Thursday 21 February 2019

Eddie Howe fears international break could upset Bournemouth rhythm

Lewis Cook, left, impressed against Leicester
Lewis Cook, left, impressed against Leicester

Bournemouth have been lifted by the emergence of the "excellent" Lewis Cook but their manager Eddie Howe fears the international football break could harm his team.

In Saturday's 0-0 home draw with Leicester, Bournemouth convincingly outplayed their visitors and wasted numerous goalscoring chances. They were denied a penalty when Danny Simpson's handball went unpunished.

But it represented their first clean sheet of a difficult start to the league season and in a further positive, the 20-year-old Cook consistently impressed on his first Premier League start since May.

Bournemouth remain 19th even after a vastly-improved performance, but Howe's biggest concern is that now his team have rediscovered the level of which they have long been capable, their momentum could be disrupted by their two-week break.

"That's my gut feeling," said the 39-year-old manager. "We would have wanted to build on the real positives. The past international break really did hinder us; a lot of players went away and didn't play.

"That's probably the biggest problem we have. They don't play for two weeks; they don't train for two weeks; they come back and look a little bit rusty. We hope that's not the case this time."

Cook joined Bournemouth from Leeds in July 2016 but soon found himself behind loan signing Jack Wilshere in the pecking order and played little first-team football in his first season at the club.

When asked about the midfielder, Howe said: "Lewis has progressed so much: improved most aspects of his game.

"He was excellent. That's credit to the player (that he coped without regular football). A lot of players in his position would have been disappointed, or at times stopped learning, developing, because they don't see a pathway for them.

"Lewis is not that type of character: he wants to get to the very top, and displayed the attitude that will help get him there.

"He's certainly got a creative eye: he can play a defence-splitting pass, create chances from nothing, has got a lovely way that he drives the ball through midfield. No one else in our midfield can do what he can."

England Under-21 international Cook was then asked if his performance proved he plays without fear, and he said: "Definitely. That's what we've worked on off the pitch: knowing where you are and wanting the ball and being brave.

"If the gaffer thinks I'm ready then I'm ready. I've been patient, kept working and learning and improving and I enjoyed it."

There was little question a point represented a positive result for Leicester after they under-performed, and their manager Craig Shakespeare hopes the coming fortnight could benefit his team.

Jamie Vardy has been omitted from Gareth Southgate's squad and has a chance to fully recover from a hip injury, and former England assistant Shakespeare said: "The idea for us and England: he comes back once he's had that little break raring to go again.

"The medical departments spoke. It's never been questioned: Jamie wants to play for England and for Leicester. The time: it's right to give him this break, a little bit of a rest, to fully recover.

"As long as (Leicester's internationals) come back with a clean bill of health, some fringe players might get some important game time."

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