Cherries in a sticky spot as injuries mount up
Bournemouth's hopes of a strong start to the 2019/20 season have been severely dented after David Brooks and Lloyd Kelly picked up long-term injuries.
The Cherries were struck with the injury cruse last season and have been unable to shake it off during the summer, losing three players this week alone to serious problems.
Boss Eddie Howe pledged at the end of the previous campaign that they would look into what was causing their injury problems having been without as many as nine first-team player at times during the 2018/19 season.
The mystery appears to have remained unsolved though with Dan Gosling being ruled out for three months following hip surgery on Tuesday, while Brooks and Kelly are expected to be out for at least 12 weeks due to ankle issues.
They join Simon Francis, Lewis Cook, Charlie Daniels, Steve Cook and Junior Stanislas in being ruled out for the start of Bournemouth’s season, while there is a chance Andrew Surman might also be absent.
The south coast outfit have tried to offset the injuries by bringing in four new faces during the summer transfer window, although with one of them being Kelly it means that at the time of writing there will be a maximum of three debutants involved in the opening day clash against Sheffield United.
It leaves Howe with plenty of early-season selection issues to resolve as he looks to make sure Bournemouth don’t continue the downward trend on which they ended the last term.
The Cherries were close to being sucked into a relegation dogfight, just keeping the bottom three at arms’ reach as they won three of their last 14 matches.
Howe will need the likes Philip Billing, who only joined from Huddersfield Town this week, to hit the ground running to fill the big role left in midfield but it is at the back where there are major concerns.
Only the bottom two in the Premier League conceded more goals than Bournemouth last season and they have yet to resolve one of their major issues: who is going to replace Asmir Begovic as the first-choice goalkeeper?
The Bosnian, who has struggled to make a good impression since arriving from Stoke City in 2017, fell out with Howe in the second half of last season and was dropped. Plenty of shot stoppers have been linked with a move to the Vitality Stadium but none have arrived so it could be Artur Boruc, Aaron Ramsdale or Mark Travers between the sticks when the Blades head south on August 10.
With Francis and Cook absent, Nathan Ake and Chris Mepham are likely to form the centre-half partnership, a combination that failed to convince last term. Mepham joined from Brentford in January but has struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League, Howe dropping him in March for a period.
The Wales international could improve with a full pre-season under his belt but the proof will be in the pudding.
Bournemouth face a tricky start to the season with games against Man City, Leicester and Everton to come in their first five matches and it would be no surprise to see them back at the wrong end of the table in the early stages of the season.