Why Bournemouth need West Ham second-string defender to stay up
Any promoted team coming into the Premier League finds the step up in class tough to handle, whether they have just dismantled the competition to win the Championship at a canter or sealed play-off joy.
Last season, two promoted teams, Burnley and QPR, were unable to cope with the demands of the higher division and slipped straight back into the second tier. In the campaign before, Cardiff suffered heartbreak after just one season with the big boys.
In fact, since the start of the Premier League, 29 of the 65 teams to have been promoted to the division have been relegated in the first year, which equates to 45 percent of that total.
Bournemouth, who set the Championship ablaze with their high-scoring brand of football, are therefore in real danger of making their first ever visit to the Premier League just a whistle stop tour. Ladbrokes make them 5/4 third-favourites for the drop.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the promoted sides is handling the increased pressure their backlines come under in the top-flight, more so than scoring goals, which they have had no trouble doing against their Championship rivals.
Usually, when battling at the sharp end of a league, these sides are rarely troubled in the defensive department. Indeed, the Cherries were particularly water-tight during 2014/15, owning the second-best record during the campaign and allowing the second-fewest shots per game.
As one of the better side’s in the league, the Dean Court defenders were called upon to perform defensive actions far less than their competitors. They blocked 2.85 shots-per-game, the joint-fourth fewest, while making 25 clearances-per-match too, a figure that was the second least.
Such a theory continues to hold water when looking at last season’s Premier League newcomers: Burnley, QPR and Leicester.
During their promotion campaigns, all three ranked in the bottom third of the Championship for clearances-per-match, indicating that they were rarely worked. All of them conceded less than a goal a game too.
But when they joined up with the big boys, their back four was called into action far more often. All three clubs’ backlines made more clearances-per-game compared to their Championship seasons, despite playing eight fewer matches. The trio all sat among the worst seven sides in the top flight for goals conceded in addition.
That seven of the top 10 clearance-makers playing in Europe’s five best leagues – in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – came from the Premier League this season indicates just how important having centre-backs that can clear their lines is.
In order to honour their 4/7 odds to stay up, then, the south-coast newcomers may want to add explore the availability of these specialists in getting rid.
West Ham’s James Collins ranked seventh in that list of top 10 European clearance-makers, but made fewer appearances than any of his peers.
288 clearances in 27 outings makes Collins the perfect man to bring Premier League experience to the Cherries defence, while the emergence of James Tomkins and Winston Reid as the first-choice defensive pairing at Upton Park means landing the Welshman isn’t beyond Eddie Howe.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Aston Villa’s Nathan Baker should get some consideration despite only playing in 11 top-flight games for the Midlands club.
The Worcester native registered per-90-minute clearance numbers of 11.9, which puts him third of anyone to make more than five appearances in the top five European leagues. Incidentally, Baker’s effort only put him marginally behind Collins, who ended top of that pile with 13.8 clearances per 90 minutes.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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