Chelsea travel to the Vitality Stadium for Saturday’s late kickoff to face Bournemouth in a match between two teams looking to build a bit of form.
Chelsea shrugged off two straight league defeats to produce a superb fight back last Saturday in a 4-2 win over Watford at Stamford Bridge, while Bournemouth traveled to Stoke and beat an out-of-form Stoke side by the score of 2-1 to record their first victory in a month.
Bournemouth are currently struggling to regain their identity.
It’s a real mystery as to why Bournemouth are struggling so badly this season that they find themselves 19th in the table. The Cherries had a strong finish at the end of last season, going unbeaten in their last five Premier League fixtures.
The transfer window didn’t bring much change for Bournemouth. They didn’t lose any major pieces to their team, but instead, they added to their squad. The return of Nathan Ake on a permanent deal, coupled with the addition of Asmir Begovic and Jermain Defoe demonstrated that Bournemouth were intent on becoming Premier League mainstays.
But from the start of this season, they’ve managed to lose their way. Last season, Eddie Howe’s side were known for their positive approach to matches, looking to maintain possession and control matches, regardless of opposition. They’ve continued that approach this season, but for one reason or another, it just hasn’t worked.
Bournemouth have failed to create chances in the final third, scoring just 6 goals in 9 matches this season and managing just around 9 shots per game.
Against Stoke, Bournemouth switched things up a bit and played a bit more direct, and Junior Stanislas down the left-hand side found some success. It might be a way forward for Bournemouth since they’re in dire need of something to spark their attack.
Bournemouth’s strikers lack service and balance.
Bringing in players is always a dangerous game, and perhaps the addition of Jermain Defoe has upset the balance of the squad more than one would have imagined.
Defoe’s arrival in the summer was supposed to add the pedigree of one of the best English strikers in Premier League history, but so far, this season, it hasn’t quite happened. Defoe has scored just once in the league and has had little impact with the Cherries.
More importantly, when Defoe has started, his understanding and link with Joshua King has been virtually non-existent. King managed 16 goals in the league last season, making life difficult for defences when playing off a main striker. Over the past few seasons, it’s been a combination of Benik Afobe and Callum Wilson – two strikers who operated as target men and allowed King space to run beyond or come deep for shots from distance.
Defoe is not that type of striker. While Defoe is a deadly finisher, you would never equate him with the attributes of a target man, and that’s caused some problems in terms of their balance up front.
In recent seasons, Defoe has had greater success in systems where he could rely on his poaching ability in the box and have a midfield do a lot of the work in support. King is not that kind of player. As a consequence, their partnership hasn’t worked out as well and both have struggled as a result.
It’s gotten to the point where Eddie Howe’s choice is really one or the other, though with both nursing injuries, he may not have either one available on Saturday.
Bournemouth’s midfield could cause problems if Chelsea aren’t careful.
The absence of N’Golo Kante has caused Chelsea problems in the midfield. While it’s always been joked that having Kante was like having 12 players on the pitch, in recent weeks, that’s been shown to be partly true.
Without Kante, Chelsea’s midfield has struggled at times to gain control of a match while also protecting the back line. Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko have tried their best to hold the midfield in Kante’s absence, but Fabregas’ lack of athleticism has seen midfielders make runs past him like he wasn’t there and Bakayoko’s occasional lack of focus has allowed Chelsea’s opponents to create a number of chances by building through the midfield.
Kante will be absent for the match against Bournemouth, and Eddie Howe’s midfield selection could be key. Watford found success against Chelsea pressing high and playing switch balls from midfield to wide positions to create crossing opportunities against an isolated defence, and Howe certainly has the midfielders in Harry Arter, Dan Gosling, Lewis Cook, and Andrew Surman to supply the wide positions regardless of who is chosen.
The downside to playing a midfield two against Chelsea will be that Bournemouth’s midfield is not overly physical in the tackle. If they start giving the ball away, Bakayoko is able to carry the ball through midfield and Fabregas is always dangerous when given time and space.
Howe might also choose to play a matching back three against Chelsea, just as he did against Tottenham, in an attempt to try and gain a numerical advantage with a three-man midfield and two strikers. It’s a system that held up under immense pressure against Tottenham, so Howe might choose to play that system once again.
Fortune favours the brave.
On current form, both sides will give themselves the best chance of victory if they play an aggressive style of play.
For Bournemouth, teams that have had success against Chelsea have played a high-pressing game at a high tempo and looked to unsettle the Blues midfield. When Fabregas doesn’t have time and space to play the ball and Eden Hazard’s touches are limited as much as they can be, Chelsea have had a problem imposing their style of play and will give you scoring chances. The problem for Bournemouth is that they haven’t been very clinical in finishing, and as Watford showed, not taking your chances can be problematic.
For Chelsea, teams that have had success against Bournemouth simply attacked relentlessly with possession. The one thing Bournemouth want to do is have possession and use the ball. They aren’t a particularly good team playing a counter-attacking style, so if you can force them to have to defend for long periods of time,