There was little for Bournemouth and Burnley to play for on the final day of the Premier League season, but managers Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche would not have minded that too much. Both the Cherries and the Clarets were widely expected to be battling against relegation right until the very end of the campaign, so the fact that the two sides had already secured their first division status before Sunday’s finale would have delighted the two coaches, who both deserve enormous credit for the jobs they have done at their respective clubs this term.
Bournemouth survived against the odds last season, which was their first ever in the top flight. Howe kept faith with the personnel and playing style that earned his team promotion in 2015 and was rewarded with a highly commendable 16th-place finish. Having first taken charge of the south coast side when they were mired in relegation trouble at the bottom of League Two, the former defender could reflect with pride as Bournemouth ended the campaign five points clear of the drop zone in the Premier League.
Things have been even more comfortable this time around: a 1-1 draw at Leicester City on Sunday saw them finish the campaign in ninth spot. Howe brought the likes of Jordon Ibe and Jack Wilshere to the Vitality Stadium in the summer transfer market, but his side’s success has once again been achieved with a core of players who represented the club in the second tier. Just as he had been in 2015/16, Howe was advised to take a more pragmatic approach during a sticky spell earlier this year; instead, the 39-year-old stuck to his principles and was rewarded as Bournemouth finished 12 points above the bottom three.
Burnley also succeeded in staying clear of danger, despite having been tipped by many to end the season in last place. Having been demoted without much of a fight in 2014/15, Dyche did brilliantly to guide the Lancashire outfit to promotion from the Championship last term, but a small budget and relatively weak squad meant it was going to be difficult for the Clarets to avoid falling through the trapdoor. Yet despite a 2-1 loss to West Ham United at the weekend, they finished six points clear of the relegation zone in 16th place.
Burnley also kept faith with an approach which has served them well in the past, with Dyche tending to favour a compact 4-4-2 formation and a direct, counter-attacking style of play. They may have won only once away from home, a surprise 2-0 defeat of Crystal Palace last month, but they have been dominant in front of their own supporters, winning 10 of their 19 league matches at home.
Antonio Conte has been the manager of the year in the Premier League for his masterminding of Chelsea’s title triumph, yet Howe and Dyche have also done brilliant jobs at the Vitality Stadium and Turf Moor respectively.