Date: 25 February 2023
There’s no denying that today Bournemouth were outplayed by a much, much better team – although, in fairness, this wasn’t our worst of performances by any means.
For the second home game running we kicked off at 5:30, a timing that actually works well for me. I was able to complete a number of tasks at home before enjoying a main meal at lunchtime and then travelling in a leisurely manner to Bournemouth on a near empty train through the afternoon.
We knew there’d be at least one change in the team line-up from the previous week, because Tavernier is (again!) injured. The obvious replacement would be Anthony, but instead O’Neil changed the system to a 5-2-3 (or 5-4-1) with an extra centre-back – presumably with a view to defending a lot and then trying to score on the break. None of this proved to be a good strategy. We missed Anthony on the left, and three centre backs couldn’t keep Manchester City out. Meanwhile, Lerma and Billing had swopped sides, for no obvious reason. We retained this system for all 90 minutes, the three substitutions (Fredericks for Smith, Rothwell for Billing and Anthony for Traore) all being straight swaps. City’s first goal came on fifteen minutes, with Haaland’s and Foden’s shots both failing but – third time lucky – Alvarez scoring. Haaland and Foden had each, however, scored a goal by half time – the latter after an awful error by Billing – so we went into the break 0-3 down.
And things continued to get worse. Alvarez scored his second (or was it a Mepham own goal?) and now we were 0-4 down. Our consolation goal on 83 minutes came from Lerma after some excellent work by Zemura and Anthony (now on as a substitute) on the left wing. And in fact the same two players combined to enable Anthony to attempt a shot on goal later. One couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been different with Zemura and Anthony working together for the full 90 minutes.
Our players all gave their best – especially in the first half (when, at one point, we had three corners in quick succession) and in the last ten minutes of the match. Zemura was unquestionably our ‘man of the match’, in excellent form. If we played like this against lowlier sides we’d score a few goals and gain a few points, but typically of course we don’t play so well against lowlier sides. In any case, our next two opponents are Arsenal (the league leaders) away from home and then Liverpool (who beat us 9-0 earlier in the season) at Dean Court!
Two weeks ago the North Stand serenaded Eddie Howe after the final whistle; this time it was Nathan Aké! But I, as always, had to hurry off to catch my train.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Mepham, Stephens, Senesi, Zemura;
Ouattara, Billing, Lerma, Traore;