By Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
After a disappointing last couple of weeks for AFC Bournemouth, Eddie Howe’s men travel to Stoke on Saturday looking to end a run of two straight defeats.
The Cherries’ lack of cutting edge in front of goal in their last two fixtures, against Sunderland and Middlesbrough respectively, has seen their positive form begin to slip away, and Howe expressed his belief that things won’t get any easier for his squad.
“Stoke is a tough place to go, any time of year.” the Cherries boss said. “I think any Premier League game is a tough assignment.”
A barren run of scoring has seen Bournemouth find the net only once in their last three games, and Howe stated his disbelief at the statistic: “How we’ve scored one goal in the last three games I don’t know. We created a number of really good opportunities. So that’s a pleasing thing.”
Callum Wilson’s potential return from injury may help ease Bournemouth’s goal scoring woes. The striker, alongside experienced midfielder Andrew Surman, is recovering from a hamstring problem.
When asked about the condition of the two players, Howe said: “They’ve made good progress, both players I think. I’m always mindful of hamstring injuries - that you’ve got to be careful; it’s very easy to pull a hamstring again, so we’ll make late decisions with both players.”
Wilson sustained a serious knee injury away against Stoke last season, and Howe said he hoped the fixture this Saturday would be a chance to banish those memories and come away with a successful feeling.
The Cherries will certainly be without right back Adam Smith, who is suspended after picking up five bookings so far this season.
Howe stated his disappointment at losing the English full back, who has had an impressive start to the season and was on standby for Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad.
“I think Adam Smith’s had a very good start to the season, he’s been a big player for us. I believe we have the strength in depth to cover.
“The back four, in the main, have done very well this season. I’m disappointed to break up that unit, but I believe in the players we have coming in.
“I’ve got a few options – I’ve got decisions to make in terms of what I do.”
Smith’s suspension could see captain Simon Francis move out to right back, with either Tyrone Mings or on-loan Nathan Ake slotting into central defence. The lack of playing time for Ake has fuelled rumours that his parent club, Chelsea, could recall him in the January transfer window.
However, the Cherries boss denied the rumours and said: “No, we’ve had no discussions with Chelsea and there’s been no mention of January.”
Mings, who is slowly recovering from his own severe injury sustained last season, is getting closer all the time’ to match fitness.
During the international break, Bournemouth players represented their countries all across the world, with the likes of Harry Arter enjoying productive breakthrough performances. However, Howe admitted to the difficulties of the two-week period, where only 12 players were able to report for training.
“It can be difficult, especially when you’ve got the guys coming from Australia and far afield all over the world. But we’d much rather have that problem, we’ve never had that traditionally with no international players being in the lower leagues - so we have these problems in the premier league; we relish that.”
Finally, the Bournemouth manager re-iterated what he expects from his players during Saturday’s fixture: “I want to see absolute commitment, as you do every game. 100% effort, that passion that you need to win games.”
The match at the bet365 Stadium kicks off at 3pm tomorrow.