Eddie Howe is in wonderkid mode.
Bournemouth have signed five players this transfer window with an average age of just 20.
All five meet our wonderkid criteria.
Jordon Ibe, Nathan Ake, Lewis Cook, Emerson Hyndman and Lys Mousset have strong or burgeoning reputations and their recruitment represents a significant statement of intent for Bournemouth and their manager Eddie Howe.
Nathan Ake (21) – loan from Chelsea
Lewis Cook (19) – £7 million from Leeds United
Emerson Hyndman (20) – free transfer from Fulham
Jordon Ibe (20) – £15 million record signing from Liverpool
Lys Mousset (20) from €7.3 million Le Harve
But putting all of your eggs in a basket marked potential contains obvious risks.
What if Howe, the Premier League’s youngest manager, fails to get the best from his cherubic recruits? Sometimes talent needs the helping hand of experience when the going gets tough.
The future of these players looks bright but Bournemouth cannot afford to forget the present. It is imperative they maintain their Premier League status.
England’s top division is so rich that a club the size of Bournemouth, average attendance 11,189, are in football’s 1%.
They can outspend all but the elite European clubs and China’s nouveau riche . . . as long as they remain in the Premier League.
Bournemouth were playing in England’s bottom division as recently as 2010 and have made astonishing strides in recent years. Under Howe’s careful guidance they have established a reputation for open attacking football and are a club very much on the rise.
But their progress will come under perilous threat if they are relegated.
Howe’s recruitment strategy goes against convention – teams whose priority is survival usually target experience when buying players. This is refreshing forward planning from a progressive manager.
Some might call the signing of purely young talent a risky strategy. We prefer exciting.
It is difficult to remember a club putting such faith in youth. This could be one of the most audacious buying sprees in Premier League history.
But only if it works.
The fundamental thing for Bournemouth is to stay in the Premier League – everything else is secondary.
It is rare for a top level club in England to so actively pursue young players. The factors which endanger any transfer– form, injury, personal and professional acclimatisation –are amplified by youth.
Howe obviously thinks that he has the requisite balance of experience and promise in his squad. It will be fascinating to watch his young side grow.
Bournemouth have not signed unknowns however, these are not shot in the dark punts but some of the most highly rated young players around.
American Hyndman played just 20 times for the Fulham first team but is already a full USA international. An intelligent midfielder with a metronomic passing game he oozes class and could find the Premier League more to his liking than the more rough-and-tumble Championship. An ankle injury means he has missed most of pre-season
Ake looked excellent at times for Watford last season. He excelled at left back but looked a little shaky when played centrally. His calm reading of the game and intelligent use of the ball will add quality to the Bournemouth defence. He has played only 34 professional games but represented Holland at every age group up to Under 21. Full international honours would not be a surprise in the next year or so.
The signing of Ibe shows Bournemouth are serious about moving forward. He was drifting at Liverpool and despite some flashes of quality was not progressing under Jurgen Klopp. If Howe can get him back on track Ibe could take Bournemouth up a couple of notches. Since making his debut for Wycombe at 15 he has made 79 professional appearances and is an experienced 20 year old.
Mousset had a fantastic season in Ligue 2 and Bournemouth had to beat competition from a host of clubs to sign him. He scored 14 goals in 28 games and is an explosive striker who can carry the ball at speed, go in either direction and finish comfortably from near or far, he should suite Bournemouth’s style. He will likely require a little time to adjust to the Premier League but he could be an interesting option when Bournemouth are looking to play on the break or are chasing a game.
Lewis Cook is only 19 but played 80 times for Leeds United over the past two seasons. He was being linked with a Premier League move since making his debut as a 17-year-old and has performed well on international duty with the England youth sides. His sensible midfield play should transfer well to the Premier League and he looks an excellent piece of business even at £7 million. The 2016 Football League Young Player of the year looks destined for big things.
How will Howe integrate his wonderkid recruits?
Will Bournemouth sign more experienced players before the transfer window closes?
Can you win anything with kids?
Whatever happens with Bournemouth this season it will be fascinating to see how their transfer strategy plays out.
Perhaps more managers will be tempted to put their faith in youth.
Long live wonderkid mode.