dominating them. Maybe being dropped was the kick up the backside he needed as he was suddenly on the ball and influential. Drifting between a wing and the inside right role he asked Stoke all sorts of questions and it didn’t appear as though they had a lot in the way of answers.

Not everything Brooks did was good, there were moments of poor control and bad decisions but the mere fact he looked like he might make something happen was a big step up from what went before.

With Stoke now looking a little nervy, on 78 minutes Lewis Cook again got the ball in space in his half and played another long ball over the top, this time for the run of Junior who’d turned his man and left him for dead. It drifted a little left but still through on goal, Stanislas was able to slot it past the keeper to make it a good start for June to January. 1-0 and some relief for AFCB.

85 minutes saw a worrying moment as a heavy clash of knees with a Stoke player saw Adam Smith hobble off to be replaced by King. Hopefully, it was only a jarred knee and a precautionary sub.

King actually looked interested which was good to see. It was almost like the transfer window was open and scouts might be checking the match from afar. Still, it allowed the Cherries to apply some late pressure rather than sitting back trying to repel attacks, with Solanke, King and Brooks all involved. One glorious Solanke dribble to the byline past two men with power and pace ended in a cut back that Stanislas marmalised at goal but it cannoned off a defender. Unlucky!

The game ended with three points. So what would you rather have, excellent performance but no points or a mostly uninspired one with three points? We’ve seen them both in the last two fixtures. This match was the essence of grinding out a win.

Conclusions against Stoke City and player ratings – click here

Man of the match against Stoke

L Cook

L Cook

S Cook

S Cook

Rico

Rico

Stanislas

Stanislas

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