After showing glimpses of brilliance against West Ham United, there were promising signs emerging that the playmaker could make the difference for Town between now and the end of the season.
Today, he did make the difference.
Up until now, David Wagner has carefully managed Alex Pritchard.
Whilst he may not have featured as much as some may have expected, it was apparent that today’s game was tailored to the particular skill set of Pritchard.
Rather than superior opposition or a team with superior physicality, Town faced an open, expansive Bournemouth side that had speed and technical ability. That, however, inadvertently left plenty of space between the lines for Pritchard to exploit and he did exactly that.
From the very first whistle, Pritchard took the game by the scruff of the neck and ran the show.
Whereas Aaron Mooy and Jonathan Hogg provided the guile and tenacity in the centre of midfield, Pritchard offered a delicate balance to the midfield with his speed, spatial awareness and his late runs from deep.
It was the latter that proved so effective against Bournemouth. Knowing that Steve Mounie was likely to win the majority of his aerial duels, Pritchard’s runs beyond him stretched the Bournemouth defence and created space.
Although it’s still relatively early days, the connection and interplay between Alex Pritchard and Steve Mounie was clear to see. It was a combination of this interplay and Pritchard’s late runs from deep which led to his first goal in a Town shirt, as he met Steve Mounie’s cut-back and confidently swept the ball past Asmir Begovic.
However, Pritchard’s influence on the game went way beyond the goal he scored. The diminutive playmaker was involved in everything.
His comfort in possession, whether that was receiving the ball in tight spaces or on the half-turn, meant that both Aaron Mooy and Jonathan Hogg had a constant option to turn to.
This ability to link up the play, not only to bridge the gap between the midfield and attack but to carefully knit together Town’s play made him the difference maker.
It was also Pritchard’s comfort in possession and his ability to glide past players which led to Town’s fourth goal as he danced around Bournemouth’s defence before he was eventually felled and the penalty was converted.
Outside of possession, Pritchard also stood out. Despite arriving at Town with a reputation that his defensive contributions were a weak part of his game, today, we saw the influence that David Wagner has already had.
Alongside Steve Mounie, Pritchard led from the front and epitomised the terrier identity with relentless harrying of Bournemouth’s nervous back five.
With a never-ending work ethic, Pritchard, with the help of Aaron Mooy and Jonathan Hogg contributed towards the intense press and high tempo that Bournemouth were simply unable to deal with.
From his link-up play to his defensive contributions, his composure in possession to his clinical nature in front of goal, Alex Pritchard offered a complete performance when it mattered and showed exactly why he is and will continue to be, a difference maker for Town.