Get the lowdown on Sunday’s opponents AFC Bournemouth, from Bournemouth Echo reporter Paul McNamara.
How would you assess Bournemouth’s start to the season?
You’ve got to say it’s been an excellent season so far. There have been a few dips in it and the sense you get from the manager at the moment is that they are desperate to win these two games in a row. The last time they won back-to-back games was in March and they know they need to be performing and winning on a more consistent basis. On the other side of that, they are able to complete with whoever they play against. They are never dead and buried in a game; they showed that in the 4-3 win against Liverpool.
Which players have stood out this season?
From the start of the season, consistently, Harry Arter has been absolutely brilliant. He hasn’t ever dipped below a certain really high standard and he is an under-rated player, although some of his performances in some of the televised games have started to catch the attention a bit.
Defensively, although he has made a few errors recently, I would also say Steve Cook. He has been playing absolutely fantastically. There have been a few high-profile mistakes that he was very down on himself about, but he scored a great goal against Liverpool and was superb against Leicester. Nathan Akë has also come in at the back and impressed everybody. He looks a real class act.
Can Bournemouth finisher higher than they did last season?
The players are getting asked this more and more now because they are further up the table, and they always say that survival comes first and they can’t think of anything beyond that. But every now and then they will slip in that they want to finish in the top half, so deep down I think that’s an aim for the side. I also think it is one that is achievable.
What have you made of Southampton from the outside?
They seem a strange side - a bit like Bournemouth, there is no real level of consistency. The biggest problem seems to be scoring goals and I have seen them play a few times and they seem to lack a bit of creativity. It might be unfair to say but perhaps the manager hasn’t been able to properly implement his style on the team just yet. They maybe rely too much on a moment of magic from individuals to win them games.
Defensively, though, they’ve got two of the best defenders in the league in Van Dijk and Fonte. They also have an excellent goalkeeper in Fraser Forster, so they are a tough nut to crack, despite not hitting any real levels of consistency yet.
How do you see Sunday’s game going?
I am very prone to tipping draws, but I am actually going to go with a Bournemouth win. They have only lost one in their last seven games at home and they have a real momentum behind them at the moment. What they did against Liverpool has really raised that belief even further and the supporters are really behind them. Everyone will be up for it, and I do think they will win the game, perhaps only by the odd goal - I will say 2-1.