Last season both games against Bournemouth proved entertaining ones, amassing 11 goals across the two meetings. Initially, we lost 4-3 at the Boleyn very early in the campaign, falling victims of a superb Callum Wilson hatrick. It was a dismal day for Hammers and really summed up the sort of inconsistencies we were having at the beginning of last season. However by January 2016, after around 7 months in charge Bilic had a more settled squad; which showed as his men ran out 3-1 victors away at Dean Court. So for now, West Ham and Bournemouth share the Premier League spoils in head to head match ups at one a piece, but claret and blue fans will be hungry to beat the Cherries, and get things going this season after succumbing to a 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge in their league opener.
Our injury woes
In an unfortunate series of events West Ham find their squad ravaged with injuries, most crucially, Aaron Cresswell, Sofiane Feghouli, Cheick Kouyate, Andre Ayew and Manu Lanzini. Ayew is thought to be out for around four months with a thigh problem, so he’ll have to endure a lengthy spell on the sideline before he can impress as an Iron. Although, this lack of fit attacking midfielders does have a silver lining – Antonio will likely start on the wing instead of being again, painfully played at right back. I’m sure those words come like music to the ears of fellow Hammers, as we’ve all been left rather frustrated at seeing him forced into the back four; particularly as we have a perfectly capable full back in the young Sam Byram among the ranks.
Players to watch
Both clubs have been active in the market, meaning come Sunday each clubs’ new boys will get another chance to shine following last weekends game. For Bournemouth, the key man to watch out for will be Callum Wilson, as mentioned before. The hatrick he scored against us previously will be firmly indented in West Ham’s memories, and they’ll certainly be hoping he won’t perform quite as well this time out. Some others to keep tabs on will be new English signings Jordan Ibe, and Lewis Cook. They arrive for a combined £22 million and will be looking to make their name known with Cherries fans, after a fairly poor start in their 3-1 loss to Manchester United. They’re both promising young talents and are regarded highly, but only time will tell whether Eddie Howe is right to lay so much responsibility on the shoulders of his youngsters. Although I’m not going to criticise him, because it’s exactly what Premier League fans want to see.
As for the Hammers, fan favourite Dimitri Payet will be the name on everyone’s lips. He looks to build on a mesmersing introductory season, as well as a stunning Euros, where he linked up fluently with the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba. His ability to create chance, after chance will be hugely important for the home fans hoping to capture their first 3 points of the season. Additionally, Gokhan Tore will likely start, who will be looking to rectify his poor debut appearance against Chelsea. He’s known for his speed and flair in Turkey, and a home game against Bournemouth will be the ideal stage to showcase both of those qualities.
The tactical battle
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth lined up in a 4-3-3 against Manchester United, and are likely to set up like this again against us. Their midfield acquisitions of Ake and Cook allow them more flexibility, with Ake looking to be utilised as a holding midfielder in the midfield three. Slaven Bilic set out his side in a 4-1-4-1 against Chelsea, but with the home advantage and the widely considered ‘better’ team – he’ll probably revert back to a 4-2-3-1. With the commanding Carroll up front, the fairly lightweight partnership of Steve Cook and Simon Francis at the back could struggle; but in turn, the Hammers full backs will be tested against the speed of Ibe and King out wide. Howe plays a pragmatic, possession based game so it will be interesting to see whether he’ll try and deploy that style, or settle to hit the hosts on the break.
I’d like to say 2-0 to West Ham. Though, that is said with a pinch of salt. If Payet doesn’t play I’d probably guess a 2-1, or a even a 1-1. I also have concerns for our defence. Without the partnership of Ogbonna and Collins we look shaky, and with Kouyate and Noble in front there is little defensive cover due to them often venturing upfield. If we play Noble and Nordveit there will be sufficient cover in place, as Nordveit does a great job of shielding his back line. Nevertheless, I can’t see an away victory for Bournemouth, even though I highly rate Howe’s Bournemouth and their transfer policies.