1:04 Howe says Josh King’s comments regarding whether Bournemouth deserve to be relegated have been taken out of context
“Our character has been tested to the absolute maximum”
But aside from the spirit, do Bournemouth have the quality and form to conjure up a great escape?
Back at the start of November, a 1-0 win over Manchester United moved Bournemouth into seventh place. But it was followed by just one league victory in the next 12. One draw in eight Premier League games since February has left them in real trouble.
Howe, though, saw shoots of recovery in their 5-2 defeat in the reverse fixture with Manchester United on Saturday. The scoreline looked like a thrashing but Bournemouth led once, could have pulled level at 3-2 and Howe says it was an encouraging return to form for several key players.
2:52 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win over Bournemouth in the Premier League
Callum Wilson’s comeback from suspension to face Spurs will also be a boost – “he’s going to be a big player in the run-in” – although Howe backed up Junior Stanislas’ verdict that Bournemouth must be harder to beat if they’re going to get anything out of Jose Mourinho’s side.
“We’ve tried to be tight defensively, we’ve worked hard on it,” said Howe. “We’ve tried to be a creative threat in the game, we haven’t always been. So getting that balance right is absolutely key.
“But a lot of that comes down to individuals in the team performing to the level we know they can. I think in recent weeks we perhaps haven’t delivered that but Manchester United was a much more positive return for quite a lot of the team, with four or five of the team returning to form.
“Now we need to put that to all 11 because I think that’s the only way we can get a result.
“The last run of results has been really difficult to take and our character has been tested to the absolute maximum. I’m hoping to see the benefits of that come out in the next few games because I think it will be just reward for the players’ patience and belief in each other.”
How to pull off upsets?
While the fixture list looks tough, Bournemouth have shown this season they can upset the big teams. As well as the win over United, they’ve taken four points off Chelsea and drawn with Arsenal.
They won this fixture against Tottenham last season, too, and Howe says his side have the ability to spring a surprise if they stick to the principles which has sustained their place in the Premier League since their Championship title win in 2015.
“When I look back historically [at our wins over big teams] it’s been a willingness to stay in the game,” he said. “I think we’ve defended doggedly, we’ve been determined, we’ve stuck to our beliefs and whatever game plan we’ve had we’ve delivered it.
“At times we’ve needed a little bit of luck when the ball has bounced our way and managed to give ourselves a little bit of momentum at key moments. But if we remember those values then we know we’re still in control of the game, even if we’re playing very good teams.”
That introspective focus will be a key message ahead of the fixture with Spurs. With no fans at the Vitality Stadium to urge them on – “we’ve missed their drive and energy, missed their emotion” – and tough tests ahead, Howe says Bournemouth’s players will have to dig deep inside themselves.
“The temptation is to focus on other teams and that’s not a great thing to do, because you’re putting your power and your future into other teams’ hands. I think it has to be in ours.
“I think we have enough games and enough points to fight for to shape our own destiny and I’d encourage us to do that. We may need a little bit of luck along the way from somewhere else but we have to look at ourselves.”