Eddie Howe doesn’t get flustered easily. The Bournemouth manager is spending this summer preparing for his side’s maiden campaign in the English Premiership next season. In a fairy-tale story, Bournemouth has risen from narrowly avoiding relegation from the football league to Premiership newcomers in less than seven years. Despite this meteoric rise, it hasn’t stopped the pundits already condemning Bournemouth to relegation from England’s top league before kicking a single ball. Howe doesn’t mind as being the underdog suits his team well. He knows how to cope with the pressure applied by the British media and this forthcoming season will be no different.
But the young English coach has never managed in the Premiership and will perhaps be unaware of the pressure that he is about to be put under. It’s a huge leap in class between the Championship and the Premiership for the players but the same can be said for the media attention especially around the decisions that each manager makes. Every defeat, every tactical switch and every press conference will be scrutinized. But more so than that, the players that Howe signs will be scrutinized the most. Before last Friday, Bournemouth had added four new faces to its squad – goalkeepers Artur Boruc and Adam Federici, striker Joshua King and winger Christian Atsu. But it’s the signing of his fifth player that has many talking. The arrival of 22 year old Tyrone Mings from Ipswich is an impressive capture. The left back is one of the hottest prospects in English football having impressed last season as Ipswich just missed the promotion via the play offs. He has been the subject of various transfer approaches over the past year from several Premiership clubs including Crystal Palace but chose to stay in the Championship to help the Tractor boy’s cause. But now he has been persuaded to join Howe at Bournemouth and will be a Premiership player next season.
Despite being a promising player, the value of the transfer rumoured to be around £8m is being commented on as too much by the media and fans alike. A record transfer fee for Bournemouth but one that Howe sees as a strategic and long term investment in the club. He has faith in the player becoming a success and potentially moving on to a bigger club for a considerably higher transfer fee. But his justification appears to be falling on deaf ears with several questioning the logic of spending such a large chunk of Bournemouth’s transfer budget on one player and more than that a left back. Looking at the mistakes of the past, most sides that have won promotion then been relegated again after one season all have something in common – the failure to score goals in the Premiership. Investing £8m in a striker would potentially have made more sense as goals win matches. But for Howe perhaps the best form of attack is from defense and conceding the least goals. It’s a fair argument considering that if the league table last year was based on goals conceded, Burnley would still be in the Premiership next season having conceded only 53 goals. But their downfall as with fellow relegated sides QPR and Hull was the lack of goals at the other end.
Spending £8m on an English defender for a club like Manchester City or Chelsea is seen as an investment but for clubs like Bournemouth who have considerably smaller war chests, it can be perceived as a risky move. Mings is a talented player who will be a stand out for Bournemouth this season but will his signing be the reason for their demise? There is still several weeks left in the pre-season for Howe to make further signings and he may still decide to spend big on a ten to twenty goal a season striker but that will depend on how much money owner Maxim Demin wishes to give him. Howe is one of the finest managers in the game today but at 37 years young, he is still learning. Hopefully this signing will not be a defining lesson for the up and coming English coach.
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