Cherries boss Eddie Howe attributed his side’s fourth round FA Cup exit to Arsenal to a lack of belief.
The home side lost 2-1 after conceding two first half goals from Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah. They di find the back of the net in injury time though, as 21 year old substitute Sam Surridge scored his first goal for the first team., but it was too little too late for Eddie Howe’s men.
“Our mentality was not right during the game. We improved with the changes that we made but I think it had more to do with the belief in the group,” said manager Howe speaking at his post-match press conference.
Despite falling a two goals behind within 26 minutes, Bournemouth did show resilience towards the end of the first half and looked much improved in the second. Howe said: “I was disappointed. I let them know that (at half time). We were way below the level that we expect, and the lads responded to be fair. I thought they responded towards the end of the first half, and in the second half I thought we were the better team. We had a couple of chances for the game to have turned out differently.”
Bournemouth made a few positional changes for the tie, with winger Ryan Fraser playing up front with Solanke just behind him. Howe, who has who only won once in his eleven games against the North Londoners said: “I don’t think Ryan did bad. It was just something we wanted to look at just in case our strikers get injured. He has played up front before and I don’t think it was anything to do with his individual performance, the team behind him wasn’t good enough. We could have had anyone up there and we wouldn’t have seen the best of them.
“We wanted to have a look at our centre midfielders playing wide. We have only got two fit wide players so if something happened to them and we wanted to play a system with a wide man then we could see the capability of our squad to cover that. We did various things to not just try and win the game today, but to help us in the future.”
The home side dominated the Gunners during the lengthy eight minutes that was added onto the second half, mainly due to Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi being stretchered off after a nasty looking collision with his own goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Sam Surridge scored his first professional goal for the Cherries when fellow substitute Simon Francis played a perfect cross forwards from the right, picking out the youngster unmarked who cooly converted. Howe said: “I think it will do a lot for him. He always has scored goals in the youth and development squads, and when he has been out on loan he has done really well. That was a typical Sam goal, just in this right place at the time. Delighted for him.
“I think that the response from the players was very good and the attitude was excellent after about half an hour of that game.”
The Cherries sit 18th in the Premier League and are staring at the looming 14 games remaining, knowing how important they are. When asked about whether the exit from the cup might benefit his side’s chances of survival, Howe said: “I don’t look at it like that. I want to win every game and I could never have that mentality. Whatever competition you are in, I don’t think that is the right way to think.”
Bournemouth host 16th placed Aston Villa on Saturday in which could prove to be a hugely important game at the foot of the table, with just two points separating them. Howe believes that his players recognize the significance of the tie. He said: “We know how big this game is. The lads know the importance of the games we have to come and we have to back ourselves to perform better than we did today. We did against Brighton and we got the result and we’re going to need a similar performance.
“I feel I have got enough in the squad I don’t think I have ever doubted that for a second. We should show in our performances how much we want these games and how much we need to do well from the very first minute.”
When asked about any potential business in the remaining days of the winter transfer window Howe said: “It looks doubtful but never say never. I think we are more likely to get a couple of players back.” The boss did however confirm that defender Jack Simpson would not be loaned out, despite speculation he might be.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta also showed some hope for Howe’s men. He said in his post match conference: “I have great sympathy for the way they play and the manager (Howe). I hope they stay up because I think they deserve it.
“They’ve been very unlucky with some of the results this season as well, I think and hopefully they can get out of it (the relegation zone).”