As season winds down, Bournemouth supporters mull Josh King's future
It's Bournemouth's last home fixture of the season on Saturday, and they welcome Burnley to the Vitality Stadium to round off another Premier League campaign in which they have performed to a decent standard in front of their home fans. Eddie Howe's side have won eight and drawn four of their 18 home games and have scored 33 goals in the process. Sean Dyche's side are the second-worst away side in the league, having won just one game on their travels, so the chance of Bournemouth improving their home record is highly likely.
The Cherries are likely to dominate possession against Burnley just as they have done against many teams this season. The south coast side have averaged 51.2 percent of the ball in the 36 games played, and their opponents on Saturday have seen only 42.5 percent. Harry Arter will again start with Lewis Cook in the midfield most likely, and it will be their task to retain possession in the centre. The pair have done little to impress in the previous two matches, but looking at the statistics this is exactly the sort of fixture they need to really settle in their partnership.
Josh King will be looking to increase his goal-scoring tally against the Clarets, which will undoubtedly contribute to other clubs looking to secure his services for next season. The striker, who has just been named April's player of the month by the club, has bagged 17 goals this season, including two for his country along with a couple of assists. With his homegrown status, he is an extremely attractive option given his form this season. It could be a long summer for Bournemouth fans with regards to speculation surrounding King's potential departure if a good enough offer comes in for him.
Fellow striker Benik Afobe has endured a mediocre season with just a few moments of brilliance. The 24-year-old scored six goals in his 1,426 minutes on the pitch. The former Arsenal striker definitely performs better as a pair alongside King's pace, but even then he's been underwhelming. With Callum Wilson's long-term injury raising questions about his ability to overcome such a major setback for the second time, predicting who will be leading the line for Bournemouth next season remains a talking point for the summer. Lys Mousset is a possibility, but if his recent performance against Stoke on May 6 is anything to go by, Howe definitely needs to look into the transfer market for another option.
Junior Stanislas is another attacker whose future will be up in the air come July 1 when the transfer window opens. After his assist and two goals against Hull City on Oct. 15, it looked like he was on course for a superb run of form -- or at least a good bit of form. However, the opposite has happened, and though he has admittedly had his injury struggles, he hasn't been able to hold down a place in the side when fit. Though he is still contracted to play his football on the south coast until 2019, if a decent offer came in for the 27-year-old, Howe might decide to let him leave. He shouldn't be sold, but given Howe's preference for Ryan Fraser and Marc Pugh on the flanks, letting the former Burnley man depart wouldn't be a huge shock.
In terms of incoming players, a new central defender remains a priority, just as it was at the beginning of the season. Simon Francis' performances have picked up of late, but further reinforcements at the back are still necessary. Tyrone Mings has failed to properly impress when given opportunities to play, and though he has to be given some leeway considering his long layoff, his weak season only increases the need for a new defender. The match against Burnley might have little meaning with regards to league position, but a very poor performance from Artur Boruc or Simon Francis would put their position in the team for next season in more doubt.
As the season comes to an end, the match against Burnley is just a chance to enjoy football with little negativity even if the Cherries do lose. It's a celebration that the club has at least one more year of Premier League football at the Vitality Stadium.
Will Kent is a freelance journalist who has worked for AFC Bournemouth, ESPN UK and ESPN FC, among others. Twitter: @WillKentSPORT