Simon Reed was at The Den to watch a second-string AFC Bournemouth get torn apart by the Lions, and the FA Cup performance should be setting off alarm bells for Eddie Howe and the fans, he says
I was going to structure this post around evaluating each of our second string players who took part in our FA Cup tie at Millwall this weekend – to see who might be good enough to get into the first team.
But after seeing them get comfortably beaten 3-0 by League One side Millwall, what’s the point? No-one really escaped with any credit in what was a deeply shameful display that saw us exit the cup in the meekest way imaginable.
We made eleven changes to the side that started against Arsenal on Tuesday, and this has generated much scorn towards Eddie Howe from various pundits and other opinion spouters. Most damning of all, most AFC Bournemouth fans aren’t willing to disagree with this criticism.
Howe is seen as the second coming for most AFC Bournemouth fans after all – myself included – but there’s no doubt he messed up this weekend.
The selection was the surface level issue, with too many players on the team sheet who haven’t played enough competitive minutes – they were thrown together with only the expectation they would perform because of their supposed ‘potential.’ There were barely any first team regulars present to help guide them on their way, and they were subsequently taken apart by a Millwall side who know each other inside out – and have a manager who makes sure they work hard for each other.
Adam Federici attempts to bail us out after our defence makes another suicidal back pass
We looked like a group of strangers, and ones that didn’t appear to care much about whether they impressed – perhaps Tyrone Mings aside, who was the only flickering light of hope in a display devoid of passion or cohesion. The only sign that we were AFC Bournemouth at all was the way the side attempted to play the ball out from the back – it’s just worrying how uncomfortable they looked doing this (see picture above) considering they supposedly train on this style of play every day.
But the second real problem with this weekend’s display is more deep rooted, and it involves our poor recent transfer policy – namely the players that have been bought in in the last year or so and simply not performed. Years ago when we were in the lower leagues it was expected that some of the second string players in the squad simply wouldn’t work out – they’d been either bought in as a risky free transfer, or simply lacked enough talent to make it.
But much of our second string has been purchased at a great cost, and they’re simply not performing. Players like Lys Mousset, Jordan Ibe, and Marc Wilson have been bought in for millions – but look light-years from the level you’d expect them to be at. Not only are they not turning up though, but they also often look like they don’t really care. This is the problem with being a Premier League side I’ve discovered – you have to invest in bigger and supposedly ‘better’ players, but you can’t always expect these signings to really care about the club.
.Eddie Howe admits it was a
Eddie Howe admits it was a “difficult game to watch.”
What makes this even more evident is that we’ve actually got steadily worse in the cups in recent years. In our Championship title winning campaign we made the League Cup quarter finals for instance – and also tonked fellow Championship side Rotherham 5-1. These two achievements were made with a largely second string as well, but the difference was those teams consisted of hungry players who really wanted to break into the first team – not the sorry lot of bench warmers we’ve bought in over the last year or so.
The people who really suffered were the fans who travelled and paid £25 for a ticket of course – assistant manager Jason Tindall’s pre-match comments that “the FA Cup is a special competition and one we’ll be giving our all in” leave a rather sour taste in the mouth.
Sadly Howe playing such a changed side in the cups should come as a surprise to no AFC Bournemouth fan really. What does come as a surprise is that any AFCB side fielded by Howe could look so gutless and uninspiring – and I hope this display makes him at least slightly reconsider his 100% rotation policy to the cups in the future.