FOUR days ago, Cherries produced a performance of devastating efficiency to swat aside Chelsea, the six-time English champions.

They blunted superbly the likes of Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho and delivered a masterclass in how to put the ball in the net with a modest amount of possession.

It was a wonderful display under lights at Vitality Stadium, up with their best in the Premier League.

And yet, faced on Saturday by a Cardiff City team which had won five of its previous 24 league fixtures, Cherries suffered a dramatic loss of pizzazz.

It was, David Brooks aside, the same starting XI which had thumped Maurizio Sarri’s expensively-assembled line-up. There was no reason to expect anything other than energy, dynamism and attacking verve.

But where Chelsea was ruthless, Cardiff was toothless. Where Chelsea was dazzling, Cardiff was puzzling. Frankly, it was all a bit odd.

Eddie Howe would have spent the better part of Saturday night mulling over the finer points of how this could have been.

That he questioned his team’s mentality in post-match interviews was more than an indicator of where he felt the problem could lie.

“The mental side had a huge bearing on today,” he said. “And that’s not the first time this season where you could question that within the team.”

By Howe’s standards, these were strong words. They were a stern assertion that, as if his players did not know already, one good performance does not excuse a bad one.

The finest minds on the planet would struggle with the intricacies of the Chelsea-Cardiff riddle but fortunately, Cherries can do better than that. They have Howe.

With Liverpool, Wolves, Arsenal and Manchester City coming up, Cherries are going to need every bit of his expertise.