Eddie Howe has made some great purchases during his two spells at AFC Bournemouth as manager. He has needed to find players to fill holes when the club could hardly field a team, let alone a full substitutes’ bench back in 2008-09.
And with transfer embargoes and limited funds, he has learnt to get by and to ask more of his players to fill different roles at times when injuries demanded. It’s a quality that is already being tested again this season.
In the transfer market, he has also been very shrewd. He’s had to be, as until recently he simply has not had the kind of financial clout to compete in the market and, even now, the task is no easier in the Premier League.
There’s no simple answer to who has been the most productive player that Eddie Howe has brought in, but I tend to favour a player who has been with the squad for just about the most time. Harry Arter was signed from Conference South side Woking in June 2010 and began his Cherries career with a yellow card and an early bath as he was taken off against Charlton Athletic. It is the full-blooded temperament though, and the winning desire, that makes Harry the player he is. He does not hold back and sometimes that has been his downfall, although there is no doubt that he has learnt to control himself better of late when he gets frustrated.
For a player to improve as much as the club has done, he is one of the rare few to have moved through the leagues with a single team. We can point also to Marc Pugh and Eunan O’Kane as well in the current squad that have been on a similar journey with the Cherries. It has been an amazing period and any club would have liked to have made such signings if other managers had known what a big difference these players have made. I pick Arter as the special ingredient though, as he was not the perfect player or the simple option to play at times, and yet Howe kept on at him to improve even if it meant a period when he went to Carlisle United – just about as far away from Bournemouth as you can get in the 92-club pyramid!
There have been other great buys Howe has made, like Matt Ritchie and Callum Wilson more recently, but many of the current players were still brought in during the Paul Groves and Shaun Brooks period which was far from successful. For that, Groves and the Bournemouth scouting system at the time deserves a lot of credit as they found the right kind of players, even if it did not work for the manager at that time. But on Howe’s return in October 2012, Tommy Elphick, Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels and Simon Francis formed a solid back four that still remains at the club to this day. There was also Lewis Grabban who came in that summer, before Eddie returned to the south coast.
Striker signings the manager has made like Michael Symes, Lyle Taylor and Tokelo Rantie have been a bit more difficult to get consistent performances from, and it has not been an easy route to the Premier League by any means. Yet, Howe has always been able to turn to the long-term players like Pugh and Arter, who have provided stability and a platform for success, while many have needed to move on.
To play in the different divisions of the Football League takes a certain mentality, a determination and intelligence, as well as skill and being able to adapt to different styles of football. It’s these intelligent footballers that grasp the tactics and systems that I believe are most effective for Eddie Howe, and in that respect it is very clear that Harry Arter is a leader. Other fans may argue that there are better players than After, but for value for money, I bet that the Cherries boss would like to uncover a few more Harry Arter’s out there if there are some to find. For the moment, I’m just looking forward to the midfielder’s return.
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