AFC Bournemouth 2023/24 Premier League Season Preview | The Hard Tackle

With the 2023/24 Premier League season about to kick off next weekend, The Hard Tackle assesses the prospects of Bournemouth.

The 2022/23 season threw up many surprises, particularly in the second half of the table. Chelsea plummetted to a shock 12th-place finish, behind clubs like Crystal Palace and Fulham. Meanwhile, Leicester City and Southampton ended their long run in the Premier League by suffering a drop to the EFL Championship. On the flip side, Bournemouth somehow evaded relegation from the top flight.

Heading into the 2022/23 campaign, the Cherries were the odds-on favourites to drop to the EFL Championship. And while Bournemouth won on the opening day, three back-to-back losses cost Scott Parker his job. After that, no one could have envisioned a rookie manager guiding them to safety at the end of the season. More on that later.

Considering their history, it is a miracle in itself that the humble Cherries are in the Premier League. Bournemouth had been confined to the lower leagues of English football after officially becoming a professional club. And it was not until the 2015/16 season that they finally experienced top-flight football.

Playing in the Premier League was a huge achievement for a club of Bournemouth’s stature. So imagine one’s surprise when they clinched a top-half finish in their second-ever top-flight season. But they gradually fell in the Premier League charts after the 2016/17 campaign before enduring relegation in 2018/19.

However, Bournemouth did not take long to return to the Premier League, spending only two campaigns in the second tier. And after a 15th-place finish last term, they have replaced their miracle maker, Gary O’Neil, with Andoni Iraola. The expectations are thus rising, and the fans will likely raise expectations from the club in the upcoming campaign. Let us now look back at 2022/23 before looking forward to the season to come.

The Prelude

As we alluded to earlier, Bournemouth did not start the 2022/23 season strongly, despite winning on the opening day. And three back-to-back defeats cost Scott Parker his job, leaving even neutrals baffled. In addition, very few would have given them the chance of remaining afloat in the Premier League when they appointed Gary O’Neil as Parker’s replacement.

O’Neil, a coach who had not had a single first-team job until last season, initially took over as the caretaker boss. But no one would have foreseen the kind of impact O’Neil had on Bournemouth during his spell as the interim manager, with the club losing just four of the 11 games heading into the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The run also included a six-match unbeaten run to kick-start his reign.

The Cherries were even in the top half of the table at one point. So they appointed O’Neil as the permanent head coach during the World Cup break. But Bournemouth won only one of the ten games after the season restarted, falling to the bottom of the table during that run.

However, the subsequent nine matches yielded only three defeats. More importantly, they won six games to officially stave off relegation. And losing the last four fixtures of the 2022/23 season did not matter, as Bournemouth had already confirmed the status of being a top-flight team for the upcoming campaign.

All in all, it was a bizarre season that saw Bournemouth enduring a record defeat while going down in 21 of the 25 games where they fell behind. In addition, the Cherries were prone to letting in late goals while failing to find the back of the net in nearly half of their outings. Those are all the hallmarks of a team that should endure a disastrous campaign.

But Gary O’Neil and his resourcefulness earned Bournemouth another season in the Premier League. Unfortunately for the 40-year-old, he failed to keep his job in the off-season, with Bournemouth appointing the forward-thinking and attacking-minded Andoni Iraola as the new boss.

Squad Update

Bournemouth became renowned for being one of the busiest clubs in the market last season. The Cherries were active from the get-go until the final bell in the summer as well as the January transfer window. And the ongoing transfer window has been no different for Bournemouth thus far.

The Cherries have lost several pivotal figures from the last few seasons this summer. But no exit will hurt Bournemouth more than Jefferson Lerma, who departed from the Vitality Stadium as a free agent. That the Colombian international has joined fellow Premier League club Crystal Palace will sting.

Meanwhile, Jordan Zemura, Jack Stacey, Ben Pearson, and Junior Stanislas have also departed from the Vitality Stadium. But the business pertaining to the incoming players has been impressive thus far. And they might not be done yet, with widespread reports linking them with several players, including Ivan Fresneda.

Romain Faivre and Hamed Junior Traore have joined Bournemouth permanently this summer. But the most impressive additions are Milos Kerkez and Justin Kluivert, two players who have attracted high praise in their careers thus far. Add the duo to the dependable performers from last season like Dominic Solanke, Philip Billing, and Neto, and Andoni Iraola has the recipe to guide the Cherries to a memorable campaign.

Key Fixtures

The Premier League has dealt a bad hand to Bournemouth the kick-start the 2023/24 season. They begin their campaign at home against West Ham United, which should be a tricky fixture for them. And their next five opponents are either a ‘Big Six’ club or a team that finished in the top half of the table last term. So Andoni Iraola will have a trial by fire to begin his reign as the Bournemouth boss.

The fixtures get slightly easier after that, and Bournemouth will need to make hay while the sun shines in October, as they will face Everton, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Burnley. With each of those games being winnable, the Cherries have a crucial October to look forward to.

December will be another pivotal month for Bournemouth, as even though they will take on Manchester United and Tottenham in the month, Luton Town, Nottingham Forest and Fulham will also be on the menu. Then, the period between the start of March and mid-April will bring another set of promising fixtures that the Cherries need to capitalise on to ensure their safety.

But if they are in and around the drop zone, the run-in might spell doom, as Bournemouth will lock horns with Manchester United, Aston Villa, Brighton & Hove Albion, Arsenal, Brentford, and Chelsea to end the season. Those are six opponents the Cherries might find tricky to overcome.

Key Players

Philip Billing

Billing was arguably the most important player for Bournemouth in the 2022/23 season. A reserved midfielder early in his stint with the Cherries, the 27-year-old has gradually come leaps and bounds at the Vitality Stadium. And he was the joint-top scorer for his club last term, finding the back of the net seven times.

More than the volume of his goals, the timing made Billing’s contribution integral to his team’s survival. And the Danish international’s output will again hold the key to the Cherries not only avoiding relegation but marching towards a possible top-half finish.

Dominic Solanke

A couple of honourable mentions before we wax lyrical about our second pick. Neto will be an important player for Bournemouth, considering they will face a barrage of shots from most opponents. Meanwhile, the erstwhile highly-rated Justin Kluivert will have a point to prove after moving to the Vitality Stadium.

Now back to the player in question, no Bournemouth player contributed to more goals than Dominic Solanke last season. The 25-year-old amassed seven goals and seven assists in 35 outings last term. And he will again be instrumental to Bournemouth’s prospects in the coming campaign, although he needs to step up his performance levels further.

Season Expectations

Bournemouth will head into the 2023/24 season with the expectations of not just evading relegation again but improving on the finish from last term. After all, they have replaced the resourceful Gary O’Neil with a more attack-minded manager, Andoni Iraola.

The club’s first-ever foreign manager Iraola arrives at the Vitality Stadium with a reputation for being progressive in his approach. And after producing miracles with Rayo Vallecano in La Liga, the Bournemouth fans can expect magic from their new manager in the upcoming campaign.

Iraola is a firm believer in the adage “Attack is the best form of defence”. He has famously proclaimed how he feels safer if his team is far from the box instead of close. So we might see some goal fests involving Bournemouth in the 2023/24 season.

Clever signings will also enable Bournemouth to play a more progressive brand of football. But that will bring its pitfalls, as the Cherries do not boast of colossal defenders. So Neto will have his work cut out between the sticks for much of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Iraola is a disciple of Marcelo Bielsa. So it is hardly surprising that he advocates a brand of “rock ‘n roll” football. The 41-year-old is also a master of harnessing the underdog mentality, which should bring the best out of his team. And we expect Bournemouth to stave off relegation while coming close to breaching the top half under the Spanish tactician.

Leave Comment


Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.