The start of the 2020/21 season has seen AFC Bournemouth show promising signs of returning to the Premier League. But with only four EFL Championship games played, is it too early to be dreaming of that all so wanted promotion?
The Championship is notoriously referred to as the toughest division in all of football. The level playing field across all 24 teams means that anyone can rise to the occasion and cause an upset, regardless of league position or recent form. The 2020/21 season has already seen its fair share of controversy. Playoff contenders Nottingham Forest, Preston North End, and Derby County all sit in the bottom six of the table, with previous third- and fifth-place Brentford and Cardiff residing in the bottom half too. With plenty of shock results and unpredictability in the opening four games, it’s comforting to see AFC Bournemouth performing so well. Their ten points leave them taking up third place in the league.
GAME #1 — VS. BLACKBURN ROVERS (12th SEP)
The opening game saw the Cherries concede two and score three, with Jack Stacey, Jefferson Lerma, and Arnaut Danjuma all making the scoresheet. Stacey got the opener with a powerful strike from 25 yards out, before Mark Travers unfortunately fumbled Bradley Johnson’s long-range attempt, making it 1-1. After half-time, both teams came out ready to continue the battle. Lerma slotted the ball into the bottom-right corner in the 53rd minute. The game then continued at a fast pace until the 73rd minute, when Adam Armstrong equalised for Blackburn. But not long after, Arnaut Danjuma powered one into the top-right corner, putting an end to any hope of points for Blackburn. This high-scoring game has proven to be a trend for Blackburn Rovers. They have gone on to put five past newly-promoted Wycombe Wanderers, and four past Derby County, before recently drawing 0-0 against Cardiff City.
GAME #2 — VS. MIDDLESBROUGH (19th SEP)
AFC Bournemouth spent their second game in a competitive battle against Middlesbrough, ending in a 1-1 draw. Dominic Solanke was the first to hit home in the 38th minute, with a skilful flick from a corner that made its way past Marcus Bettinelli. The game looked to go either way, until Marcus Browne headed home from a deep cross in the 81st minute to save a point for Middlesbrough. The lack of defensive togetherness and man-marking from Bournemouth left some fans slightly concerned at the upcoming fixtures. However, Solanke has looked extremely promising so far this season. His strength and height, along with his high-quality hold-up play, has allowed him to bring others into the game and excel at this level, making him a continuous name on the team sheet.
GAME #3 — VS. NORWICH CITY (27th SEP)
Bournemouth’s third test of the season saw them square up with fellow relegated side Norwich City. The sunny Sunday afternoon saw goalkeeping veteran Tim Krul make an array of top saves to keep the Cherries at bay. Meanwhile, the link-up play between the midfielders and forwards caused a lot of trouble for Norwich City. However, Krul could only keep the door shut until Danjuma’s drilled left foot shot in the 35th minute found the back of the net. It slipped into the bottom-right corner after he expertly turned Christoph Zimmermann. The game ended 1-0 to AFC Bournemouth, with Danjuma looking to be the player to get Bournemouth back to the Premier League this season.
GAME #4 — VS. COVENTRY CITY (2nd OCT)
The fourth and final game so far had AFC Bournemouth travel to newly-promoted Coventry City. There, the Cherries managed a 3-1 win. Jefferson Lerma opened the scoring with a hard-hitting edge of the box effort. Then Lewis Cook conceded a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Coventry City midfielder Ben Sheath. Matt Godden scored from the spot against Asmir Begović in the 39th minute, and half-time soon followed. Only six minutes into the second half, Bournemouth regained the lead as Solanke’s shot was blocked and the ball fell to Dan Gosling to slot home. Quickly following was a wonder strike from Gosling again nine minutes after. The full-time whistle marked an outstanding start to the campaign for AFC Bournemouth, with fans on Twitter praising Tindall and his players.
With three wins and a draw, things for AFC Bournemouth are only looking up. They have already instilled a strong sense of confidence and self-belief for their continuing Championship season. The overall squad togetherness and chemistry has been vital to the recent results, with a few tough oppositions coming up in seventh-place Watford, and top of the league Bristol City. However, it is important to understand that anything can happen in this league. Especially with the upcoming autumn weather adding a new dynamic to each fixture. With this in mind, Tindall’s players must not get complacent, and take each game as it comes.