Written by Neil Dawson
Thank-god for August and September. Without these, we would be reacquainting ourselves with the joys of the New Den and the Madjeswski. The slow rumble to the beach (or transfers to better clubs) carried on in excruciating fashion today as Bournemouth managed to lose 3-1 to a team that can’t touch them on paper or salaries. A Bournemouth team devoid of ideas, shape or tactics playing out the longest finish to a season in history – it started in November. I have been through many emotions in the Premier League, as expected such is the level. Today was the first time I have experienced abject boredom since Groves left though – and the rows and rows of empty seats demonstrated I wasn’t alone.
Eddie made one change, Smith returning at left back for Daniels. The start of the game was actually alright – decent movement, Brooks looking on top form and a fourth-minute lead. A quick intelligent free-kick from Fraser was flicked on by Lerma and Barnes beat Ake to it to head into his own net.
So far so good. And for the next 86 minutes the game belonged exclusively to Burnley. Once again Bournemouth’s formation allowing no possession in midfield, none of the management team did anything about it and then proceeded to watch their team fall apart in front of their eyes. Burnley’s equaliser owed much to Begovic’s incompetence. He got sucked in near post for a corner then totally lost track of it in mid-air and ended up waving at his family in the stand as WOOD headed home unchallenged by any defenders. Embarrassing and worse was to come – Mepham was next up on the mistake front with an abject clearance that would have raised fury in a pub team let alone a Premier League team. Lazy, no thought swing of the boot taking the ball from the goal line to the centre of the box for WESTWOOD to side-foot with ease past Begovic. 1-0 had become 1-2 in the blink of Begovic’s myopic eyes.
The half played out with Bournemouth’s four forwards stuck up the pitch with a hand in the air while the two-man midfield got stretched out of the game. Lerma fought manfully but Gosling took his legendary first touch weakness to depths even his most ardent critics couldn’t have envisaged. When they did have it they looked sideways but nobody was there – they were all up front, watching with the rest of us in total disbelief. One chance came and went – Wilson heading over Brook’s cross from six yards when it seemed easier to score, the rest was just not worth making any notes over.
HT Bournemouth 1 Burnley 2
‘It can’t be any worse’ said the bloke in front of me when we came out. He was spectacularly wrong. The second half was that phenomenally bad it made the first half look like the Brazil/Italy final of 1970. Clyne had not stopped one McNeill cross or run in 45 minutes so made way for Rico.
What we didn’t need to do was gift Burnley a goal to allow them to shut up shop – Bungler Begovic didn’t agree with this theory though and threw himself about like a dying salmon coming for a low cross that wasn’t his and slapping the ball to Wood to pass to BARNES who was able to atone for his early oggie.
‘I know’, Eddie thought. ‘Let’s put another forward on to stand with the four we have got – it hasn’t worked before but you never know’ and on came Solanke for Lerma who just looked relieved to get away from the embarrassment. That gave us less possession and another player stood with his hand in the air now watching five people get over-run.
‘I know’, Eddie thought, ‘Let’s put another winger on to stand with the five we have got – it hasn’t worked before but you never know’ and on came Stanislas for Gosling who just looked relieved to get away from his own personal embarrassment
. We now had the most attacking team fielded in PL history but with nobody to get the ball, nobody able to tackle and nobody taking any sort of lead in direction. What followed was the most shambolic lack of tactics or shape seen in many a year. If it hadn’t been for Burnley’s desperate need to time waste and play safe we could have got royally humped. Rico As it was we were able to get out with a scoreline that didn’t reflect the performance. The one highlight of a day to forget.
FT Bournemouth 1 Burnley 3
Begovic 2 – My god. Boruc was the only person in the stadium more gutted than us fans.
Clyne 3 – I find it incredible he has played at the excellent level he has.
Mepham 4 – A right royal bruising welcome to the other side of the PL. A boy among men.
Ake 6 – The only player to hit average. Counting down the days to get away I’d imagine
Smith 5 – Did a much better job on McNeill than Clyne but wasteful.
Fraser 4 – Not at the races today – looks like his mind may be elsewhere. Too advanced
Lerma 5 – Tackled and worked hard but poor in possession.
Gosling 3 – His worst game in our shirt. Slow, cumbersome and outfought.
Brooks 6 – The best threat going forwards but anonymous second half
King 4 – Really poor in keeping possession.
Wilson 4 – wasted chances and couldn’t get into the game.
(Rico 3 – the only player I’ve seen get better through injury)
(Stan 3 – insists on taking all the free-kicks on memory)
(Solanke 3 – looked out of his depth)
MOM – Hard to describe as we really shouldn’t have one but you can’t look beyond Ake for me.
If a few people doubted there was a malaise at this club and kept on about how good a squad Leicester had last week maybe today might help them realise it. We have just lost 1-7 on aggregate to a Burnley side who are inferior to us (in my opinion and the transfer market’s opinion). They are tactically organised and have shape. That’s all it takes to beat us. We have now won 5 out of 24 games and two of those were against the worst side in modern Premier League history.
Eddie needs to face facts. He can not keep playing the same failed system week after week and coming on the radio scratching his head. If his players weren’t good enough fair enough. They are though – this is a very talented squad but they are not playing anywhere near their capabilities game after game after game. If it’s not talent then it has to be tactics. You can see how the players have no belief in the system they play. The looks on their faces when they are passed notes, the predictable substitutions that add more forwards when the problem is possession, the exasperated throwing of arms in the air and the lack of desire to work hard – all points to one thing. The ship-mates and the captain are unaligned for the first time in his two spells with us.
It is in his gift to fix the tactics and put another body in his drowned central midfield but he has to drop one of King or Wilson, and he can’t get his head around that so we go through inept Groundhog day every game.
That’s my first beef. My second is the coaching team are clearly not up to this job as the players are getting worse as the season goes on, properly coached players get better. Begovic has had a year working with Moss and has gone the way of every keeper. Not one player is better than they were in August. Rico used to keep Messi fairly quiet and earned a great reputation in Spain. What have we done with him? What have we done to Lerma who looks confused? Clyne? Solanke? Mousset? Ibe? all talent wasted. We have a coaching team built on the fact they played together in League Two – no qualification to improve great talent, maybe useful at getting the best out of Pugh. He needs to realise this and take an axe to them and bring in proper support that can manage top talent and develop tactics other than League one 4-4-2. Look how Mings has improved learning from John Terry. Teams playing through us for this long is shameful.
We are at a crossroads. Keeping saying we are unsure what is going wrong and that training went well doesn’t cut it. We have a team with no belief, no shape and no direction. And we never change anything – I can only assume because we don’t know how to. It has to be sorted before next season if we are to retain our status at the top table and one man holds the keys to this. He will need to embrace change though – can he?
Add to this – recruitment strategy. Blindingly obvious since Arter went off the boil that we lack competence and leadership in midfield – even with Lewis Cook on the pitch. Why spend £20-odd million on Solanke when Gosling and Co are a dismal soft centre, feeding the ball constantly to the opposition. I can’t believe Eddie doesn’t see this – it’s weird. – Join the conversation, click here.