This is our fix up look sharp series, which will look to profile a selection of Premier League teams for their FPL potential. We’ll give some key info on the players, talk about their first five fixtures and pick out five key individuals from that side, then offer a verdict on them at the end.
Once the gawky middle child of the South Coast football scene, Bournemouth have flourished into a bona fide Premier League side over the past two seasons. Under the stewardship of Eddie Howe, the Cherries achieved an admirable 9th-placed finish the last time around. But how will they fare going into 2017/18?
For the second successive season, Bournemouth represented one of the more exciting PL sides to watch on a weekly basis. As in 2015/16, their matches last year promised goals at either end: the Cherries finished as the 7th-most prolific offense last season, yet conceded a shocking 67 goals (16th in the division). Though many of these goals will be considered the fault of the much-maligned Artur Boruc, Bournemouth’s backline did little to help their stopper, conceding almost 9 shots in the penalty box per game (now, if only he could blame them for his questionable tattoo choices…)
In an attempt to remedy this Achilles heel, Bournemouth have already splashed the cash this offseason; bringing in keeper Asmir Begovic for £10million from Chelsea (top 5 for GKs in FPL in 2012/13 when at Stoke), before returning to drop a club-record £20million to lure centre back Nathan Aké from the champions. Aké, who enjoyed a brief loan period at Bournemouth last season, will be fondly remembered by FPL managers for a prolific goalscoring run last season which saw the Dutchman notch 3 goals within a six-game period. Indeed, across the ten games in which Aké featured for the Cherries, he returned an astonishing average of 5.2 points per match (ppm). Excluding Gameweeks 2 and 3, in which Aké played a combined 15 minutes, that number jumps to an eyepopping 6.1 ppm. This would have bested Marcos Alonso to lead all defenders (100 minutes minimum). With such a strong goal threat already established, shrewd managers will no doubt have eyes will on the young defender’s performances during preseason.
Fantasy potential also exists elsewhere within the Bournemouth backline. After developing a cult following in 15/16, mainly through inheriting penalty duties from the stricken Callum Wilson, an output of four goals and three assists saw Charlie Daniels finish as the sixth-highest scoring defender in FPL last year. However, his fellow full-back Adam Smith actually had more shots (26 vs 19) than Daniels last time out and, more impressively still, Smith led all FPL defenders in big chances created with 8. Though both could present smart budget options heading into next year, the underlying numbers certainly favour Smith when looking forward to next season.
Player in focus: Josh King
The biggest FPL star of Bournemouth’s 2016/17 campaign, however, was undoubtedly Joshua King. A product of the Manchester United youth system, King turned in a stunning performance over the previous campaign – catching fire after the turn of the year – to finish with a tally of sixteen goals. Deployed as a central striker for much of the second half of the season, King’s performance over the final 20 games were particularly impressive: 14 goals, 2 assists, and an impressive 15 bonus points. Driven by this late purple patch of form, King finished as the 8th-highest scoring fantasy midfielder last season. Impressively, King also set all-time Premiership records for inspiring the question “wait, is he really Norwegian?” (wrestling this much-coveted title from former Norwich midfielder Alexander Tettey).
Coming in at just 5.5 last time around, King proved a hugely important midfield enabler for many managers over the second half of the year, especially in the composition for many second-half Wildcard squads. However, there are reasons for concern heading into 2017/18.
The first of these relates to his reclassification as a striker – a decision which means he will lose the potential for clean sheet points, and gain only four FPL points for each goal scored as opposed to five. A significant bump in price (up to 7.5) this time around also dents his appeal to FPL managers from the beginning.
Furthermore, the arrival of Jermain Defoe from Sunderland may limit the scoring opportunities available to King this time around. Should Howe continue to use his favoured 4-4-1-1 formation, the presence of Defoe may necessitate King sliding back into the no. 10 role. Such a decline in attacking positioning does not augur well for his goal production, though may offer King more opportunities to lay on assists for his new teammate.
The biggest alarm bell for prospective fantasy managers, however, lies in his goal conversion rate. King converted 24% of his chances last season – well above the league average of 11%. Indeed, looking at all midfielders who scored at least five goals the previous campaign, King’s conversion rate outstripped them all:
As I have written about previously, both on this site and elsewhere, goal conversion rate is not considered a strongly predictive measurable from one season to the next. Indeed, in 2015/16, King’s chance conversion rate was 10.9% – around the league average. Some degree of regression from the Norwegian in terms of goalscoring numbers should therefore be expected. This, coupled with his new classification, could see a popular asset from last season slide towards FPL irrelevance.
The first five fixtures
Bournemouth’s opening slate is something of a mixed bag: two kind opening fixtures are followed by a pair of tough games against high-flying opposition, before an enticing home game against the newly promoted Brighton.
FPL’s ticker rates them as such:
But how good are they?
Well, let’s see, by using the Premier League’s own “head to head” meter to gauge United’s record against those each of these teams and see if that is truly the case. Any semi-predictions come with big caveats, as we have transfers and pre-season to shake things up, but here’s 2 or 3 lines on each with some general observations.
West Brom (A): 4 games played in PL, 2w Bournemouth, 1d, 1w West Brom.
Last season: WBA 2-1 bou / BOU 1-0 wba
Early doors, Pulis is known as much for his pragmatism as for his stylish taste in tracksuits, so we don’t expect a goal explosion to kick off the season. However, Bournemouth may fancy themselves to nick three points on the road, and start the year on a high.
Watford (H): 4 games played in PL, 0w Bournemouth, 4d, 0w Watford.
Last season: BOU 2-2 wat / WAT 2-2 bou
New manager Marco Silva will be hoping to make an impression in his first road game in charge. Both matchups last season finished two apiece, so perhaps this game offers greater potential for goals than the opener.
Manchester City (H): 4 games played in PL, 0w Bournemouth, 0d, 4w Manchester City.
Last season: BOU 0-2 mci / MCI 4-0 bou
Run and hide, Bournemouth fans. Run and hide. The Cherries have conceded 4+ goals in 3 of their 4 PL matchups against City, en route to an aggregate record of 15-1 in City’s favour. One factor in their favour is Defoe, who has scored 9 goals against City in 24 contests with them – the 2nd highest amount he’s scored against a team throughout his Premier League career.
Arsenal (A): 4 games played in PL, 0w Bournemouth, 1d, 3w Arsenal.
Last season: ARS 3-1 bou / BOU 3-3 ars
Many will remember last year’s frantic matchup at the Vitality as one of the games of the season – after dropping behind 3-0 with twenty minutes to play, Arsenal mounted a last-gasp comeback to snatch a point from the Cherries. Could we be in for another classic? Probably not – we fancy Arsenal to sweep them aside early doors (sorry for the jinx, Tom!).
Brighton (H): never played in PL
Last season: n/a
Something of a mystery match-up. Brighton’s goalscoring record was poor on the road last year, with just 28 goals from 23 Championship appearances. However, they boasted a strong road defence good for 4th in the division. Nonetheless, we’d fancy the Cherries to grab goals in front of their home crowd here.
The key players
The top targets
Jermain Defoe: now 34 years old, the goals are still yet to dry up for Defoe. The Englishman finished with 15 PL goals last time around – one fewer than King – making him the division’s 10th highest scorer, despite an abject lack of support from his surrounding cast at Sunderland. He registered an identical 15 goal haul the year before. This consistency in both the real footballing world and the FPL world means that Defoe will no doubt be a popular selection for many searching for a mid-priced forward. However, with an 8.0 starting price, we can’t help but feel that others in that bracket may outperform the ageing forward this time around.
Adam Smith: as detailed above, Smith presented promising attacking numbers last time out: leading all defenders in big chances created, and firing in 26 shots on goal. The improvements around him – which include Begovic and Aké – should improve his clean sheet potential. With a 5.0 price point to open the year (a 0.5 price increase), Smith could feature in a number of teams as a mid-priced defensive option.
Josh King: fond memories of last year’s goals may drive many back to the well this time around, even in spite of his reclassification as a fantasy forward. Though we expect his finishing rate to come back to Earth this time around, a mid-tier priced tag of just 7.5 might be enough to sustain interest from the fantasy masses going into 2016/17. Should he get off to a bright start, or should injuries to other key men push him once more to the fore, King could soon find himself ruling the fantasy lands once again.
Nathan Aké: as explored earlier, Aké’s returns under Eddie Howe last time out were hugely impressive. Still only 22, the Dutchman’s aerial prowess makes him a perpetual goal threat at set pieces: should the Cherries solidify their defensive efforts, Aké could be a dark horse to finish as a top-15 defender. We’re optimistic , to say the least, on Aké’s chances to provide good value for his 5.0 price tag heading into next season.
Junior Stanislas: following an unreal Gameweek 8 in which a pair of goals and assists fuelled a 21-point outing, many managers found themselves in the unexpected position of relying upon Stanislas for fantasy yields last time around. The results were somewhat disappointing: Stanislas would not score again until gameweek 21. However, the winger ended the season on a high: scoring in three successive games to close out the campaign and, memorably, proved the difference for Ben Crabtree in eventually winning FPL overall last season. The underlying numbers are even more promising – Stanislas actually fired in more shots per game than King last year, and was on the end of a chance every 34 minutes (a comparable rate to Dele Alli). A price tag of just 6.0 will no doubt entice many owners and, though maddeningly inconsistent, Stanislas provides an interesting roll of the dice for any fantasy manager willing to take a gamble.
Benik Afobe: Afobe arrived in Bournemouth on the back of a hefty £10million fee, yet proceeded to disappoint all-comers last year, failing to score until Gameweek 15. Though his 88 fantasy points were still better than some other PL newcomers achieved (here’s looking at you, Islam Slimani…), a crowded frontline makes it unlikely that Afobe will see many chances for redemption.
For a mid-table side, Bournemouth present a diverse and intriguing range of fantasy options heading into next season. A strong case can be made for inclusion of defenders (particularly Aké or Smith), midfielders (Stanislas) or forwards (King, Defoe) in fantasy lineups this season. An opening slate that includes three kind fixtures – albeit with a tough pair of matchups sandwiched in between – could work to further stimulate interest in the Cherries’ assets.
However, Bournemouth are fundamentally one of those sides whose assets’ price tags lend themselves nicely to being transferred in and out when the fixtures are good. We may expect, for example, to see a proliferation in ownership of their players from the beginning of November, with the Cherries’ run looking kind between GW11-16: new HUD swa BUR SOU cpl.
Prospective owners will surely be paying close attention during pre-season to Howe’s lineups in order to gauge the best options heading into 2017/18, but the dearth in Bournemouth choices from the current squads we’ve been seeing (excepting a few Defoe inclusions) point to the fact that interest in them is very much based if they have a kind schedule. At this stage, we are backing Aké to come through as the pick of the bunch, with the caveat that a strong showing for Stanislas could see him worm his way into consideration as a high-value fourth midfielder for many (or even as a fifth midfielder in a 3-5-2 setup), as his fellow then-midfielder King did last year..