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Bournemouth: BTSport.com's Premier League 2019/20 season preview

The smallest Premier League stadium ever is now an established Premier League venue ahead of a fifth consecutive campaign in the top flight. Is this the year Eddie Howe does something truly special down at Dean Court?

Last season's Premier League finish: 14th - (W13 D6 L19 - F56 A70 - Pts 45)

Last season's top scorer: Callum Wilson - 14 (15 in all competitions)

Odds to win the FA Cup*: 50/1

First five fixtures: Sheffield United (H), Aston Villa (A), Manchester City (H), Leicester (A), Everton (H)

Predicted finish (BTSport.com writers' combined prediction): 13th

Predicted finish by The Script: 13th

Transfers in: Harry Wilson - Liverpool (loan), Lloyd Kelly - Bristol City (£13m), Jack Stacey - Luton Town (£4m), Phillip Billing - Huddersfield Town (£15m), Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld - Club Brugge (£14m)

Transfers out: Sam Surridge - Swansea (loan), Harry Arter - Fulham (loan), Tyrone Mings - Aston Villa (£26.5m), Lys Mousset - Sheffield United (£10m), Connor Mahoney - Millwall (£990k), Emerson Hyndman - Atlanta United (loan), Marc Pugh - QPR (free), Mikael Ndjoli - Gillingham (loan), Brad Smith - Seattle Sounders (loan extended)

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Read on for BTSport.com's in-depth Bournemouth season preview, or check out more from our exclusive series:

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Reasons to be optimistic

It’s easy to forget now but Bournemouth were flying high in sixth before a disastrous winter period saw them plummet down the Premier League table.

As they always do under Eddie Howe, Bournemouth provided entertainment. The Cherries played a fast-paced brand of attacking football with Joshua King, David Brooks, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson at the forefront. The latter two combined for goals on 12 occasions, the second-most of any duo in Premier League history.

Landmark results included 4-0 wins over Chelsea and Watford, and a 5-0 destruction of south-coast rivals Brighton. While goals have always come easy for Bournemouth, last season’s total of 56 was their highest ever in the top flight.

A leaky defence led to a poor run of results over the winter period that dragged Howe’s side down from the Europa League places and towards their eventual 14th-placed finish. But Bournemouth have moved to address those concerns.

The steady backline of Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels, Simon Francis and Adam Smith has been completely revamped. England Under-21 centre-back Lloyd Kelly and defender Jack Stacey from Luton join other recent additions Diego Rico and Chris Mepham, while Nathan Ake remains one of the division’s most underrated defenders. 

Bournemouth’s results suffered from a series of injuries to key players as Wilson, Lewis Cook, Rico, Francis and Daniels all spent extended spells on the sidelines.

The £15m new boy Phillip Billing, who emerged with credit from a disastrous season with Huddersfield, adds another option to the Cherries' central midfield, while new winger Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld is a Netherlands international who starred for Club Brugge.

If key men can stay fit and the defence tightens up, Bournemouth can target greater consistency and a sustained push for the Europa League places next season.

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Reasons to be fearful ​

Bournemouth’s fears are much the same this season as they were last campaign. Since their fairytale promotion in 2015, Howe has rightly earned plaudits for playing his attacking brand of football in the top flight rather than compromising on his ideals to survive.

But while it’s tempting to look upwards, a club as small as Bournemouth must always be wary of what lies beneath. “It gets harder and harder,” Howe admitted ahead of 2018/19 and the message still stands.

After finishing ninth in their second Premier League season, Bournemouth have come 12th and 14th in the past two seasons. Howe is shrewd enough to know that being drawn into a relegation battle remains a constant threat for the Cherries.

At their best, Bournemouth burst out of the blocks and overwhelm teams with the frenetic pace of their attacking football.

At their worst, they are punished for their naivety and struggle to change things around when Plan A isn’t working. And when it doesn’t go their way, it can get ugly - Howe’s men conceded four or more goals on six occasions last season.

Bournemouth’s early-season form secured their safety and meant they were never in real danger of going down despite just three wins from their final 14 matches.

Even if Harry Wilson and Danjuma have been drafted in on the wings, injured key player Brooks will be a big miss for the first three months of the season. And a slower start this time could spell trouble, especially given that Bournemouth face Manchester United, Tottenham, Leicester, Man City, Southampton and Everton in their final six fixtures.

Key man: Jefferson Lerma

Bournemouth have never had a problem scoring goals. Howe’s men finished 14th but were the Premier League’s top scorers outside the top six with 56. That’s nine goals more than seventh-placed Wolves.

Defending is the real issue. Only Fulham and Huddersfield leaked more than Bournemouth’s 70 goals last campaign. Ake will hope recent reinforcements Kelly and Mepham can ease the defensive load but in front of them Jefferson Lerma will play a pivotal role.

Lerma was one of the main instigators of Colombia’s underhand tactics against England during their last-16 penalty shootout defeat in Russia. And he continued in that vein after arriving at Bournemouth with 12 bookings from 30 Premier League appearances in his debut campaign.

His high card rate was largely down to a lack of help. Cook was injured for most of the campaign and Harry Arter was on loan at Cardiff. Lerma had the thankless task of attempting to shield Bournemouth’s defence as the rest of his midfielders bombed forward with reckless abandon.

But if the Cherries are to build on the promise that saw them flying high in the early months of last season, they’ll need to tighten up at the back. The protection Lerma offers to his defence will be a huge part of that.

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The manager: Eddie Howe

No other coach in the Premier League has achieved more for their team than Howe has across his two spells with Bournemouth. Not Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. Not even Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

The 41-year-old has lifted Bournemouth from the brink of non-league and possible liquidation to the dizzy heights of the top flight in just eight seasons.

A club who had spent the majority of their existence bouncing between the third and fourth tiers of the Football League pyramid are now preparing for their fifth consecutive season in the top flight. It’s a remarkable achievement for a side who play in the 11,000-capacity Vitality Stadium, the smallest ground the Premier League has ever hosted.

It would be oversimplification to say that Bournemouth’s rapid rise is entirely down to the coach but Howe truly has worked miracles during his time on the south coast.

Even in the top flight, he has refused to abandon his philosophy and approached each season with the same guile as he did in the League Two, League One and the Championship. Bournemouth set themselves up to retain possession and attack with fast, pinpoint passing, looking to go toe-to-toe with the opposition regardless of who they are.

The 2019/20 campaign will be no different and the Cherries will again be one of the most watchable teams in the division. It’s inevitable that a bigger club will come calling soon, but for now Bournemouth can look forward to another season with Howe in the dugout.

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Fans' view - Alex Deutsch - BT Sport regular

"It started off really well last season and it looked like we could do something really special. Howe seemed to adopt a different style with the counter-attack and we scored so many goals by doing just that – soaking up the possession and attacking with pace on the break.

"But it all got destroyed by injuries. Cook’s ACL injury and Francis going down in December cost us and as soon as those players dropped off we lost.

"We’ve always been known to take a game to everyone and it’s nice to get the credit we deserve but when it goes wrong we get absolutely smashed. When we are good we are unstoppable but when we are bad it can be miserable. Our defensive mentality is definitely a problem.

"Look at our squad and where we are with the facilities available to us. You have to say we are over-achieving.

"But now I see no reason why we can’t really push into the top half this season. We’ve shown what we are capable of last year with results like the Chelsea win. But we just needed that consistency – we have to be beating Cardiff away. Hopefully we will have that squad depth now because the style of football we play is so demanding.

"Hopefully we can build up a bit of momentum with our opening games. It’s a mixed bag but we have a chance to get off to a real good start.

"I cannot see us getting relegated under Howe. The poor run last season was down to us hitting a good points total and then being on the beach and that’s something Howe will have to approach when you’ve got less to play for.

"Howe can improve any player he works with. He’s a special, special manager."

*All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing

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