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Three Players to Watch: Matchday 35 vs. Bournemouth

Can Fulham Finally Win On the Road

Brighton & Hove Albion v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Guess what? Fulham are coming to Bournemouth off the back of a win! That’s right, this football club got their first victory since January 29th. It’s also their first clean sheet since defeating Huddersfield back on December 29th. Yes my friends, this Fulham season has been dark and full of terrors.

But enough Game of Thrones quotes. Let’s talk about looking forward to an away fixture against a team worse then Everton in the Premier League table. Now Bournemough aren’t that much of a slouch; especially since they are coming off of a 5-0 thrashing of Brighton last weekend. When these two teams met last time, Bournemouth were looking like they could be reaching a place within the Europa League next season. After all, the Cherries gave the hosts a 3-0 thrashing and Shahid Khan a scowl that will last an entire campaign.

Nowadays, Fulham are on their third manager and Bournemouth have regressed quite a bit. Mostly, it’s been because Eddie Howe’s team didn’t play anyone within the top six. Still, that didn’t fully prevent the fact that they only picked up two wins and one draw in their next 13 Premier League contests after that Fulham fixture and were outscored 30-10 in the process.

But if you really want to get into further detail, Bournemouth have lost nine of their last ten since the Fulham fixture against England’s top six and have been outscored 28-9. Against the rest of the Premier League, they have only gone five wins and three draws in 14 fixtures while being outscored 20-19. So in short, they only showed up in the big games when Maurizio Sarri may or may not have been on the verge of losing his job and haven’t racked up enough points to maintain a top half finish this season. That’s the harsh nature of being a football club with not that much cash and hoping to establish themselves at the top of English football.

Now their defense is among the worst in the Premier League and has caught up with their lack of pressing ability all season. If Fulham can exploit that in some capacity now that they’re in a consistent 4-2-3-1 formation with three central midfielders against Howe’s two-midfield 4-4-2, they might be in the taking for another upset. Until then, Bournemouth do have the home crowd at their side and will hope that it will carry them through to a strong finish to the season.

On that note, here are three players to watch wearing the black and red.

Ryan Fraser

All data from whoscored.com

First up is shockingly among the league leaders in assists. Simply put, the Scotsman is having a career season with seven goals and 11 assists in at age 24. And his assist total is not a fluke thanks to his massive 2.41 key passes per 90 minutes. Not only is this a sign that he is reaching the peak of his career, but this is a sign that he might eventually be overqualified to play for a team struggling to make the top half of the Premier League every season.

It’s been Fraser’s contributions that have really put Bournemouth as one of the best attacking units that are outside the top six. Add in Calum Wilson’s unselfish play along with the developments of David Brooks and you see why the Cherries are so difficult to defend against.

Jefferson Lerma

All data from whoscored.com

Next up has been a holding midfielder that hasn’t completely lived up to the billing so far after being the most expensive player in club history. But at 23, Jefferson Lerma still has room to grow. I would wonder if getting an upgrade over Andrew Surman or Dan Gosling can do wonders for Bournemouth’s midfield. Instead, it’s an area of the pitch that looks to be a major weakness for teams to exploit. Then again, Fulham have had their troubles against other holding midfielders that haven’t produced the sexiest of radars.

Nathan Aké

All data from whoscored.com

Lastly, I present to you Bournemouth’s leader in minutes played in the Premier League this season. Nathan Aké was never going to get the opportunities to develop at Chelsea, but he is able to shine since going South. Now he’s a part of a group of center backs that include Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt that have revived the Dutch National team. Aké is a complete ball playing defender and almost never lets any one get past him. This season, he is averaging 5.36 successful tackles for every event of a player dribbling past him. Add in the fact that he’s always been fantastic at blocking shots and he’s everything you want in a talisman.