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Transfer Rater: Koulibaly to United, Ake to City

Football Whispers
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 By Will Kent

Determination helps Bournemouth defy the odds during exciting season

Despite flirting with the possibility of relegation briefly in January and February, the Cherries were never in serious danger in what fans will look back on as a great season.

Rating out of 10: 9

Highlight

Despite obviously securing Premier League football for a third consecutive season, the main highlight of the season was witnessing the astonishing 4-3 comeback victory against Liverpool on Dec. 4.

Steve Cook's volley to equalise before Nathan Ake drove home the winner in the 93rd minute will long live in the memory of everyone at the club. It wasn't just three points which pleased fans, but also the never-say-die attitude.

The ability to come from behind against a side like Liverpool, who arguably played the best 45 minutes of football at the Vitality Stadium in the first half, proved the brilliant team spirit and togetherness the squad has in times of adversity. Every player on the pitch works very hard for each other, and this is the No. 1 trait any side with the threat of relegation needs to have.

Nathan Ake's goal completed Bournemouth's comeback against Liverpool on Dec. 4.

Low point

Failing to win a game in 2017 until the 3-2 home win against West Ham on March 11 was a massive low point. This nine-match winless streak also included a terrible FA Cup performance away to Millwall in which they were not only eliminated by the League 1 side, but also shipped three goals.

In hindsight it might have been a blessing in disguise by reducing the number of fixtures so the club could concentrate on Premier League form, but it was a dismal afternoon from a Bournemouth perspective.

Clubs outside the top eight in the Premier League generally target a decent cup run to add some extra excitement to their season, and combined with an early exit from the EFL Cup as well, the Cherries failed on this front.

Star Man

Deciding of the star player of the season is a tough one as there have been many decent players. Ryan Fraser, Josh King and Cook all make it into the top three, but it has to be awarded to Cook for his consistency over the full season.

The central defender played in every Premier League game, and his performance levels from start to finish have been astonishing. Not only will he be on the radar of many clubs over the summer, but surely Gareth Southgate will be having a look for England.

Admittedly, the Cherries haven't been particularly strong at the back this season, but if it wasn't for Cook's last-ditch defending on countless occasions, the Cherries would be much lower down the table for sure.

Eddie Howe
Steve Cook's defending was a key to Bournemouth's successful season.

Flop

Every player Eddie Howe signed permanently in the summer of 2016 could be nominated for flop of the season, but unfortunately signing Jordon Ibe (€15 million) pips them all.

Unlike players like Brad Smith and Lys Mousset, the former Liverpool winger was given a decent run of games to make his mark, and he didn't manage to make much of an impact. There is clearly a decent player locked within him, and if he could find some form, he could be a genuinely useful offensive player in the future. But when reflecting on the 2016-17 season, he has definitely been a letdown.

Transfer talk

The first thing the club must address is central defence, as a number of times this campaign they have struggled to keep out the opposition.

Simon Francis has been a liability at times, and despite a recent improvement, he struggles at Premier League level week in and week out. Tyrone Mings also hasn't particularly impressed when asked to play, so an established Premier League defender -- which was pointed out at the beginning of the current season itself -- is definitely needed.

Elsewhere, potentially a new central midfielder to go above Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman in the pecking order would be good. Both offer certain attributes which are useful, and the pair are decent squad players, but Howe needs a standout option he can rely upon to partner Harry Arter every week. With Jack Wilshere unlikely to be returning to the Vitality Stadium, Howe will have to look elsewhere.

If Josh King is also poached away by another club for the right price, a new striker will also need to be acquired.

Will Kent is a freelance journalist who has worked for AFC Bournemouth, ESPN UK and ESPN FC, among others. Twitter: @WillKentSPORT

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