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Brighton & Hove Albion-Bournemouth Preview
The flurry of aggressive offseason moves made by Bournemouth over the summer have provided nearly nothing in terms of an early return on investment.
The Cherries try once more to break their duck on the season Friday night when they host new boys Brighton and Hove Albion at Vitality Stadium.
Bournemouth (0-0-4) are one of two teams without a point in the Premier League and ahead of Crystal Palace in the table on the strength of Charlie Daniels' goal in their 2-1 loss to Manchester City on Aug. 26. Veteran striker Jermain Defoe, who had 15 goals while Sunderland were relegated, has had only one shot on target through 201 minutes and the four matches played.
Defender Nathan Ake, who impressed so much on his loan from Chelsea last season that he came over in a permanent deal, has yet to find that form. Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who also left Stamford Bridge for the South Coast, is still looking for his first clean sheet at the club level since blanking Championship side Wolverhampton 2-0 in the fifth round of last year's FA Cup.
While Bournemouth could argue they were hard-luck losers to City before the international break, they took a clear step back in last weekend's 3-0 hammering at Arsenal. The Cherries were two down before the match was a half-hour old and finished with two shots on target, continuing a worrying trend that has seen them register just nine for the young season.
"We need to bounce back," midfielder Dan Gosling told afcbTV. "Brighton's coming up to a must-win game at the moment, we need to get our season up and running now with this home game. We've gone away from passing the ball and we need to get back to that, that's our trademark and what we do every day. We need to get back to that."
That task may be all the more difficult if midfielder Ryan Fraser is unavailable. The Scotland international was forced off late in the first half with an ankle injury, and if he's unable to go, Howe could turn back to Andrew Surman or give Jordon Ibe his second start of the term.
"I'm worried about the performance," Howe admitted to the Bournemouth Echo. "Of the performances we've had, I will accept one of them. I won't accept three of them. That's a pretty damning verdict so I have to do better to solve the issues we have make sure we put on better displays.
"But I think when you see so many players play well below their best, I think you have to take responsibility for that yourself, rather than blaming them."
Brighton and Hove Albion (1-1-1) make the 155-kilometer journey west to Dean Court looking to push their unbeaten run to three matches. After picking up their first Premier League point before the international break, the Gulls notched their first victory last weekend, beating West Bromwich Albion 3-1.
Pascal Gross had a brace in a three-minute span early in the second half and turned playmaker for Tomer Hemed's header just after the hour. Brighton's six shots on frame equaled their entire total from the first three matches as the goals came in rapid-fire fashion after failing to find the back of the net in their first seven halves of Premier League play.
"We're certainly feeling a lot better now, four points off the mark and a first win, but we need to take this one forward," manager Chris Hughton told the team's official website. "It's a good platform because it's our first win, but we are very, very conscious of how difficult this division is - we've seen that from our first four games."
But the defence will likely be the point of focus for the Gulls as they try to stay aflight. The spine of goalkeeper Mathew Ryan and centre backs Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy will be influential in determining if Brighton's first campaign in the top flight since 1982 will have staying power or be a one-season wonder.
"I'm just loving playing behind them," Ryan told The Argus. "They are two big lads dealing with all the high balls. They throw themselves around and leave nothing out on the pitch. I'm getting used to them and understanding their style of play."
This is the first time the teams are meeting since both were in the Championship in the 2014-15 season. The home team won both games, and a road team hasn't nicked all three points since Brighton emerged with a 2-0 victory in the 2007-08 League One campaign.
Bournemouth own a slim 39-37 lead in the all-time series that dates back to 1923, and the teams have shared points on 28 occasions.
Updated September 13, 2017