By Jonathan Nagioff (@jonathannagioff)
AFC Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe said Jefferson Lerma’s two-match suspension is a huge blow for his side but refused to question his discipline following the 1-1 draw with Wolves on Saturday.
Lerma, on nine bookings heading into the match picked up his tenth after lunging in on Wolves midfielder Joao Moutinho leaving him with an automatic two-game suspension.
The Colombian, who was brought in from Levante in the summer has amassed the joint-highest number of bookings this season alongside Watford’s Jose Holebas.
However, Howe believes that the majority of the yellow cards he received were during his acclimatising period to the Premier League.
Howe told the media after the stalemate with Wolves: “I was surprised to see the yellow card given and disappointed because Jeff’s done so well since he’s been on nine bookings to manage himself, not pick up another.
“We knew how important he is to the team and to lose him for two games is a huge blow now especially with the squad looking thin with the injuries we have.
“It is what it is and we’ll have to get on with it.
“I think he had a lot of bookings earlier on in the season when he was just adjusting to the English game.
“Now yes he picked up a lot of bookings last year playing for Levante as well. But he is that type of midfielder. They’re the qualities we wanted from him.
“Obviously we don’t want him suspended, so the pleasing thing is the last couple of months, he has been very mindful and watchful while not impacting his performances, so he’s capable I think of making selective decisions on challenges and hopefully steering clear of future suspensions.”
The 24-year-old will miss Wednesday’s fixture away to Arsenal as well as against reigning champions Manchester City next Saturday at the Vitality Stadium.
The loss of Lerma adds to a mounting list of absentees mainly enforced through injuries and Howe revealed that Steve Cook has been playing through a “long-standing” groin problem and he remains unsure whether he will be fit to feature against Arsenal on Wednesday.
However, January signing Chris Mepham deputised superbly on his full Premier League debut and Howe has envisioned a promising future for his side.
Howe continued: “Just from our perspective I thought the players gave everything to the match. I was very pleased with our attitude to the game.
“When you consider how many players, we’ve got injured I thought the players that were available today really stepped up which is hugely important. It shows the strength of the squad that we have.
“The players making their Premier League debuts did really well so exciting promise for the future. So overall a lot more positives than negatives.”
The game however was dominated by the controversy surrounding referee Roger East’s penalty decisions.
Three dubious penalties were awarded, with Josh King converting his first, whilst Raul Jimenez calmly levelled proceedings with this spot kick.
Three minutes later, Roger East once again pointed to the spot after Ryan Fraser was brought down, although replays showed the contact was outside the box, although Josh King’s resulting penalty cannoned off the post and wide.
Another penalty ultimately should have been awarded for Wolves when Chris Mepham appeared to handle in the area with the scores all square at 0-0, yet Roger East waved away the claims.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is set to be used next season but Howe questioned the impact it could have had today on such fine margins.
“Initially I was very hesitant, but I think now when I’ve seen VAR and the longer, I’ve been in it, it’s probably a good thing.
“The only danger with var, again today possibly if you’re looking at those decisions maybe Ryan’s as I say is probably outside the box, is any of the others clear cut? No, probably not, so it’s still going to be someone else’s interpretation.”
AFC Bournemouth face Arsenal at 7.45pm on Wednesday at Emirates Stadium.