It was announced at the beginning of August, following their relegation from the Premier League, that Eddie Howe and Bournemouth had parted ways by mutual consent. The Cherries had a five-year stay in the Premier League, yet only managed to finish top half of the table once. This despite spending nearly £200m over those five years.
Is this a fair assessment of Eddie Howe’s time in English football’s top-flight? And where did it all go wrong for the young English manager?
Eddie Howe and Bournemouth Underlying Performances
To help you read this chart, the orange line indicates the goals you are expected to score per match based on chances created. While the black line is the same but for goals conceded. The shaded areas indicate the difference between the two. Therefore, large orange areas are strong performances where you can create more and/or better chances than your opponent. Large grey areas are the opposite. Continuous grey areas are associated with teams battling relegation.
When Bournemouth finished 12th in 2017/18 season, expected goals models had them as the 17th strongest side in the Premier League. Overperformance at both ends of the pitch contributed to them completely bypassing the relegation battle predicted for them and finishing comfortably in mid-table. The warning signs were there though.
You cannot give up ~65 Expected Goals against each season and not address it. It will catch up with you. And the underlying numbers did improve in 2018/19 – where they looked more like mid-table Premier League side than one struggling to survive. However, the 70 goals against remained an issue.
So when the underlying started to slip over the first half of 2019/20 back towards relegation form, the over-performance of the past wasn’t there to save them this time.
But giving up big chances to the opponent wasn’t their only problem.
Eddie Howe and Bournemouth in the Transfer Market
Bournemouth spent heavily in the Premier League to stay up, pretty much every season. They also spread the funds around well, investing in forwards, midfield and the defensive players in pretty equal measure.
The problem was the return they got on their investment in the forward positions. The names you see of their most expensive players signed in midfield and defence all delivered performances on the pitch. Forwards are measured on end product though, and Bournemouth didn’t get any back for the bucks.
Eddie Howe and Bournemouth Spent Nearly £10m per Goal
Bournemouth spent a lot of money on goalscorers in the past five seasons. The three big purchases they made for over £15m were:
- Dominic Solanke for £19.1m
- Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld for £16.2m
- Jordon Ibe for £16.2m
Yet between them, they managed just six non-penalty goals in roughly seventy-two full matches between them. Or, in other words, one goal for every 1,077 minutes of football they played. That equates to £8.6m per goal scored.
Eddie Howe and Bournemouth Couldn’t Find a Goalscorer
These numbers don’t really get any better when you extend it to all the forwards they signed in this period.
Only one forward that they signed on a permanent basis since their promotion to the Premier League scored more than three league goals for them. That was Benik Afobe, who scored ten goals in total in roughly thirty-three games worth of football.
The other players shown above managed a combined seven goals in forty-two games-worth of football. Which equates to a goal every 540 minutes played, or for every £4.8m spent.
Harry Wilson: A Rare Gem?
The one forward Bournemouth certainly got value for money from was Harry Wilson. The 23-year-old Welsh international joined on a season-long loan from Liverpool last summer for a fee of just £2.4m.
Wilson managed seven league goals from 1,663 league minutes; a goal every 238 minutes or for every £0.34m. It seems he will be looking for a new club this summer, with the media speculating Liverpool want £20m for the free-kick specialist.
Given the £40m being quoted for Ismaila Sarr, who scored five league goals in 2,030 minutes of football, Liverpool will feel it’s a fair price. However, with many clubs struggling financially due to COVID-19, will either player be sold for the prices being touted?
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All data used in our articles is sourced from Understat, FBRef, Sofascore, Transfermarkt and 538.