The Premier League 2017-18 campaign is fast approaching and the various narratives are never-ending. One in particular is who will come out on top in the battle of the south coast clubs, AFC Bournemouth and Southampton.
One look at last year’s final standings and you’d have nearly forgotten that the Cherries actually finished level on points with their southern rivals.
Eddie Howe’s side have grown into their Premier League status after their promotion back in 2015. Their first season at England’s elite level saw them finish 15th, followed by a jump of six places to 9th last season.
There can be no arguments that they have a realistic shot of being the South Coast top dogs come May. Howe has quietly built a subtle beast.
The odd thing about a large portion of the squad is that it is made up of characters you could easily mistake with milkmen and traffic wardens. Simon Francis. Steve Cook. Charlie Daniels. Marc Pugh. Andrew Surman: hardly the most evocative of names.
And yet they all function as part of an efficient, free-flowing, ball-playing unit – a sum greater than its parts.
While they don’t have the capital to spend on elite players, they aren’t poor. Jermain Defoe’s addition will improve their attack markedly. Nathan Ake and Asmir Begovic should also give the squad a bit of glean.
Southampton on the other hand are a bit of an unknown quantity this season. We use that phrase loosely, obviously. They have only just changed their coach, after all.
The Saints, too, have built an admired model of football club. Players leave, coaches leave, and yet they keep on ticking over like nothing’s happened.
Their infrastructure and sustained way of playing means the profile of coach they employ does not change. Mauricio Pellegrino has replaced Claude Puel and one would think it’ll be business as usual.
We just don’t know if the former Valencia and Alaves head coach will cut the mustard, though. Not to mention they have been rather lax in the transfer market to date. Only Jan Bednarek has been added to the squad, whilst vital component, Virgil van Dijk, looks to be on his way.
And that gives Eddie Howe and Bournemouth the edge in the battle for south coast supremacy.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing