At the time of writing, Bournemouth are, perhaps unsurprisingly, second in the Championship table, five points behind current leaders Norwich. What have you made of their return to the second tier so far?
I don’t think there can be too many complaints with the start they’ve made, sitting second in the table and having only lost twice so far, at the time of writing. There were probably a few too many draws in there during the early weeks, but given the summer overhaul, there was a real sense of trepidation about what may lie ahead. Losing key players like Aaron Ramsdale, Nathan Ake and Callum Wilson, as well as the biggest loss of all in Eddie Howe, coupled with the fact the club made no permanent signings over the summer, as well as hiring Jason Tindall who had never managed at this level, certainly made for an intriguing recipe. But so far, they have adjusted really well back to life in the Championship.
On occasion, teams who are relegated from the Premier League struggle to challenge for an immediate return. How pleasing has it been that that’s not been the case for the Cherries so far?
I think there was a bit of a split as to how people thought things would go. Naturally there were some question marks about the job Tindall could do, given he was a relatively unknown quantity in management terms. On the flip side, the quality in the squad meant there was some optimism that they should at least challenge at the right end of the division. Getting off to a good start was crucial, to bring the feelgood factor back among the group after a really tough season of playing poorly and losing most weeks in the Premier League. But the team seem to be going from strength to strength and have at least given themselves a good chance of competing for a top two spot in the second half of the season. It looks like it will be really tight up there though, especially with the form of the other two relegated sides.
You’ve mentioned Eddie Howe’s long-term assistant Jason Tindall, who took over in his own right in the summer. Would you say his long affiliation with the club, as both a player and a coach, has aided his initial success in the role?
Yes, I’d say so. There have been a couple of loan additions, but the rest of the squad are all players Tindall had worked with previously day-to-day on the training ground as assistant. He promoted Stephen Purches up from first-team coach to assistant boss, but also crucially drafted in an outside voice with a wealth of experience in Graeme Jones to join the coaching staff which I think was really important. Given the really short turnaround between seasons, as well as losing a lot of players, not having to go through the process of getting to know the players he had available proved really useful, as may not have been the case had the club appointed a manager from elsewhere.
There have been plenty of Bournemouth players who’ve caught the eye so far this term, but who has impressed you most?
There are a few candidates but I think I’d have to say David Brooks (pictured above). He was named the Championship’s Player of the Month for November and is really starting to look back to his best again. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to suggest were he fit for all of last season, the Cherries probably would have stayed up. Last month he played his first 90 minutes in a league game for more than 18 months after wretched luck with injury. He is too good a player to stay at this level for long, but is really benefiting from a regular run of games and is enjoying his football again. Aside from him, Arnaut Danjuma, if he’s back fit, can be really dangerous, while Dominic Solanke has also started adding goals to his impressive performances up front.
How is Tindall likely to set up his side at the Brentford Community Stadium?
It’s always a tough one to call as he has used a back four and back five at various stages this season, including both in the same game on occasion. Fitness of players will play a big part at this time of year but I’d say a 3-5-2 is quite likely with Brooks playing off Solanke, if both are available. It would also offer a bit more defensive security against a dangerous side in Brentford.
Wednesday evening’s game marks the first occasion that the two sides have met since Brentford won 3-1 at Griffin Park in February 2015. What’s your score prediction for this one?
I had Brentford down as my favourites for the title at the start of the season. I’ve been really impressed with them over the past couple of years. But Bournemouth have also shown they’re tough to beat so I’ll go for a 1-1.
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