What is going wrong for Eddie Howe at Dean Court?
PUBLISHED: 19:00 16 January 2020
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AFC Bournemouth have been cast as the club to replicate for any Premier League side looking to stabilise themselves in the division.
Prior to Norwich City's trip to Dean Court in October, Daniel Farke referred to the Cherries as a 'role model' that the Canaries could follow.
Eddie Howe has transformed Bournemouth from League Two minnows to Premier League competitors, the rise has been meteoric. His impact profound.
Yet, they find themselves free-falling down the Premier League table, with a hefty defeat against Watford raising question marks over the future of Howe's position for the first time.
Crisis is a word used in a completely different context, given the south coast club were under a genuine threat of being disbanded 11 years ago.
Prior to Howe's appointment, chairman Jeff Mostyn labelled the club as being on the "edge of the abyss", their rise has been unprecedented given the position the 42-year-old inherited.
Now, their reality has become so divergent that the prospect of losing their Premier League status has become the most pertinent concern.
Externally, Bournemouth have always appeared stable and progressive, with Howe at the helm, it appeared they would destined for greater things.
Backed by wealthy benefactors, the club have sought to recruit domestically, with Howe's philosophy running through the core of the club.
Howe's fingerprints are intrinsically linked to everything at the club, he has established the essence of the Cherries for over a decade.
Despite a brief tenure at Burnley in 2011/12, Howe's career has revolved around improving himself and Bournemouth. Now, he finds himself under pressure for the first real time after his side have collected only four points from a potential 33 on offer.
One thing Howe does possess is credit in the bank, with the remarkable surge through the footballing pyramid, he is a man respected and cherished within the club.
The downward spiral in which they currently find themselves is down to several mitigating factors.
Bournemouth are currently within the midst of an injury crisis, with ten of their first-team squad side-lined, more than any other Premier League team.
Howe's tactics are also becoming an issue, with his structured 4-4-2 formation leading to a lack of possession in central areas and an over-reliance on the wide positions for creativity.
They lack the ability to progress the ball in the same manner that saw them lauded for their scintillating attacking displays.
David Brooks, Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser have been the major protagonists in converting Howe's philosophy into notes on a page into action on the pitch.
Since October 2018, the Cherries have won just 12 of their last 50 in the Premier League, with performances lacking and results becoming difficult to muster.
Poor recruitment decisions have also proven hurtful, with the decisions to sell ex-Ipswich Town defender Tyrone Mings and striker Lys Mousset proving costly given both have been influential at Aston Villa and Sheffield United respectively.
By the same token, Bournemouth's recent recruitment hasn't been as successful, with the huge sum paid for Dominic Solanke so far not being exchanged for goals.
The England Under-21 international has failed to register a single league goal for Howe's men.
The Bournemouth boss finds himself in a position that requires a different skill-set to the studious, meticulous methodology he employs to help them thrive. The questions staring Howe in the face are about revival rather than progression, stabilisation rather than upward momentum. Now, he is tasked with restoring confidence and finding a way to reignite the creative flame that has dimmed dramatically in recent times.
Howe isn't a manager who lacks talent, he has, after all, been linked with jobs higher up the food chain, namely at Arsenal, Everton and even England.
He finds himself in uncharted waters whereby his methods are under the microscope and ideas aren't resulting in success.
Then arises the question of staleness. Do relationships become strained and worn after such a prolonged period under the stewardship of one manager?
Malaise can cause regression, the difficulty for Howe will be accepting that a clean break may be what's best for both parties.
Since that football club has been a instrumental aspect of his life since 1994, that realisation could prove difficult to face.