AFC Bournemouth will be aiming to extend their impressive unbeaten run in the Premier League to seven matches when they host a stuttering Southampton at the Vitality Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Cherries played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with fellow promotion side Fulham at the weekend, while Southampton also played out a stalemate – a 1-1 draw with West Ham United at St Mary’s on Sunday.
It is now six games unbeaten for the Cherries since Gary O’Neil’s interim appointment after Scott Parker’s sacking and much praise must be given to the former Bournemouth & West Ham United midfielder who has tremendously steered a sinking ship at the Vitality Stadium.
It’s pretty ironic that one of the most telling things former manager Scott Parker said before he left at the end of August was that his current group of players weren’t good enough or strong enough to compete in the English top flight. A little less than two months after he was fired, the team has shown that they have what it takes to do just that. Since their record-setting 9-0 loss to Liverpool in August, they have won two games and tied four more.
Make it make sense 🤯#BBCFootball pic.twitter.com/TTvk2Aj00D
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) October 17, 2022
However, it isn’t just about the current unbeaten record they’re on. There is plenty to like about this Bournemouth side post-Scott Parker. They are playing with freedom, confidence and an aura that made them a nightmare to play against in the Sky Bet Championship last season. Most of all, they are more resolute and spirited in defence also, only conceding five goals in their six games, whilst keeping two clean sheets during that run.
O’Neil’s men currently sit in 10th place in the league standings – a fact which seemed almost impossible after their drubbing at Anfield – with 13 points to their name. Only a single point separates the Cherries from the top seven and just six points between them and Graham Potter’s Chelsea in 4th place.
The hosts are favourites in this matchweek to match their longest-ever unbeaten run in the Premier League also going on a run of seven games without defeat back in the 2017-18 campaign. They’ve only lost once at the Vitality this season so far, a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal on matchday 3 and they’ll be up against a Southampton side in serious peril.
While their cross-coast rivals are in fine fettle, the Saints fans are growing increasingly concerned as to whether Ralph Hasenhuttl is the man to drive this team to new heights in the near future.
They are now five games without a win after being held to a 1-1 draw against West Ham United last time out, but they were able to avoid a fifth straight defeat. However, Southampton have indeed dropped to 18th in the table after Wolverhampton Wanderers’ win over Nottingham Forest, with just eight points to their name.
Southampton are having just as much difficulty scoring goals as they are keeping them out. They have only scored two goals in their previous five games and surrendered nine, while failing to maintain a clean sheet in 16 top-flight games, a troubling trend for a squad that added to their defence this summer.
Armel Bella-Kotchap, one of their top players this season, suffered a major injury against West Ham, which might further hamper their hopes of picking up critical points in the coming weeks. They are unbeaten in their past four Premier League away games at the Vitality Stadium, so the odds are stacked in their favour going into gameweek 12.
WHERE & WHEN?
Venue: Vitality Stadium.
Date: Wednesday, 19th October 2022.
Referee: John Brooks.
Assistant referee: Lee Betts, Matthew Wilkes.
Fourth official: Thomas Bramall.
VAR: Peter Bankes.
Assistant VAR: Stuart Burt.
Bournemouth are expected to have the same matchday squad for their encounter with Southampton on Wednesday aside from their long-term absentees in David Brooks (thigh), Lloyd Kelly (ankle) but could possibly have midfielder Ben Pearson back in the fold after a knee injury.
For the Saints, as mentioned previously, they lost Bella-Kotchap to a dislocated shoulder near the end of the first half against West Ham United on Sunday, and the 20-year-old now faces up to eight weeks out on the sidelines, which could also derail his chances of a World Cup place with Germany.
The German defender joins both young prospects Romeo Lavia (thigh) and Valentino Livramento (knee) on the long-term injury absentees list.
Bournemouth have been a breath of fresh air since Gary O’Neil was confirmed as caretaker boss and has certainly got his side playing with renewed intent, purpose, confidence and a steely nature, resilience and doggedness that means they are very hard to beat.
They simply do not lie down and showed just how revitalized they are in their tremendous comeback wins over Nottingham Forest and Leicester City. The Cherries, are conceding less and drawing more.
Though, when they do concede, they are making sure they aim to score more than their opponents. Saturday’s draw proved a tantalising contest with another side punching above their weight in Marco Silva’s Fulham. Goals from two of their most crucial and pivotal performers Dominic Solanke and Jefferson Lerma put them 2-1 in front but an Aleksandr Mitrovic’s equaliser from the penalty spot meant the Cherries had to settle for a draw.
It seems as if O’Neil has got every player singing to the same tune, making his achievements so far all the more impressive considering the dark nature of the dressing room during Scott Parker’s latter weeks and months in the Vitality dugout.
Heading into this encounter with the Saints, the Cherries caretaker will certainly be asking for more of the same in terms of their drive, intensity and attacking purpose but more importantly looking to get more wins on the board, especially with the World Cup break to come, garnering as much points as possible before then could be a perfect catalyst for the club in steering clear of the drop zone and maintaining their confidence after the winter showpiece.
For the Saints, it seems as if Hasenhuttl has lost his managerial mojo in recent weeks with the Saints having not tasted a win since their 2-1 triumph over Chelsea at the end of August. One player they are certainly struggling without is Romeo Lavia who famously bagged the opening goal in that win.
The 18-year-old wonderkid was the Saints’ best player before his unfortunate injury which says a lot about Hasenhuttl’s current squad. No one has really stepped up to the plate since then and if they are to get some wins on the board, they’d need to stop their current dreadful run of failing to keep a clean sheet in their last 16 Premier League encounters.
It’s been a long-time coming for Solanke to finally make his Premier League impression after his superb exploits for the Cherries last season in the Sky Bet Championship, where he bagged a whopping 29 goals in 46 games.
Since O’Neil’s stepped in as caretaker boss, the former Liverpool and Chelsea striker has looked every bit a Premier League forward, showcasing his tremendous speed, work ethic, application and sheer will to chase loose balls and cause havoc for opposition defences. The Basingstoke-born hitman has been in tremendous form of late, registering two goals and three assists in his last five Premier League games.
With the likes of Erling Haaland and Gabriel Jesus not playing during this upcoming gameweek, Fantasy football managers may be inclined to include Solanke in their XIs as a potential wildcard or free hit option, due to Southampton’s poor record of failing to keep goals out of the back of their net.
His hold-up play and the first touch has looked superb too, and long may his current fine form continue because if Bournemouth are to remain a Premier League side come May, they’d need their 25-year-old forward fit and firing till then.
As stated previously, if Southampton are to get some points on the board in the coming weeks then they’d need to stop shipping goals.
After the damaging injury to Bella-Kotchap who has been a revelation since his summer move, Hasenhuttl will be relying on one of his main defensive stalwarts in Mohammed Salisu who has always remained a mainstay and a consistent presence in the Saints defence despite their current plight.
Against West Ham United, the Ghanaian international reminded fans of his unique qualities. The 23-year-old recorded nine clearance, six blocks, three interceptions and two tackles coming up against the likes of Gianluca Scamacca, Lucas Paqueta and Jarrod Bowen in the Hammers attack.
He proved the crucial component in Southampton conceding just one goal. He also won two of his three ground duels and 3 of his aerial duels showcasing his completeness in his defensive battles. Salisu’s problem throughout his Saints career, is that he doesn’t showcase his undeniable qualities on a consistent basis, though it’s safe to argue that it’s of no fault of his own. If he’d been playing with better quality, his performance levels would certainly rise as a result.
There is no doubts though, he is one of Southampton’s most important players right now, and Hasenhuttl desperately needs him at his best. The Austrian’s job may just depend on the likes of Salisu performing at the top of his game.
Bournemouth predicted XI vs Southampton: Neto (GK); Fredericks, Mepham, Senesi, Zemura; Christie, Lerma, Cook, Tavernier; Billing, Solanke.
Southampton predicted XI vs Bournemouth: Bazunu (GK); Walker-Peters, Caleta-Car, Salisu, Perraud; Aribo, Maitland-Niles, Ward-Prowse, Elyounoussi; Adams, Armstrong.