AFC Bournemouth recorded their first win of 2019 courtesy of Callum Wilson’s brilliant volley and Josh King’s late finish as Eddie Howe’s men consolidated their 12th place standing in the league.
Two of the Cherries fab three were on the scoresheet as Eddie Howe’s men secured only their second win in eight Premier League games
The Cherries had lost 11 of their previous 14 matches in all competitions, but after a goalless first half, Wilson met Ryan Fraser’s deflected cross to half-volley home a fine opener at the Vitality Stadium.
With Bournemouth desperate to secure their first league victory in almost a month, Artur Boruc started in goal ahead of Asmir Begovic while West Ham left unsettled striker Marko Arnautovic, who has been linked with a big-money move to China, out of their squad.
Both sides struggled to hit the target in the first half, but West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski made two superb saves early in the second and moments later striker Andy Carroll, in for Arnautovic, blazed over from close range as the game opened up.
The Hammers struggled to break down Bournemouth’s resolute defence, although they did go close to an equaliser when Andy Carroll somehow blazed over from point-blank range not long after the restart.
The Hammers are now Eddie Howe’s favourite opponents, with Bournemouth enjoying four Premier League wins against West Ham; against no other side have they registered more victories.
Howe’s team move level on points with 11th-placed Everton, while West Ham drop a place to 10th.
Wilson ‘The Man’ again for Eddie Howe
You can easily see Callum Wilson in a Chelsea or a top eight club jersey currently; that’s how clinical the England international has been this season. With him leading the line, Howe must feel his teams are always in the game. If his ‘fox in the box’ skills have received rave reviews, his textbook technique was brought to the fore here.
When Fraser burst down the left flank and sent the ball bouncing to the edge of the box, Wilson swung a hammer of a shot that bulged the net to the right of Fabianski, who stood rooted to the spot as it flashed past him.
He maintained his impressive record of scoring against the Hammers with undoubtedly one of his best strikes since joining the club.
A classy, venomous but precise volley from the edge of the box, showed just why he has earned international recognition this season.
Wilson is also amongst West Ham’s preferred replacements for Arnautovic, and his performance here would have only increased his value from the current quoted £75m. That figure might have risen further if Lukasz Fabianski, flinging himself to his left, had not tipped Wilson’s ‘daisy-cutter’ against the post, keeping West Ham in the game as it entered the last 20 minutes.
Wilson is only the second player to hit double figures for goals in a single Premier League season for the Cherries (10 goals), following Josh King’s haul of 16 in 2016-17. Injuries notwithstanding, Howe would do well to keep Wilson at the Vitality come this summer.
Nathan Ake impressive at either end for the Cherries
Bournemouth’s defence have been in the news for all the wrong reasons, having conceded 14 goals in the last six matches; the most in the division. Eddie Howe’s men stand a worrying fourth in the table for goals conceded only behind relegation contenders Fulham, Cardiff and Burnley.
However, this was now their second clean sheet in the last six, a lot of the credit for which should go to Andy Carroll for missing from six yards out and Dutch international, Nathan Ake.
Ake won all his aerial duels and tackles in the match, especially considering he was up against the threat of Carroll all afternoon.
While Wilson’s strike grabbed the headlines, Ake almost opened the scoring when his first-half effort was disallowed and he was superb at the back all afternoon to frustrate Hammers forward Carroll.
Arnautovic will be hard to replace, Pellegrini has his task cut out if the Austrian leaves in January
While the news that Marko Arnautovic is set to stay at West Ham United after a €40million offer to sign him was withdrawn by a Chinese Super League club must be music to Pellegrini’s ears, this match provided further evidence of his team’s bluntness without the Austrian.
His new signing Nasri offered little as Andy Carroll provided minimal movement upfront. Aside from his low shot in the first half, Nasri offered precious little in attack and was hauled off after 65 minutes having failed to provide West Ham with the creativity and guile that Marko Arnautovic normally delivers.
The Hammers had more than 60% possession but struggled to fashion clear-cut openings without the Austrian international, registering only a single shot on target over the course of the 90 minutes.
The West Ham manager, who has had the final say on whether Arnautovic could leave, if a deal was agreed, believed that the 29-year-old was not in the right state of mind to play against the Cherries.
Pellegrini will now have the task of reintegrating the Austrian international back into his squad ahead of the FA Cup fourth-round tie away to League One AFC Wimbledon next Saturday.
Steve Cook offers further proof of Eddie Howe’s recent defensive stability
In a match which showed player’s lack of confidence in the early periods, chances were at a premium. During a cagey first half, a header from David Brooks was the closest either team came to scoring, while solid defending from the hosts ensured returning goalkeeper Artur Boruc would not have a save to make in the opening period.
Stand-in skipper Cook produced a captain’s performance for Bournemouth, making eight clearances overall – more than any other player on the pitch
A run of only one win in their previous seven Premier League games saw Bournemouth slide down the table, but taking three points against a West Ham team who beat Arsenal a week earlier will have delighted Cherries boss Howe for whom this was only their sixth clean sheet this season.
In a season where clean sheets have been at a premium, Howe’s side have managed to keep their second clean sheet in the last six games after going without a single one in the previous seven. With the addition of Clyne at right back and Steve Cook’s form, the Cherries would hope to remain much more stable going into the crucial part of the season.
Howe was clear where his focus has been in the last few weeks, in training.
“We’ve put a lot of hard work into the last few weeks and concentrated on our defending. It goes without saying, after the run that we’ve been on that’s what we would do and I’m very pleased that the players got their reward.”
Relieved Howe and frustrated Pellegrini enter a testing period
Bournemouth face Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Man-City in four of their next six games, while Manuel Pellegrini’s have Liverpool and Man City as well during the same period.
The Cherries boss was pleased with his team’s return to form.
“I’m very pleased. It’s a real reward for the players’ mindsets during this difficult run we’ve had. It’s been incredibly hard but they’ve not let their heads drop and they’ve trained well.
“I was so keen for everyone to feel that winning feeling again off the back of everyone sticking together. Performance-wise, today maybe wasn’t as good as some of the games we lost recently, but we defended very well after Callum’s great strike.”
Manuel Pellegrini was left to rue his side’s lack of creativity
“Of course, we are disappointed about the result. It was a very close game in the first 45 minutes, and in the second-half we had a clear opportunity to score the first goal.
“We didn’t and then they scored a beautiful goal, but one which had a lot of luck too because the rebound came in exactly the position for their player to shoot.
With wavering inconsistencies bothering both managers and a European place an achievable target, the next six fixtures will go far in determining where the two sides will finish in the 2018/19. campaign