Two of the league’s most porous defences faced each other at the Vitality Stadium as Bournemouth hosted West Ham. Both sides are also bottom of the table for tackles per game (Bournemouth – 15.3, West Ham – 14.6). It therefore came as no surprise that there were plenty of goals and opportunities, with an injury-time winner deciding this topsy-turvy encounter to give Eddie Howe’s men their first win of 2017.
Bournemouth were without Andrew Surman or Tyrone Mings following the eventful draw at Old Trafford last week. Dan Gosling and Simon Francis replaced the suspended duo in midfield and defence respectively.
Michail Antonio returned from his suspension which saw Robert Snodgrass drop to the bench as the only change from the Hammers’ 2-1 defeat at home to Chelsea last Monday.
Aerial presence not exploited
Antonio and Andy Carroll up front should have seen the visitors bombard their opponents with crosses into the box. But having started arguably their strongest crosser on the bench in Snodgrass, the visitors’ success rate of 13.6% fell way short of Bournemouth’s 41.2%.
In fact, in just over half an hour, Snodgrass – who replaced captain Mark Noble – attempted six crosses (four from corners) which was three times as many as Sofiane Feghouli managed during his 58 minutes. The Algerian was part of a double substitution along with Noble that also saw André Ayew introduced to provide a greater attacking threat with Slaven Bilic’s side trailing to 2-1.
Another area for reconsideration might be restoring Cheik Kouyaté to midfield. The former Anderlecht player is currently playing out of position at right-back, a problem position for Slaven Bilic. But his replacement, Sam Byram – who is a natural right-back, provided the assist for Ayew’s equaliser within five minutes of coming on and may be worth an extended run in the side.
That goal started with the pass of the game by Pedro Obiang as he brilliantly-weighted his through ball behind Bournemouth’s defence.
Quality of chances
Partly influenced by the successful crosses, Bournemouth managed nearly double the attempts West Ham racked up from inside the penalty area (17 to nine).
Admittedly, two of those were poorly taken penalties as Josh King and Benik Afobe ensured Bournemouth made Premier League history by being the first team to miss two spot-kicks in the first-half.
Both penalties were won via runs from the left with King’s miss occurring just a minute before Antonio’s opener following an uncharacteristically sloppy pass by Harry Arter.
Later in the half, King was inches away from tapping in Charlie Daniels’ driven cross while Feghouli saw his slightly deflected effort prevented from going in by the outstretched leg of last week’s hero, Artur Boruc.
But the second period saw both keepers called into action as predictably the defensive units in front of them failed to restrict the attacks.
King would atone for his 9th minute penalty miss with Bournemouth’s second Premier League hat-trick. The first was Callum Wilson’s last season which was also against West Ham.
His first was a well-taken finish following a neat bit of skill that deceived José Fonte.
The other goals were smart positional play by the Norwegian with his second particularly highlighting West Ham’s defensive issues whether or not the ball struck Afobe’s arm in the process.
Howe looks to have found an ideal position for King as the 25-year-old matures into a threatening attacker through a combination of speed and skill. Following his hat-trick on Saturday, of the top 10 scorers (King being joint 10th on 11), only Fernando Llorente, Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane have better minutes per goal ratios.
For Bilic and his Hammers, this campaign is in danger of petering out as they find themselves nine-points off the relegation zone and seven shy of West Brom in eighth. Having enjoyed such a successful season last year, the expectation is that they should regularly finish in the top 10. That’s more than possible, but only if they play to their strengths which includes personnel in their natural positons.
This was a massive win and relief for Howe made only possible by the team’s mentality. Despite being without a couple of key players, Bournemouth managed to bounce back from the double blow of West Ham’s opener, missing a second penalty and conceding an equaliser with 10-minutes remaining. This victory should trigger an upturn in the kind of form that has deserted the south-coast side since surrendering a three-goal lead against Arsenal at the start of the year. Confirm survival and invest wisely this summer, particularly in defence, and the Cherries could be popping up the table and establishing themselves as a Premier League side.
EPL Results (Gameweek 28):
Bournemouth 3-2 West Ham
Crystal Palace P-P Tottenham
Everton 3-0 West Brom
Hull 2-1 Swanea
Middlesbrough P-P Sunderland
Arsenal P-P Leicester
Southampton P-P Man Utd
Liverpool 2-1 Burnley
Chelsea P-P Watford