Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has been a busy man this summer, having already signed three players. Confirmation of Nathan Ake’s £20 million club-record signing came on Friday and followed hot on the heels of the capture of Jermain Defoe on a free transfer. Both players have previously played for the Cherries.
Ake was on loan from Chelsea for the first half of last season and made a huge impression before being recalled in January. Famously, Defoe kickstarted his career on the south coast as a teenager – and even played alongside Howe. A West Ham United loanee, he scored 10 goals in a row, which at the time was a post-war record.
It seems fitting that his career will conclude at the club where he made his name. With goalkeeper Asmir Begovic also having joined from Chelsea, Howe’s evolution of Bournemouth continues apace. But how will they line-up when the new season gets underway at West Bromwich Albion in August?
Veteran stopper Artur Boruc had an excellent campaign for the Cherries and added a year’s extension to his contract as a result, but he seems certain to lose his place to Begovic, who cost the club in the region of £10m. Howe is very loyal, but the arrival of Ake is likely to see a change in what was his preferred back four last term.
Charlie Daniels and Adam Smith should retain their places on the left and right side of defence respectively, but Ake could well slot in alongside the unheralded Steve Cook. That would mean dropping captain Simon Francis, who is a fine ambassador for the club. One potential complication is that both Cook and Ake prefer to play on the left side of central defence.
Cook, though, is naturally right-footed and to move to the right to accommodate the Dutchman should not be too taxing. Ake’s versatility means he could be a potential screening option in midfield, but central defence is where Howe utilised him last season.
With Jack Wilshere’s loan spell having finished, there is sure to be a change in midfield. Andrew Surman, Harry Arter, Lewis Cook and Dan Gosling are all vying for two places, along with Emerson Hyndman, who has returned from a temporary stint with Rangers.
Cook, a former young Championship player of the year with Leeds United, benefited from Wilshere’s fractured ankle and produced several eye-catching performances. He recently captained England Under-20s to World Cup glory, an experience that can only benefit him. Cook could well dislodge Surman at the base of midfield and be paired with Arter.
The Cherries have several options on the wings, with Jordon Ibe, Ryan Fraser, Marc Pugh and Junior Stanislas. Each player offers different qualities and depending on the opposition, Howe may well interchange them. Pugh, the club’s longest-serving current player, has been written off on numerous occasions but remains an integral player. Max Gradel, however, could be on his way out of the club.
Defoe adds considerable pedigree to Bournemouth’s striker options. The 35-year-old has penned a three-year-deal at the club and will be hoping to replicate the form he showed in a struggling team at Sunderland. Howe has remained a keen admirer of the England international throughout his career and didn’t hesitate in signing him, despite his advancing years.
Defoe may not play every match, but he is expected to make his second debut for the club at West Brom, fitness permitting. He is likely to partner scoring sensation Joshua King, who was arguably the most-improved player in the Premier League last season. He is rumoured to be attracting interest Tottenham Hotspur, according to the Telegraph, but Howe will be determined to keep hold of him.
As well as Defoe and King, the Cherries boss also has Benik Afobe and Callum Wilson at his disposal. Wilson is recovering from a cruciate ligament injury, but Afobe’s form in the second half of the campaign was impressive, particularly in tandem with King.