AFC Bournemouth breakdown: Lloyd Kelly ‘a magnet for criticism, Solanke pivotal and their low-block weakness

We spoke to Jack Tanner, a reporter for the Bournemouth and Southern Daily Echo to get the lowdown on Bristol City’s opponents AFC Bournemouth.
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The international break is over and Bristol City are back in Championship as they travel down South to face promotion chasing AFC Bournemouth.

Nigel Pearson’s side will visit the Vitality Stadium without the likes of Antoine Semenyo, Joe Williams and defender Tomas Kalas.

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The Cherries meanwhile are one of the toughest teams in the division and occupy one of the two automatic promotion spots as they seek a return to the Premier League.

Bournemouth, will be firm favourites for this fixture given their position in the table as well as their resources. City are a side that aren’t the greatest of travellers and their win against Blackburn was only the first since October.

Despite the gulf between the two sides, there is a way that Bournemouth can be beaten. We caught up with Jack Tanner, who is responsible for both AFC Bournemouth and Southampton for the Southern Daily Echo. He gave an insight into their strengths, weaknesses and the view of former Robins defender Lloyd Kelly.

Dominic Solanke has  23 goals in the Championship this season. (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)Dominic Solanke has  23 goals in the Championship this season. (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)
Dominic Solanke has 23 goals in the Championship this season. (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

Best player

There is quality throughout this Bournemouth side and at different points of the season, different players have stood out. Ryan Christie is creator-in-chief, and in goal Mark Travers has established himself as number one with some splendid displays.

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However, Dominic Solanke is so key to how Cherries play, he’s near irreplaceable for Scott Parker. Parker himself has taken a bit of stick from Fulham fans on social media after claiming no one has “the physical numbers” that Solanke produces, and whilst he is someway off the goalscoring exploits of Aleksandr Mitrovic, his overall play is vital to Bournemouth. He presses hard, drops deep to build moves, can act as a focal point if Cherries go direct, and he isn’t a bad finisher. There are not many strikers that could perform the job Solanke accomplishes.


Patient passing is the modus operandi for Cherries this season. Build from the back, before looking to switch the play and stretch teams out wide. When an opportunity presents itself, Cherries can quickly put together some lovely passing moves that see them rip sides apart in a flash. Defensively they are sound, with situational pressing from the front. In recent weeks, whilst results haven’t been consistent, most goals they have conceded have either been sublime strikes or well-worked counters, which indicates that they keep things tight at the back.


Low blocks have been the bane of Cherries’ existence this season. Due to their methodical style of play, Bournemouth can come unstuck quickly if the opposition pack the box and get men behind the ball. It can lead to the home crowd getting a little bit “edgy”, as Parker puts it. As with most teams, Cherries will commit men forward and be susceptible to the counter. Not exactly a weakness – that would be the inability to break sides down regularly – but certainly a problem caused by the aforementioned issue.

Team news

It has been well documented that Cherries have strength in depth, and to be honest, those that are missing are either rotation options (Junior Stanislas, Robbie Brady), or in the case of Kieffer Moore, a January signing who barely played before picking up injuries. With Solanke’s current form, it is difficult to envisage that Moore would have played too much this season, with Parker unwillingly to drastically change his formation this late into the season.

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Last meeting: A 2-0 win back in October for Bournemouth. Has much changed from the side then till now? Any personnel changes? Many transfers?

Nat Phillips and Todd Cantwell, both deadline day signings, have quickly established themselves as first-team regulars. With Cantwell it is no surprise thanks to his obvious quality, but he hasn’t quite hit the heights he reached with Norwich. That’s a combination of arriving mid-season after playing little football, but also because Parker has converted the winger into a more central position.

Phillips has been solid yet bordering unremarkable – not the most blatant of upgrades of either Gary Cahill or Chris Mepham. Tactically it will be similar – if the Robins come out and try and take the game to Cherries, that will suit Parker’s men.

How is Lloyd Kelly getting on at Bournemouth? Is he an important player for the Cherries and can you understand the Liverpool and Newcastle links?

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Has slowly grown into the captain’s armband as the season has gone on. A magnet for criticism as he sees a lot of the ball, with Parker largely tasking him with placing the building blocks for attacking moves. His diagonal switches that were so effective earlier on this campaign have faded slightly, which is another point of contention, with sections of Cherries’ fanbase not happy with the “sideways” passing. Defensively though, he has been very solid. I think that is also helped by the fact that there is now a settled pairing with Phillips.

The Liverpool links I can’t see, especially if Cherries are promoted – Kelly has a good head on his shoulders, and I can’t see him thinking that becoming a rotation option for Liverpool will be beneficial for his career in comparison to starting week-in, week-out for Bournemouth in the Prem. I also don’t think Liverpool will agree with the rough fee Bournemouth would demand, unless they move players on in that position beforehand.

However, I can understand the Newcastle connection. Eddie Howe likes his trusted personnel, both in terms of backroom staff and players. He’s also a strong believer in having a left-footer and a right-footer at the back, so if Ciaran Clark is moved on, I can see Howe looking for another left-sided central defender. Whilst Kelly wouldn’t be guaranteed a starting berth, duking it out with Dan Burn for a place in the Newcastle team is a slightly different proposition to competing with Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konate at Anfield.

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