Picking a Football Club – Quarterfinal 2

Today’s matchup is between the 2-seed AFC Bournemouth and the 7-seed Southampton. First, a tale of the tape (most information from this wonderful post):
AFC Bournemouth
Nickname: The Cherries
Founded: 1890
Location: Bournemouth
Team Colors: Red / Black
Kit Manufacturer: Umbro (since 2017)
Primary Kit Sponsor: Mansion.com
Ground: Vitality Stadium (capacity 11,360)
Manager: Eddie Howe (since 2012)
Nickname: The Saints
Founded: 1885 (as St. Mary’s Young Men’s Association F.C.)
Location: Southampton
Team Colors: Red / White
Kit Manufacturer: Under Armour (since 2016)
Primary Kit Sponsor: Virgin Media
Ground: St. Mary’s Stadium (capacity 32,505)
Manager: Mark Hughes (since 2018)
Based on their seeds from my highly scientific methods, Bournemouth should win this pretty handily. But after West Ham United managed to beat top-seeded Burnley in Quarterfinal 1, anything is possible.
As you would expect from the second seed, Bournemouth managed to win three metrics, including two of the four more important ones – stadium rank (they play in the smallest stadium) and market value (they are the “smallest” club and thus have true underdog status). Southampton, meanwhile had pretty middling results, and was probably most hurt by their last place finish among my final eight teams, finishing 17th overall in the league, with only a win on the final match day saving them from relegation. The only metric they exceeded Bournemouth was in net profit, netting a third place result with £34.6M in profits during the 2016-2017 season.
One thing Southampton has going for them over Bournemouth is its history in the Premier League, as well as its time in the top division overall. Including this season, Bournemouth has spent a grand total of FOUR seasons at the top level of English football, though all four seasons have been the last four seasons. They are one of nine current Premier League teams that have never been relegated from the League once attaining a position, though two of those teams – Brighton and Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town – are only in their second consecutive season and are most likely going to be fighting to avoid relegation this season after lower table finishes last year.
Southampton, on the other hand, has spent a total of 20 seasons in the Premier League, a solid 74% of total EPL seasons (including this one). Their presence in the League has also come in two long stretches – 1992-2005 and 2014-present – with seven seasons spent in tier 2 and tier 3 during the interceding period. Southampton has won a championship within the lower tiers – a 1960 championship in the Third Division – as well as a FA Cup win in 1976, but modern championships have eluded them. Bournemouth, on the other hand, has seen moderate success within the recent past, earning promotion in 2015 with their championship in The Championship, as well as a title in Division Three (tier 3) back in 1987. Not much differentiation between the teams here.
Both teams are outside of London, which can help make them the hottest ticket around. Currently, Bournemouth plays in the smallest stadium in the Premier League, if not one of the smallest in all upper division English football. The recent elevation to the Premier League, and current staying power, has prompted the ownership group to pursue a new stadium within the next few years. If the Cherries can get a posh new stadium, they could easily see an increase in their ticket revenue – which at $6.5M was dwarfed by most every team, including Southampton – which could alleviate some of the stress felt on ownership’s seemingly deep pockets.
Southampton the city is often noted for its association with the Titanic, and it is historically one of the most industrial cities in all of England. The economy has shifted over the past decade or so, with the bulk of employment happening in health, education, and retail. St. Mary’s Stadium is the largest football stadium in South East England, and in the middle age-wise when it comes to current Premiere League stadiums. Both Bournemouth and Southampton are currently owned by foreign billionaires – Maxim Demin and Gao Jisheng, respectively – removing some of the aesthetics of having English clubs owned by Englishman or even their supporters.
Finally, both teams are on opposite ends when it comes to spending money on players. Though Bournemouth has only been in the Premier League since 2014, they have spent nearly $130M building a club that can compete and maintain a spot in the top level of English football. With continued growth of media rights deals, as well as a larger stadium looming in the future, Bournemouth could be setting them up for sustained success at mid-table positioning, and potentially even challenge for a continental cup or two.
Southampton, on the other hand, has spent the least amount on net transfers over the same period, though they have increased spending to over $65M this off-season after flirting with relegation last year. Whether or not their new found largess will help them stay in the Premier League remains to be seen, and their 17th place finish may simply be an aberration, but it also shows the impact that can be felt by relying more on loans than new transfers and being outspent by nearly every other successful team.
Despite the longer history of top level success for Southampton, I have to give this round to AFC Bournemouth. The Cherries seem to be on the verge of becoming a mid-table power, and they have really learned how to manage the increased finances that come with a position in the Premier League. As they continue to build a “premium” infrastructure, they can be expected to end up somewhere around 12th or 13th, safely avoiding the death knell of regulation.
The Cherries live on to the next round, and we’ll find out their opponent soon enough. Sorry to the Saints and their supporters.
Next up will be the 3v6 matchup between Leicester City and Newcastle United!
Until next time…

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