Eddie Howe fears Bournemouth are losing their “identity”.
Following a fine start to the season that took the Cherries into contention to challenge for European football, their present run of only one victory from nine means they have slid to 13th and remain at risk of finishing even lower.
They took the lead in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at home to Burnley before being outplayed, demonstrating little of the classy football Howe has long encouraged and leading their manager to fear they have lost their way.
The 41-year-old recognises that, without a swift improvement, Bournemouth’s season will become a disappointment – after it had the potential to be the best in their history.
He said: “You are looking week in, week out to see a clear identity, a clear way of playing, knowing you are improving every game.
“But in recent weeks we haven’t seen the clear philosophy we want, and that hurts me more than anything. So we will have to go away and figure out why we are not seeing that and work towards definitely delivering a better product.
“We are going to have to review everything we do.
“Very few times have I felt like this during my management career when I’ve looked at a team and not been able to see what we’ve worked on.”
Ryan Fraser, a reported target for Arsenal, struggled to exert the influence expected of him and team-mate Nathan Ake said: “Ryan’s been superb for us this season.
“He’s one of the main guys, and obviously the club, and especially me, want to keep him.
“He’s a superb, top, top player. He shows that every day in training and in the games; the amount of crosses he puts in and the chances he creates. He’s a very, very good player.”
Ben Mee and Dwight McNeil were particularly impressive in what was one of the strongest performances Burnley have produced as a Premier League team.
Mee has long been one of their most consistent figures, but there is little question 19-year-old McNeil’s impact since becoming a regular first-team player has contributed much to the significant improvement in their results, and also to the experienced Nathaniel Clyne being substituted by Howe.
Mee said: “I can’t praise him highly enough. He’s come in, done a really good job, and is very mature for his age. He’s got a fantastic future ahead of him.
“He’s got that bounce, that bit of quality, and has added a real amount to our team. He’s come in really well.
“He’s creating goals, he’s scoring goals, so he’s doing his job really well. Defensively he’s working really hard for the team, and he’s enjoying his football at the minute, which is the main thing.
“He’s a tricky lad (in training). He’s got some good skills. His body movement; he relies a lot on his body, and can shift a ball really well.”
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