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Iraola's Turnaround; Bournemouth Back with a Bang

Andoni Iraola was as close as any manager in the Premier League to being sacked in October. After the surprise sacking of Gary O'Neil at the end of last season, Bournemouth failed to win any of their first nine league games under Iraola. His future looked especially bleak after a 2 - 1 defeat at home to O'Neil's Wolves team. But since that result, the Cherries have three wins in five league games, including points against two of the Premier League's top six.

The victory over Burnley looks to have been the turning point of Bournemouth's season. It wasn't an attractive display by any means, and with the game level at 1 - 1 there weren't too many signs that Bournemouth would go on to get their first league win of the season.

But one 40-yard screamer from Philip Billing later, they had their first Premier League win under Andoni Iraola.

A narrow defeat to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup and a 6 - 1 humbling at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City reinstated some of the pressure on Iraola heading into November, but his side responded brilliantly.

Newcastle United came to the Vitality Stadium hoping for a straightforward away win, but got exactly the opposite. Dominic Solanke was the man of the hour, scoring both goals in a vital 2 - 0 win for the Cherries, taking them out of the bottom three for the first time since the opening weekend.

Victory against former manager Eddie Howe was a huge boost for Bournemouth. If they are to beat the drop this season, they have to make their south coast home a difficult place to come, somewhere even the top teams don't want to go.

Having lost convincingly to Arsenal and Tottenham earlier in the season, the Cherries seem to have found their appetite for the visit of a big team. After the win over Newcastle, they were unlucky not to beat Aston Villa, narrowly missing out to a 90th-minute Ollie Watkins equaliser.

What kept Bournemouth up last season though was taking the majority of points from the teams around and just below them, rather than relying on giant killings. Victories on the road against Sheffield United and Crystal Palace have taken them to 15th in the Premier League, providing a buffer of seven points and two teams between themselves and the relegation zone.

It's amazing what difference a month can make for a football club. Bournemouth are undeniably one of the most in-form teams in the Premier League and are well clear of the drop zone, but on the 28th October, before their win over Burnley, they were bottom of the Premier League.

Iraola deserves a lot of credit for what he's done, as do the Bournemouth board for sticking with the Spaniard. For a club to concede six at Manchester City and then go on to keep two clean sheets in the next four games, one against Newcastle United, takes an impressive mentality.

There's a new found confidence about the Cherries which encourages them to make the most of every game. They go to Old Trafford this weekend to take on Manchester United, which a month ago would sound like a nightmare to their travelling fans who face a long journey to Manchester. But what's stopping Bournemouth getting a result now?

Premier League survival isn't dependant on winning every week, but making the most of good opportunities, getting points where points are a genuine possibility. That's exactly what they did in recent games against Newcastle and Crystal Palace, where they arguably weren't favourites at kick-off, but made the most of a poor performance from their opponents.

In contrast, Nottingham Forest came up against a struggling Everton side and couldn't find the net, eventually losing 1 - 0. Luton twice came from behind to lead Arsenal but couldn't hold on, losing 4 - 3 to the champions. It's these kind of games that Bournemouth have managed to win, whilst their relegation rivals (with the exception of Everton) have fumbled.

There's real potential for it to get even better for the Cherries too. Tyler Adams and Alex Scott, both potential midfield maestros, are out until the new year and Lloyd Kelly has a similar time frame for a return. Max Aarons will be back later in January. So Bournemouth are getting great results without four of their regular starters. Another sign of a good manager.

The Premier League season is four games away from the half-way mark, and whilst seven points isn't enough of a gap from the bottom three to be safe, it's certainly a good marker for Bournemouth. If they're aiming to hit the 40 points target, they'll want 20 by Gameweek 19; to do that, they'll need a win and a draw from their next four, which include games against relegation rivals Luton and Nottingham Forest.

It's also worth considering that after a remarkable turnaround in November, Iraola's side look likely to pick up more points in the second half of the season anyway. Long story short, don't sleep on Andoni Iraola, and certainly don't sleep on Bournemouth.

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