SIMON Francis insisted Cherries’ positive second-half showing at Arsenal was the “real us” but admitted they had “maybe shown the bigger clubs a bit too much respect”.

The club captain came off the bench to make his third first-team appearance after recovering from a serious knee injury which had previously kept him out for nine months.

Francis replaced Jack Stacey with 11 minutes remaining at Emirates Stadium, as Eddie Howe’s men pushed for a leveller in the 1-0 defeat.

And the 34-year-old felt the visitors were good value for a point during the contest, where both sides only registered two shots on target.

Francis told the Daily Echo: “The second half was the real us.

“If we’d have grown into the first half like we did in the second then we would have given ourselves a much better chance.

“That’s probably been our problem away from home at some of the big teams. We have probably taken a bit too long to get going, maybe shown the bigger clubs a bit too much respect.

“Even sitting on the bench I feel this is a great team at the moment, a great squad to be involved in and we should have no fear coming to these places.

“The players are good enough and unfortunately, the second-half chances we created we should have scored.

“But it didn’t go our way, we dust ourselves down, go away and get ready for Norwich.

“While we can take a lot of positives on Sunday, I think the lads and the manager will be disappointed we didn’t get more from it.”

Defeat left Cherries 10th in the top flight heading into the October international break, with 11 points from eight games.

Assessing the quality of players at the Dorset club this season, the skipper, who has been at Cherries since 2011, believes a top-half finish should “at least” be a target to set.

Quizzed on where this squad rated in comparison to previous Cherries groups he has played in, Francis replied: “Oh, by far, when everyone is fit. It’s the best squad I think.

“We have a great mix of youth and experience now. International quality as well.

“When everyone is fully fit, I think it’s going to be a very competitive squad and one we can build on for certainly at least a top-half table finish.

“It’s certainly the most competitive and the most quality we have had in this squad and long may it continue.”

Assessing his side’s opening to the campaign, boss Eddie Howe added: “We have been okay. I think there is more to come. I have said that in our previous games, I still feel it after Sunday.

“There is a basis of a very good team that’s changed a lot from last year – some new faces that will only grow and get better the more games they have.

“But this league can bite you very quickly if you don’t win for too long – so we’ve got to regroup, get our focus back after the international break and make sure we attack the next four games.

“I think there is a good feeling leaving the match that we are in a better place than we were before the last international break.

“That, of course has to show in results. We are keen to get back playing and win some more games.”