Ready Steady Cook
30th September 2017, 3pm
Anyone who doesn't put March's return fixture down as a draw on their pools coupon needs their head examined as Bournemouth and Leicester played out a fourth draw in five games at Dean Court this afternoon.
It was a nil-nil on paper but much more entertaining in reality with the home team dominant and looking back to form but squandering a series of chances to get the three points they craved ahead of a tricky double header.
Eddie made a couple of changes with Pugh returning for Ibe and finally an appearance for Lewis Cook as Howe physically ran out of midfielders so was left with no option ( and no doubt because Worthington doesn't have a recall on his loan to Yeovil). The world cup winning captain put in the type of performance necessary to answer management blindness.
The team got off to an electric start and should have gone ahead twice in the first attack. King seared down the right and crossed low for Defoe to side foot onto the cross-bar from six yards before Pugh's effort from the rebound was handled by Simpson. Technically a penalty but only having watched a replay.......I was right in line and didn't spot it.
This sparked a wave of attacks where only profligate finishing prevented a lead. From Stanislas's worldly pass Defoe was released and fed Pugh but the winger completely miscued with just Schmeichel to beat. Stan was having a great start and he curled narrowly wide.
It was normal Bournemouth fayre, intensity back and great speed of passing and thought. Even Defoe was starting to buzz and move onto the flanks. The only frustration for the home fans at this point was the inconsistency of referee Scott who waited until an inoccuous pull from Pugh before producing a card when much worse had happened prior, mainly from desperate Leicester defenders.
The chances continued to come and go with King miscuing eight yards out from a great Pugh pass across goal. This seemed to deflate Bournemouth a little and they gradually ran out of steam and ideas without ever tightening their grip at the back. King was struggling to adapt to getting the ball in deeper positions and prone to errors but he did again break forwards and create the last chance of the half but again Pugh leant back when well placed and blazed over.
HT Bournemouth 0 Leicester 0
The second half started as the first half had started with plenty of zipping possession, great midfield grip and Ake and Francis closing out every 'vardyball'.... Again though King was stuttering with players in front of him and the home teams tendency to over-play was starting to creep back in meaning little chances were created.
Alarmingly for home fans Leicester, who had by now introduced danger-man Mahrez, then had the games best chance when Begovic saved with his legs and the ball fell to Okazaki ten yards out. Thankfully the Japanese striker tried to place his shot and hit the side netting when a blast was all that was needed.
Eddie shuffled his pack with Ibe arriving but the pick of his team were Surman and Cook, the latter growing and growing as the game went on and firing a drive that Defoe flicked over from point-blank range. Surman then bent a vicious drive just past the post before Schmeichel was forced to beat out Stanislas's swerver with his fists.
Again though - in a remarkable repeat of the first half it all fizzled out and Begovic had to be alert to keep out Demari Gray's drive and stop another six pages being added to his thread on here...
FT Bournemouth 0 Leicester 0
Begovic - 6 Generally safe, unused. Tendency to punch too much?
Smith 7 - Lively going forwards and kept Gray quiet.
Francis 7 - Return to form against tough opponent.
Ake 7 - Very solid and composed and had Vardy in pocket.
Daniels 7 - Heavily involved and intelligent relationship with Pugh.
Stanislas 7 - Good to have his inventiveness and vision back.
Cook 9 - Outstanding display of passing, control and tackling.
Surman 8 - The renaissance goes on - looking the biggest goal threat!
Pugh 7 - Clever movement and kept probing.
King 6 - Started brightly but faded. Still getting ball too deep.
Defoe 6 - Clever at times but offers little outside box.
There are two ways of looking at this. 1) keep playing this way and we won't have anything to worry about or 2) if you don't win when you play well then when the inevitable run of tired or suspension/injury hit performances come you are doomed. Good teams win when they play badly, relegation teams don't win when they play on top form.
I will be honest. I swing between these two thoughts and am probably not alone!
This brings us on to looking at why we don't win. It is blatantly apparent to me - Defoe and King. The last two years we have scored freely and pulled teams apart with central strikers that offered so much more than goals. This year we have added one of the games best poachers but scored 4 in 7 games. Our central forwards have contributed 2 in 7 games. They just don't gel and we have not only lost the lesser goal threat of Afobe but blunted the massive goal threat of King. Defoe can't stretch defences as well so the play becomes condensed. The Bournemouth way - as the song goes - was always to pull defenders so far back the gaps opened.
I think Eddie has to move to one up front and that should be King. His alternative is to keep the two but swap them. King has to play on the shoulder of the last defender and I think Defoe is better arriving in the box slightly later with those explosive finishes. Had he been on the end of the first half chances that fell to the later arrivals we would have won today. I would imagine though it will take him awhile to abandon his current strategy which is a shame. If he has learnt anything from Lewis Cook today it must surely be to make the correct change sooner.
That thought brings the final paragraph. Cook offered a real display of class today. A performance better than anything we have seen since Wilshere departed - and one reminiscent of the Arsenal man in so many ways. While the points total doesn't offer much hope at the moment this young man's performance did. Let's hope we don't have to learn this lesson again - and let's hope we bite the bullet on the current striking pairing before it's too late.