Expert season review: 'Attacking football over pragmatism'

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Has it been a season of progress, stagnation or indifference?

Undoubted progress. When Andoni Iraola was appointed as boss last summer, national pundits slammed the Cherries for sacking Gary O’Neil, poured scorn on Iraola and claimed that a club of Bournemouth’s size should have no other ambition in the top flight than to survive.

Well, they have not only survived, they have thrived. The bald statistics compared to 2022-23 show an improvement from 39 to 48 points, 37 to 54 goals scored, and 15th to 12th place. But more than that, fans have enjoyed a season featuring the most attractive brand of football since the Eddie Howe days.

Biggest success for club this season?

More points, more goals, and Iraola’s preference for attacking football over pragmatism has brought the feel-good factor back to Vitality Stadium. The Cherries even won the Premier League’s “Most Improbable Comeback” award for the second successive season, following the memorable night when they trailed Luton 3-0 at half-time, only to win 4-3 with a gung-ho display.

Biggest let down or frustration?

There has been very little to be negative about – every club will have a list of perceived injustices perpetrated by officials and VAR – but Dominic Solanke’s omission from England squads has left fans hurt and mystified. Having stated that “other players had better seasons” when explaining the absence of Marcus Rashford, England boss Gareth Southgate’s inclusion of Ivan Toney (four goals in 18 club games, with none in his last 12) ahead of Solanke (19 goals in 38) was self-contradictory.

Key item on the summer agenda?

Address the goalkeeping situation. Bournemouth have a plethora of keepers including club captain Neto and popular home-grown Mark Travers, while young Will Dennis has earned rave reviews on loan at Kilmarnock. But many fans feel an upgrade is needed. While a return “home” for Aaron Ramsdale would be a dream signing, that could be difficult financially.

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