Is Bournemouth Headed for a Relegation Battle?
Bournemouth is dead last in the Premier League table and have scored only one goal through two matches. In their second year of life in the top flight, Eddie Howe's team is struggling mightily. Statistically, it's hard to find something on which Bournemouth can build. It may be early, but the first two matches have not been promising for the Cherries.
The heartbreak was real last weekend. Bournemouth were in a scoreless stalemate at West Ham United until Harry Arter was sent off for his second bookable offense. The winning goal from Michail Antonio came just eight minutes after the second yellow card.
The 1-0 scoreline makes the match look more competitive than it really was. Using Michael Caley's expected goals heat map, we can see how little Bournemouth was able to generate offensively.
xG map for #WHUFC-#afcb. West Ham were... fine, but again Bournemouth quite disappointing. pic.twitter.com/wUDMYGy2q0
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) August 21, 2016
Yes, it's just two weeks, but Bournemouth are looking for answers in every facet of the team.
Bournemouth's minus-3 goal differential is tied for worst in the league. That is part of the theme of being outclassed by their opponents. The only goal of the game against West Ham was a back post header. Bournemouth had four outfield players and their keeper near the six-yard box, but Antonio beat them all.
This is not a big surprise as Bournemouth was considered vulnerable defensively last season. Brad Smith is the only defender the team signed in the transfer window. He is, for the most part, an unproven left back and has not played a minute in the first two games.
Regardless of who is playing, Bournemouth needs to do more defensively. Whether it be lack of talent, poor coaching or some other reason, the team has not been active enough on defense.
When looking at the defensive actions of interceptions, blocked shots, and clearances, the stats are bleak. West Ham had 11 more defensive actions than the Cherries this past weekend, and in their opening fixture, Manchester United had a whopping 37 more defensive actions. Looking ahead to their next five opponents, it does not get much better in terms of Bournemouth's opponents defensive actions thus far, according to Squawka.
Bournemouth are doing less defensively than everyone. Those three statistics tell quite a story, but WhoScored has Bournemouth as the worst-rated defensive team of the young season. Unfortunately, the team has not done much to offset the defensive woes as they are also rated as the worst offensive team thus far.
Bournemouth's only goal this year came from a defender. They are averaging 49.2% possession and despite 82% pass accuracy, they have managed just 8.5 shots per match. Watford and Crystal Palace do rank below Bournemouth in chances created while Palace is the only team in the league yet to score through two weeks.
Bournemouth put a lot of faith into Jordan Ibe, their biggest summer signing, to lead the attack. Liverpool fans are laughing at the transaction after two weeks. Ibe has contributed two total shots and is being dispossessed 3.5 times per match, which ranks in the top 15. Ibe is also tied for fifth in bad touches per game. Fellow Bournemouth player Joshua King top the bad touches list.
With so much placed on Ibe and his early struggles, Bournemouth have been unable to gain control of either match thus far. The next game will be telling as they face a Crystal Palace squad that has arguably been the second-worst squad in the league to this point. Bournemouth was 2-1 winners on the road against Palace last year, but both teams are quite a bit different.
The stats don't lie... There's one big difference between Bournemouth last season and this season... #MOTD2 #afcb https://t.co/cTpNRCs6Yy
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) August 21, 2016
It is still very early for Bournemouth in the Premier League season. They were never considered a top-half team, but they have plenty of time to get out of the bottom of the table. However, they have been severely outplayed -- and, as the numbers show, outworked -- to this point and show a significant decline from last year. Howe and company will have to turn things around quickly to get out of a year-long relegation battle.