2018-19 EPL Match Day 8 Preview — Watford (4-1-2) vs. Bournemouth (4-1-2)

They have been the surprise packages of the early part of the season, but Watford are in desperate need of a victory Saturday to raise their spirits ahead of the international break as they host a Bournemouth side determined to reverse their flagging road form.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The first international break came at the worst possible time for Watford (4-1-2), who started the season with the maximum 12 points and had won their first five matches overall. Heading into this recess, the Hornets may need the break more than anyone as they are winless in their last four (0-2-2) in all competitions.

Javi Gracia could only lament the rotten luck his side had in the last two matches — crashing out of the Carabao Cup on penalties versus Tottenham Hotspur and coming undone late in their loss at Arsenal last weekend.

Watford were the better team and the more aggressive team for long stretches at the Emirates, failing to make that final connection and sternly testing Gunners keeper Bernd Leno. Isaac Success hit the woodwork in the 75th minute, and it appeared at worst Watford would leave north London with one point. But an own goal by Craig Cathcart six minutes later and a breakdown two minutes after that left a shellshocked Watford on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline.

“What can I say, I am very upset for my players because I think they deserved more, a better result,” Gracia told Watford’s official website. “We had a very good performance, with more shots, more on target, with a lot of clear chances to score. But if you don’t score, you can lose.

“We deserved more.”

Gracia was forced into his first lineup change of the season last weekend when right back Daryl Janmaat could not go due to a knee injury that will sideline him for at least another month. Marc Navarro turned in a credible first start, but he is also unavailable due to injury, forcing Gracia to look further down the bench to either Kiko Femenia or Adrian Mariappa.

“Adrian is a player who can play in different defensive positions,” Gracia said. “He is an option to play, the same as Kiko and Cathcart as well.”

Up front, attacking midfielder Gerard Deulofeu could be in line to make his season debut for the Hornets, having fully recovered from a foot injury suffered late last term.

Bournemouth (4-1-2) are seventh in the table, trailing Watford on goal difference largely because they were run out of both Chelsea and Burnley by a combined 6-0 scoreline. The Cherries, though, have left it late in their last two contests – getting a stoppage-time goal by Callum Wilson to advance in the Carabao Cup and an 87th-minute penalty by Junior Stanislas for the winning margin in a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend.

“We’re confident that we have a goal in us at any time, and match winners in the team who can turn a tight game in our favour,” Cherries boss Eddie Howe said post-match. “The most important thing for me is that the spirit and togetherness in the group is as strong as it’s ever been which is a huge quality to have.”

That offence has been a welcome sight considering Bournemouth totaled just 45 goals last season. They already have 12 through the first seven league matches this term, and more importantly, eight different players have found the back of the net. Stanislas has scored in the last two matches while Wilson has factored on seven goals – scoring three and assisting on four – in all competitions thus far.

Howe was especially pleased David Brooks broke his duck with his well-taken goal in the fifth minute. The boss praised the Wales international for his perseverance, noting he “has got outstanding technical qualities, and I believe he’s a goal-scorer in waiting. He gets in good positions, his finishing is improving, and his first goal here was a big moment for him. It was an excellent finish after a really good team move.”

The challenge is carrying that over outside Dean Court and playing similar to their road opener – a 2-1 victory at then-struggling West Ham – compared to their last two contests in which they were carved open and had a combined six shots on target in the defeats to Chelsea and Burnley.

Watford took four of six points from the two matches last term, but Bournemouth stole a last-gasp 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road on a stoppage-time goal by Jermain Defoe. Femenia and Joshua King traded first-half goals before Roberto Pereyra staked the Hornets to a 2-1 lead four minutes after the restart.

Watford’s 2-0 victory at Bournemouth last season is the only Premier League match of six between the clubs that did not end in a draw.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Watford are tipped to get back to winning, entering this contest as 21/20 favourites. The Cherries are 12/5 underdogs to return to Bournemouth with three points, slightly better than the 5/2 odds on the sides sharing the points.

A Hornets victory with more than 2.5 goals leads the options at 21/10, while a high-scoring Bournemouth win and low-scoring Watford victory share 21/5 odds. Those are slightly longer odds than a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, which checks in at 18/5. A 1-0 or 2-0 victory for Bournemouth gets a 7/1 return, with the high-scoring draw further back at 9/1.

Watford’s striker tandem of Troy Deeney and Andre Gray are joint-favourites to score the first goal of the match at 11/2, with Bournemouth’s Wilson and Watford reserve forward Success both at 6/1. Oddsmakers also think Deulofeu will see the pitch at some point, evidenced by offering him at 7/1 odds for the first goal. Wilson’s strike partner King is further back at 8/1, behind teammate and third forward Jermaine Defoe.

Gray and Deeney have 9/5 odds to score during the match, with Success vaulting into third at 19/10. Wilson, Defoe and King are stepladder options for Bournemouth at 2/1, 23/10 and 5/2, respectively, with Watford’s Stefano Okaka and Roberto Pereyra mixed in at 2/1 and 12/5.

PREDICTION

For those who like scrap and graft, this is the match for you. That’s not to say Watford and Bournemouth are not aesthetically pleasing, because both are absolutely capable of beautiful football. But with Watford’s track record of fizzling after sizzling starts, this has to be a match where a draw is the worst possible result they take into the international break.

It again starts on the left for Watford, going from Jose Holebas to Pereyra to help create chances for Deeney and Gray. Pereyra, though, has gone four league matches without a goal and Holebas three without an assist as some opponents have wised up to Watford’s ways. How Gracia addresses the hole at right back will be of interest, especially with the “Pocket Scot” Ryan Fraser marauding down the left for the Cherries.

With Bournemouth confident following late back-to-back wins coupled with Watford’s last two results going against them late, there is a bit of danger here for the hosts. The Cherries, though, have led for just 24 minutes in their three road matches — and those came after their quick-strike 1-2 punch at West Ham back in August.

Whoever scores first in this game is likely to walk away with at least one point, and the sooner it happens in the match, the more pressure the other will be under. Look for Watford to get it right and head into the break on a much-needed positive note.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: WATFORD 1, Bournemouth 0.

OTHER MATCH DAY 8 PREVIEWS:

Leicester City (4-0-3) vs. Everton (2-3-2)
Manchester United (3-1-3) vs. Newcastle United (0-2-5)
Fulham (1-2-4) vs. Arsenal (5-0-2)
Liverpool (6-1-0) vs. Manchester City (6-1-0)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 6 Preview — Burnley (0-1-4) vs. Bournemouth (3-1-1)

Burnley again look to find the cure for their Europa League hangover Saturday when they host in-form Bournemouth trying to avoid a fifth loss on the trot.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Clarets (0-1-4) are at the foot of the Premier League table entering this weekend’s matches, trailing Newcastle United on goal difference while joining Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town as the top flight’s only sides without a win. While much was made of Burnley’s first European adventure in a half-century as they got to the brink of the Europa League group stages, Sean Dyche’s side has yet to pull out of what he described as a “fog” mentally.

“I think it’s a mentality thing. Some of it can be worked at on the training ground of course, but I call it bottoming out; a collective moment when a group of players bottom out,” Dyche explained to the club’s official website after their 1-0 loss at Wolverhampton last weekend.

“When we got into the Europa League there was this immediate noise about it being tough. People ramp it up and say ‘there you are, I told you.’

“Well, we have to find a way through that and I remind them they are roughly the same group of players who finished seventh last season. Players will get back to their form and confidence, but you have to earn that right.”

The goal that consigned Burnley to defeat was the type of goal they conceded so rarely last term – Wolverhampton cycled the ball on the right side before midfielder Johan Berg Gudmundsson failed to track Matt Doherty’s run, and that started a chain of rotational reactions one-half step late as Raul Jimenez beat Joe Hart inside the left post on 61 minutes.

The loss overshadowed a strong effort by Hart, who made six saves as Wolves peppered Burnley’s goal with 30 shots. The former England No. 1 thinks the team needs a coming together to avoid the first five-match losing streak at the Premier League level in club history.

“The past is the past for everyone, including myself and we need to start living in the now with this squad,” Hart said. “We’ve got to be real with each other, real with the manager and we move forward. We’ve got good quality, good desire and good team spirit and we have to start translating that.”

Burnley have gone 229 minutes without a goal in league play since Jack Tarkowski netted late in the first half of their 4-2 defeat at Fulham on Aug. 26. Midfielder Steven Defour could be among the reserves for this match after playing 60 minutes midweek for the Under-23 side in his first action in eight months following knee surgery and a calf injury.

If Dyche wanted to shake things up in the front, he could let Matej Vydra lead the line over Sam Vokes and Chris Wood. Vydra has come off the bench in the last three matches and scored the equaliser in Burnley’s 1-1 draw in their second-leg tie versus Olympiacos in their Europa League playoff.

Bournemouth (3-1-1) look to be one of the sides who can supplant Burnley as the best of the rest in the Premier League beneath the “Big Six.” The Cherries’ lone loss came in a respectable 2-0 defeat at unbeaten Chelsea in which the match was scoreless until the 72nd minute, and they stormed out of the international break to a 4-2 home victory over Leicester City last weekend.

Ryan Fraser had a first-half brace and assisted on a goal by Adam Smith while Joshua King converted a penalty for Bournemouth, who conceded twice late with the result well in hand. After struggling to score goals in league play last term and finishing with 45, the Cherries have already potted 10 while scoring at least twice in every contest save their loss to Chelsea.

“He can go wherever he wants to go, with his age, attitude, he has a really bright future,” Cherries coach Eddie Howe said of Fraser to the club’s official website. “The key thing for him is believing how good he is and he’s reinforcing that himself with his goal and performance.”

The 10 points through five matches have the Cherries fifth in the table – two back of fellow surprise package Watford for the final Champions League spot – but Howe is warning his team against complacency after equaling the point total it took 11 matches to achieve last term.

“I’m really pleased but it’s just the start. In this league, the minute you get comfortable, it becomes very difficult,” Howe told the Bournemouth Echo. “The next game is the thing to focus on and we know how tough that is going to be.

“It’s all hands to the pump ahead of Burnley now.”

Fraser – the pocket Scot who stands all of 5-foot-4 — has been tormenting opponents and factored on seven of Bournemouth’s 13 goals in all competitions. Callum Wilson has been part of five – scoring two and assisting on three others – while King has converted twice from the spot and set up two more.

The teams have split their league matches in each of the last two seasons, but the road teams were victorious in 2017-18. Bournemouth rallied to win last term’s corresponding fixture as King and Wilson scored in the final quarter-hour to offset an early goal by Wood.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Bournemouth’s recent form has made them slight favourites at 6/4, with Burnley 9/5 underdogs. The draw is the longshot of this contest, with 11/5 odds on the team’s splitting the points.

There are 3/1 odds for Bournemouth to win with a total goal haul above 2.5, while there are also 3/1 odds for a 0-0 or 1-1 draw. A Burnley victory with three or more goals has 15/4 odds, while a Bournemouth clampdown and win under 2.5 goals checks in at 17/4. Oddsmakers are not overly sold on a tight low-scoring Clarets victory, with a home win under 2.5 goals at 24/5.

Bournemouth’s Wilson and Burnley’s Wood are joint-favourites to score the first goal of the match at 5/1 odds, while Cherries reserve striker Jermaine Defoe and Burnley’s Sam Vokes are close behind joint-third at 11/2. The Burnley duo of Vydra and Barnes are bracketing Bournemouth’s King at 6/1.

Wilson and Wood also lead the line for any-time goal-scorers at 9/5 odds, with Defoe and Vokes at 2/1. Barnes, who is 21/10 to grab a goal, edges out Vydra and King (9/4) to round out the top five.

PREDICTION

From a distance, this match has the feel of one team (Bournemouth) trying to usurp the other (Burnley) for the title of best of the rest. A back-handed crown to wear? Perhaps. But this is how the Premier League has broken off in the big-money era, in which the race for sixth — and by extension seventh since one of the big six almost always win either or both domestic cups — becomes a de facto consolation prize unless a side rides lightning in a bottle the way Leicester City did.

Bournemouth have been an exciting surprise package similar to Watford, minus the fanfare of playing lights-out defence. The Cherries have been the side everyone wants to see do well because they are aesthetically pleasing more than they are blue-class, which is Burnley’s identity and a style that earned the Clarets the reward of European play during the early part of the season.

It is difficult to tell if the Clarets are fatigued from their continental adventures, though they have played 11 matches already compared to other sides logging just six. To his credit, Dyche has noted it is on him and his players to snap out of this funk. But the goal they allowed to Wolves is something that just didn’t happen last term. And Bournemouth have arguably better options up front in the trio of Fraser, Wilson and King to continue making things miserable for Burnley.

This will also be a game about Bournemouth’s maturity. They admittedly shut off late against Leicester City after racking up four goals, and both the 4-0 margin and 4-2 final did not indicate the relatively even play between the sides in the first 45 minutes. But sometimes that happens. A good performance here for Howe’s team should result in no worse than a draw. Whether that happens, of course, is another matter.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 1, Bournemouth 1.

OTHER MATCH DAY 6 PREVIEWS:

Crystal Palace (2-0-3) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-4)
Manchester United (3-0-2) vs. Wolverhampton (2-2-1)
West Ham United (1-0-4) vs. Chelsea (5-0-0)
Arsenal (3-0-2) vs. Everton (1-3-1)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 4 preview: Chelsea (3-0-0) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-0)

Maurizio Sarri felt he needed three months to fully acclimate Chelsea to his brand of offence. Through three matches, however, little has gone wrong for the Italian and his Pensioners heading into an intriguing clash with Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Chelsea (3-0-0) are one of four sides in the Premier League with the maximum nine points, though they had to put in a volume of graft beyond the volume of completed passes to emerge with a 2-1 victory at Newcastle United last weekend.

Even with more than 900 completed passes and 81 percent possession as Newcastle played five in the back and often had all 10 players behind the ball, Chelsea did not have this match won until an own goal by DeAndre Yedlin three minutes from time snapped a deadlock.

Eden Hazard got his first start and converted a penalty in the 76th minute after Marcos Alonso was felled to bring an otherwise turgid match to life, but it was also clear the Belgium international is still acclimating to his new role in Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation.

“I think he played very well, maybe it’s better for him at this moment to only play 70 or 75 minutes,” Sarri told the club’s official website regarding Hazard. “But after the first goal (Mateo) Kovacic asked to be substituted, so for me it was impossible to let him rest.”

The biggest adjustment for Hazard is staying wide rather than coming to the ball to drive the offense as he did in Antonio Conte’s set-up. “Sarri-ball” has well-defined roles for every player – most notably Jorginho in the middle as distributor – and when Hazard moved inside, it warped the shape of the team to the point where most of those 900-plus completed passes were rendered harmless as Chelsea had only three shots on target.

“Creating more chances from open play is something we will work on, I’m sure,” right back Cesar Azpilicueta said. “We want to control the game and have the ball, and we want to be dangerous in front of the goal. As a team we know we can improve and we will work on that.”

Bournemouth (2-1-0) are not going to be as inclined to sit back and defend with two banks of four. The Cherries are off to their best start in Premier League play and continue to show a staggering amount of resiliency to claim points by any means possible.

The latest example of that doggedness came against Everton last weekend as they fell behind 2-0 at home. They conceded the first goal while having a man advantage and the second after Adam Smith was sent off for denying a clear scoring opportunity as the last man.

But the extra space playing 10-versus-10 allowed Bournemouth the opportunity to utilise their speed through the middle, and they took full advantage. Joshua King converted a penalty to start the final quarter-hour and Nathan Ake slammed home a loose ball on a corner four minutes later as the Cherries emerged with a 2-2 draw which also gave them a Premier League-leading 20 points after falling behind in 2018.

“We’re delighted to achieve another comeback,” manager Eddie Howe told Bournemouth’s official website. “At ten versus ten it was difficult from a mental perspective given how the game had gone. I’m very pleased with the ability to come from behind as it always gives you a chance in a game, but it frustrates us that we allow it to happen in the first place. There’s plenty to learn from it.”

Those lessons still fresh in their heads, the Cherries steamrolled League Two leaders MK Dons 3-0 at home Tuesday. Ryan Fraser, the only starter to hold his place from the weekend, celebrated his call-up to the Scotland national team with a goal, bracketed by ones from Lys Mousset and Jordan Ibe.

The bigger news, however, was the Bournemouth debuts of left back Diego Rico and midfielder Jefferson Lerma. The summer signings – with Lerma’s a club-record £25 million – were a rare aggressive foray into the transfer market by the Cherries, and both gave solid performances in a clinical victory.

“Both of our new players – Diego Rico and Jefferson Lerma – did really well,” Howe noted. “It’s very difficult to come straight into a game and settle in. It will do them the world of good just to have that experience today to feel what it’s like to play for Bournemouth.”

Rico would be the more likely of the two to crack the starting XI if Howe makes any changes, and Lerma was among the reserves against Everton. Where Bournemouth can make hay is by countering through the middle if Jorginho pushes up too far. That allows Fraser to use his pace to find gaps behind Jorginho and in front of Chelsea’s central defence pairing of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger since N’Golo Kante no longer provides that cover in his new midfield role.

The teams split the two matches last term, with Bournemouth snapping a five-match losing streak in all competitions with a 3-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge on Jan. 31. Ake, Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas scored in a 16-minute span of the second half for the Cherries, who have recorded both their Premier League victories over the Pensioners at Stamford Bridge.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are clear favourites at 2/7 odds, while Bournemouth are 9/1 underdogs to pull off a shock scoreline for all three points. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 9/2.

Oddsmakers are also fairly confident in Chelsea getting a high-scoring victory as they are 7/10 favourites to win with an over of 2.5 goals. By contrast, Bournemouth face 14/1 odds on such an outcome, the same as a draw and over 2.5 goals. A 1-0 or 2-0 victory for Chelsea has 7/2 odds, while a 0-0 or 1-1 draw return 7/1 odds. The Cherries posting a clean sheet with a 1-0 or 2-0 victory is the deepest long shot at 25/1.

For first goal-scorers, Morata is a narrow 10/3 favourite over Hazard and Olivier Giroud (7/2). Pedro checks in at 9/2 to make it 1-0 for the hosts, while Willian is listed at 5/1. For those who believe in deja vu, Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson is getting 10/1 odds to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at Stamford Bridge for the second striaght match.

Morata and Giroud are better than even money to score at any point over the 90 minutes at 10/11 and 19/20, respectively, and Hazard is an even-money pick. Pedro (5/4) and Willian (6/4) trail close behind, while Wilson also leads Bournemouth’s options at 11/4, followed by King and Jermain Defoe at 16/5.

PREDICTION

This match presents an interesting juxtaposition. Chelsea have shown they can take a punch when ahead and still progress, while Bournemouth refuse to give in regardless the score line. Twenty points from losing positions do not grow on trees, people.

In some ways, this match could be similar to the one Chelsea played against Arsenal, only Bournemouth have a midfield that can link to their attackers. The downside is the Cherries do not have the quality in attack of the Gunners, but they have been a handful to shut down since they have scored at least two goals in all four of their matches.

But for Howe’s team to be successful, it starts and ends with Fraser. He is going to have to play an excellent two-way game, which means using his pace on offence and haring around after Jorginho to not let him get comfortable. The other thing evident about Bournemouth is they enjoy being a team.

Against Everton, Wilson missed a good scoring chance early and had another chance go begging. Perhaps sensing it was not his day, he let King step up and take the penalty to start the fight back. Bournemouth have also scored in pairs… they overtook West Ham with two goals in six minutes and knotted Everton with two in four.

There will be clues to how well Hazard adapts to Sarri-ball starting with this match. Hazard had a full match and now has a perfectionist in Sarri explaining every nuance of how Chelsea are to retain their shape. Whether Hazard can fit into this system is still up for debate, but he has made an impact in all three matches and possesses the nous to mesh the concepts with his individual brilliance.

This match should be hotly and evenly contested since both sides have gaps that can be exploited defensively. In the end, Chelsea appear to have just a little bit extra that will separate themselves from the Cherries.

Predicted final score: Chelsea 2, Bournemouth 1.

Other Match Day 4 previews:

Leicester City (2-0-1) vs. Liverpool (3-0-0)
West Ham United (0-0-3) vs. Wolverhampton (0-2-1)
Manchester City (2-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-2)
Watford (3-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-0)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 2 Preview: West Ham United (0-0-1) vs. Bournemouth (1-0-0)

Rome was not built in a day, and after West Ham United were thrashed in their first match under Manuel Pellegrini, the Chilean will not get the East End side rebuilt in seven days to match Romulus and Remus either.

The new-look Irons hope for better things in their home opener Saturday versus a Bournemouth side eager to build on their season-opening victory.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Optimism abounded for West Ham United with the arrival of Pellegrini coupled with an overhaul of the side in the summer transfer window. All told, the Irons brought in 10 new players while spending more than £90 million to make sure they would not be part of the relegation scrap that dogged them much of last term.

But the gap between where West Ham are and where they want to be was presented in stark and brutal nature by Liverpool, who swept aside the Irons 4-0 at Anfield last Sunday. Player chemistry was always going to be an early concern with the raft of new signings, but West Ham were second-best everywhere over 90 painful minutes.

Midfielder Declan Rice was overmatched against Liverpool counterpart Naby Keita, with Pellegrini mercifully subbing off the Ireland international at halftime, and central defender Fabian Balbuena endured a torrid time in his Premier League debut.

“I was so upset with the way we defended and I was not happy with the way we attacked,” Pellegrini told the club’s official website. “Every time that you bring in so many players it is difficult to adapt to a new system but we are just starting the season.”

Operating as a lone striker, Marko Arnautovic got little service as Jack Wilshire – playing a more forward role than he did at Arsenal – made little impact. Linchpin summer signing Felipe Anderson, though, is confident the quality of the newcomers will help the side gel quickly.

“We have very good expectations for the season, this team wants to play beautiful football, and with a bit more time, all the signings are going to adapt,” the midfielder said. “The club made a big investment and now what we need to do is to work to make things go well.”

Pellegrini may look to integrate more of his summer signings into his starting XI for this match. Central defender Issa Diop – a £22 million signing from Toulouse — was a spectator at Anfield, and Andriy Yarmolenko could push for a spot on the right wing at the expense of Michail Antonio following his 23-minute runout replacing Arnautovic.

Now in their fourth consecutive Premier League season, Bournemouth opened a campaign on the right side of the ledger for the first time with a 2-0 victory over new boys Cardiff City last Saturday. The Cherries used their team quickness to confound the Bluebirds as Ryan Fraser scored in the first half before Callum Wilson – who assisted on Fraser’s strike — atoned for a missed penalty later in the opening 45 minutes by adding an insurance marker in second-half stoppage time.

For a club that had started their previous three top-flight seasons 0-0-2, getting off on the right foot coupled with a clean sheet – something Bournemouth accomplished only six times in league play last season – was a welcome change.

“A first win in the first game since we have been in the Premier League made it a bit unusual for us,” defender Charlie Daniels told the Bournemouth Echo. “It was a good 2-0 win and a clean sheet as well, which is a big bonus. The manager has faith in us and we have all improved as players as well.

“I felt ever since preseason started, how we came back, how well we trained and how well we prepared, we deserved the win and I think it showed in our performance as well.”

The Cherries have posted back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League just four times, with the last a three-match run versus Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town and Swansea City from Nov. 4-25, and have just 10 shutouts in 57 top-flight matches outside Dean Court.

Howe must decide if he will give record summer signing Jefferson Lerma his Bournemouth debut. The midfielder and Colombia international, who moved from Levante on a £25 million deal, was not in match shape after helping los Cafeteros reach the round of 16 in the World Cup.

Fellow new signing and wide back Diego Rico remains ineligible as he serves the second of his three-match ban for a red card picked up in his final match with Leganes. Lewis Cook, who impressed as the captain of England’s World Cup-winning Under-20 side, could also get a runout after being an unused substitute versus Cardiff City.

The sides have split six all-time Premier League matches (2-2-2) and played to draws in both contests last season. Fraser and Chicharito Hernandez traded second-half goals two minutes apart in last term’s corresponding fixture, and the teams have combined for 25 goals in their prior meetings.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, West Ham are a solid favorite at 21/20 odds, while both Bournemouth and a draw carry 5/2 odds. Despite the teams averaging more than four goals in their previous six top-flight meetings, the combination of a draw and over 2.5 goals is still offering a tempting 9/1 return.

Bournemouth have scored more than three goals on the road just five times in Premier League play, but one of those occasions came in a 4-3 win at Upton Park in 2015 in which Wilson had three goals. But if one discounts their season-ending win at Burnley, the Cherries have just one win in their last 12 road matches (1-5-6).

Chicharito and Arnautovic share joint-honours as top first-goal scorers at 4/1, with Wilson trailing the pair at 6/1 as the top option for Bournemouth. Yarmolenko and Jermain Defoe are both 13/2 odds while West Ham striker Lucas is slotted between them at 11/2.

Arnautovic edges out Chicharito for any-time goal-scoring odds at 13/10 for the Austria international compared to 7/5 for the Mexico striker. Wilson is again Bournemouth’s top option at 2/1.

PREDICTION

There is no way West Ham United are as bad as their 4-0 loss to Liverpool showed, but the challenge for Pellegrini and the Irons now is to make rapid progress with cohesion and chemistry. It made sense to hold out Diop against Liverpool, but for £22 million, Pellegrini cannot really afford to let him be a spectator for a second straight match.

The curiosity comes offensively as Wilshire — who played for Bournemouth on loan in 2016-17 — tries to adapt to his more forward role. Another train of thought would be to let him drop into a deeper midfield role in place of Rice — also playing out of position to a degree — and have Antonio in the middle and Yarmolenko on his preferred right side.

Bournemouth looked impressive in disposing of promoted Cardiff City, but West Ham present an obvious step up in talent. That is not to say the Cherries cannot hang with the Irons, but Andrew Surman and Dan Gosling are going to have to boss the midfield to keep West Ham from finding a forward flow. This should be an end-to-end match with plenty of scoring chances.

Prediction: West Ham United 2, Bournemouth 2

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at the STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am adding edits, projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction for the match in this blog.)

Other Match Day 2 previews:

Chelsea vs. Arsenal
Everton vs. Southampton
Cardiff City vs. Newcastle United

2018-19 EPL Team-by-Team Previews: Bournemouth (July 26)

(Writer’s Note: This is the ninth of what will hopefully be 20 team previews in 20 days. Or at the very least, all 20 teams prior to the 2018-19 Premier League’s season-opener between Manchester United and Leicester City on Aug. 10. Links to previous teams’ previews can be found at the bottom of the page)

BOURNEMOUTH CHERRIES

Manager: Eddie Howe (Hire Date: Oct. 12, 2012)
Tenure Length: 1st/20 in Premier League and 4th/92 in Top 4 leagues of English football
2017-18 Record: 11-11-16, 44 points, 12th in Premier League
2017-18 Goals scored: 45
2017-18 Goal Difference: minus-16
Number of Current Consecutive Seasons in Premier League: 4 (including 2018-19)
Last Promotion: 2015
Last Relegation: 
2008 (League One to League Two)
2017-18 Carabao Cup: Quarterfinal loss (Chelsea)
2017-18 FA Cup: Third-round replay loss (Wigan Athletic)

2017/18 REVIEW

Crystal Palace was not the only Premier League that had trouble igniting last season as Bournemouth scored just one goal while losing its first four matches. The Cherries were second-bottom through 10 contests before finally showing a pulse with back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Huddersfield Town.

Eddie Howe’s team, though, had another seven-match winless spell after those victories, getting run through by a combined 9-0 scoreline in a brutal three-match gauntlet of Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City. With the turn of the new year, however, Bournemouth finally found its groove, beating both Arsenal and Chelsea while taking points in nine of 10 matches (4-5-1) and climbing to ninth in the table after a 2-1 victory over Stoke City on Feb. 3.

The Cherries then endured another rough patch, claiming just one win in 10 contests over the next two months, but with the stratification of the Premier League in two distinct groups, they were never in any trouble of being relegated as they slipped no lower than 13th over that period. Bournemouth completed its season with wins over relegation-bound Swansea City and Europa League-bound Burnley for a 12th-place finish, three spots below its club-record mark of ninth from the 2016-17 campaign.

POTENTIAL STARTING XI

 

Bournemouth Lineup

 

Bournemouth’s 3-4-3 set-up will have a lot of familiar faces, but it would not be surprising to see some changes after the first few matches. Diego Rico brings an elite ability pump in crosses from the left, and while Daniels has seen off multiple challengers for his spot out wide over the years, Rico’s signing was a clear indication Howe wants to get younger at the flanks.

David Brooks, a one-time England youth product who is now a Wales international, will push to be Lewis Cook’s midfield partner, but there is also talk the Cherries are trying to bring Colombia international Jefferson Lerma on board from Levante. Such a signing would make Harry Arter surplus to goods, though the oft-injured Arter had already engaged in talks with West Ham during the summer.

Though Howe has yet to rule out midfielder Junior Stanislas being available for the season opener, it seems more likely he will miss the first few matches to finish his recovery from a knee injury suffered in April.

THE NEW GUYS AND THE GONE GUYS

It has been a relatively quiet summer thus far for Bournemouth, which let Benfik Afobe go to Wolverhampton for £10 million. The Cherries have made a small dip into the transfer market, landing Welsh midfielder Brooks for a reported £10 million from Sheffield United and recently signing Rico from Spanish side Leganes for nearly £11 million.

“Diego is a player we have been tracking throughout the summer, and although we had to be patient, it’s great to finally be able to call him an AFC Bournemouth player,” Howe told the club’s official website. “He’s a really nice footballer and someone who will fit our philosophy and style of play. Diego is fast, physical, aggressive in attack and aggressive defensively. He takes an excellent set piece and has a powerful left foot.

“Once he gets used to the way we play, we believe he can be a real force for this football club.”

Many believe Lerma, who appeared in all four World Cup matches for Los Cafeteros, will be on board once a transfer fee and work permit are finalised, and there is also talk Bournemouth is in the hunt for Uruguay wide back Diego Laxalt, who also had a strong showing in Russia at the World Cup as La Celeste reached the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion France.

THE GUY WORTH SEEING

Lewis Cook (MF)

Howe has a great deal of faith in the 21-year-old midfielder, letting him sit out last season’s finale versus Burnley to increase his hopes of being selected to England’s World Cup squad last May. While that did not happen for Cook, he captained the Under-21 side to victory at the Toulon Tournament, further burnishing a national resume that includes a Euro title with the Under-17s and a World Cup title with the Under-20 side.

The next step is for Cook to deliver offensively for the Cherries. He had only two assists in 29 league matches last season, but showed glimpses of his goal-scoring ability with the winner in a preseason friendly versus Levante.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, punters do not seem too worried about Bournemouth being relegated as it faces the seventh-shortest odds at 9/2, which is longer than Burnley. The Cherries are 1/3 favorites to finish in the bottom half of the table and have 9/4 odds on finishing in the top 10. The odds are significantly longer for a top-six finish at 25/1 and 100/1 for a top-four spot.

FIRST FOUR MATCHES/LAST FOUR MATCHES

Aug. 11 — Cardiff City (N/A) H
Aug. 18 — West Ham United (13th) A
Aug. 25 — Everton (8th) H
Sept. 1 — Chelsea (5th) A
—————
April 20 — Fulham (N/A) H
April 27 — Southampton (17th) A
May 4 — Tottenham Hotspur (3rd) H
May 12 — Crystal Palace (11th) A

OUTLOOK

After three seasons in the top flight and a baseline established with mid-table finishes the last two campaigns, it is possible Bournemouth can transition into the next phase of its existence as a solid Premier League team. That may mean a short-term step back without much movement in the standings as it consolidates and moves forward.

Howe is now the most senior of managers in the Premier League, and while there will always be a concern of a top-six side poaching him should things go pear-shaped at those clubs, he is building something lasting at Bournemouth, evidenced by Rico reportedly turning down a higher pay packet and the chance at Champions League play with Borussia Dortmund to play for the Cherries.

Howe claims to have learned the lessons of last season’s slow start and adjusted accordingly this preseason with matches versus Seville, Levante, Real Betis and Marseille around two games versus Championship sides. While the Cherries will be expected to win their opener versus promoted side Cardiff City, the three matches after that will be tricky.

If Bournemouth is to make a climb up the table, it has to start on the defensive end. The Cherries shipped 61 goals in league play, and Begovic had only six clean sheets. Nathan Ake is solid, but Howe needs more from fellow holdovers Daniels and Simon Francis. While Rico fits Bournemouth’s philosophy of going forward, will he help provide what is lacking at the back?

Offensively, Wilson — who signed a four-year deal earlier this month — should reach double digits in goals and King should return there after seeing his production fall off dramatically last season. But they — and veteran Jermain Defoe — cannot be the only sources of goals for Bournemouth.

Youngster Lys Mousset has to take steps to go from promising to proven, and the midfield must help. That means Ibe realizes his potential that made him so highly sought after at Liverpool as a teen and Cook parlays his summer at Toulon for England as a springboard for better things.

It may seem like Bournemouth is stuck in neutral in terms of points and spot in the table this term, but it may also take Howe only this one season to lay the foundation for something larger in 2019-20.

PREDICTED FINISH

11th place

PREVIOUS TEAMS’ PREVIEWS

July 18 — Fulham                                      July 28 — Newcastle United
July 19 — Cardiff City                               July 29 — Leicester City
July 20 — Wolverhampton                      July 30 — Everton
July 21 — Southampton                           July 31 — Burnley
July 22 — Huddersfield Town                 August 1 — Arsenal
July 23 — Brighton and Hove Albion    August 2 — Chelsea
July 24 — Watford                                     August 3 — Liverpool
July 25 — West Ham United                    August 4 — Tottenham Hotspur
July 26 — Bournemouth                          August 5 — Manchester United
July 27 — Crystal Palace                          August 6 — Manchester City