A changing of the guard is on the horizon at AFC Bournemouth, with a number of the club’s long-serving stars out of contract this summer.
Cherries manager Eddie Howe has always displayed a certain amount of loyalty to the players who won promotion from the Championship in 2014/15. But the upcoming transfer window feels like a pivotal point in the South Coast side’s transition into an established Premier League outfit.
Ryan Fraser, Artur Boruc, Simon Francis, Andrew Surman and Charlie Daniels were all part of the team which took Bournemouth into the top flight and represent five of the seven first-team squad members who are approaching the end of their deals with the club.
They’re joined by fringe defender Jack Simpson and £15million recruit Jordon Ibe, who arrived in 2016.
Whether all of those out-of-contract players exit Dean Court remains to be seen and will presumably depend on which league Bournemouth find themselves in next season. The departures of captain and vice-captain Francis and Daniels would leave something of a leadership void at the club, so it feels unlikely Howe would choose to dispense with both veterans at the end of the current campaign.
Of the two, Daniels’ long term injury – and the form of Diego Rico at left-back – appears to make him the more likely to leave.
While big-money flop Ibe and veteran goalkeeper Boruc seem certain to move onto pastures new, one player no-one wants to see leave the Cherries is star winger Fraser.
The flying Scotsman may not have hit the heights of last season during this campaign, but he is being courted by a host of bigger clubs and will surely move on – mostly likely to North London, with Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal both strongly linked with the 26-year-old in recent months.
Nathan Aké and Joshua King are the two contracted players expected to attract attention this summer. Chelsea declined to meet a £40million buy-back clause for Aké in January, but it would be foolish to rule out another top club making an approach for Bournemouth’s best centre-back.
Manchester United could look to bring King to the North West after a bid for the Norweigan was rebuffed in the previous window. Though there was a sense the Red Devils’ desperation for a striker was the driving force behind that offer – rather than the former United youngster being particularly high on Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s wish list.
One further issue to be resolved is the future of goalkeeper Mark Travers. The 20-year-old custodian burst onto the scene at the end of the 2018/19 campaign but was quickly usurped by fellow prospect Aaron Ramsdale during pre-season. With Ramsdale now firmly installed as the club’s No.1, will Travers be willing to warm the bench for much longer?
Key areas to strengthen
For a team that have struggled near the foot of the table, Bournemouth’s squad is in surprisingly good shape – provided they can retain their Premier League status. The biggest issue has been their incredible misfortune with injuries. Howe has been unable to name anything close to his preferred line-up for much of the campaign.
The Cherries have been investing in youth for the past couple of seasons. They have the second-youngest team in the top flight with the average age of their starting line-up just 25.6 years old. The focus will, therefore, be on developing youngsters Dominic Solanke, Arnaut Danjuma, Lewis Cook, Jack Stacey, Lloyd Kelly and Chris Mepham.
But they will have to do some business in the transfer market and may be in a better position to strengthen than a number of their competitors. Bournemouth generate just £5million from matchday revenue each year – that’s the lowest in the Premier League and a staggering £106million less than top team Manchester United. That lack of dependence on gate receipts could leave them in a good place relative to other teams if much of next season has to be played behind closed doors.
The statistics suggest the South Coast side could do with strengthening at both ends of the pitch in the summer. Bournemouth are in the bottom three for expected goals (31.16), expected goals against (53.38), touches in the box (13.84) and shots against per 90 (13.49).
Howe will hope Callum Wilson rediscovers his goalscoring form from last season to alleviate the team’s issues in attack, while the return to fitness of Kelly – a £13million signing from Bristol City who has missed the entire campaign with injury – could improve things at the back.
One area which definitely needs attention is out wide. David Brooks will be like a new signing and Danjuma may flourish if he enjoys a less stop-start season. But Fraser and Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson will need replacing if Bournemouth are to maintain their current level of creativity on the flanks.
There have been few noises emanating from Dean Court when it comes to incoming transfers, presumably because the club are fully focused on avoiding relegation before they turn their attention to the summer.
One thing we know is Howe enjoys shopping in the Championship. Stacey, Kelly, Mepham and Brooks all arrived from the second tier, so it would be unsurprising to see further signings from that level. Players 24 and under seem to be Bournemouth’s target age range, which could see the Cherries take an interest in talented Queens Park Rangers trio of Eberechi Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Ilias Chair.
Swansea City are also proving to be a hotbed of young prospects this season, with Joe Rodon and Connor Roberts both impressing at the back for the Swans. They would fit with the club’s recent recruitment strategy.
Howe also has a record of bringing in players from Liverpool – from Wilson and Solanke to Ibe and Nathaniel Clyne. He may well return to Anfield during the next transfer window, with young midfielder Curtis Jones looking like a player who could benefit from a loan spell on the South Coast.