Howe has signed two exciting prospects – Jordon Ibe and Lewis Cook – from Liverpool and Leeds United respectively but admits they are still scouring the transfer market, with defensive reinforcements now a priority.
“We need a balanced squad, players that are fighting for every position, so I think it’s obvious there’s an area we need to improve,” said Howe, who has only one recognised central defender, Steve Cook, at his disposal following the sale of Tommy Elphick to Aston Villa. The Liverpool defender Brad Smith could join his former team-mate Ibe at the club after Bournemouth had a bid in the region of £6m accepted for the Australian over the weekend.
The winger Matt Ritchie joined Newcastle before Bournemouth recruited Ibe for a club-record £15m, after the England Under-21 player opted to end his four-and-a-half year association with Liverpool. Ibe scored his first Bournemouth goal in a 3-3 draw against Portsmouth in their second pre-season match on Saturday and Howe is hopeful the player can develop further and target a call-up to Sam Allardyce’s senior squad.
“That has to be his aim and that is certainly my aim – to take all of these boys to new levels,” said Howe. “If that means the national team then so be it but my only concern is getting them playing to their full potential for Bournemouth. I think the standard is probably the highest it’s been in a Bournemouth squad, it’s a really talented squad and now of course we have to get results.
“We have always traditionally brought in young talent, moulded them and worked with them and made them better. I am really excited by the group we have: it’s young, it’s dynamic and there’s a lot of potential for players to get better. We had a go last summer to try and make sure we could stay in the division. This summer we have sold a couple of key players but we’ve replaced them hopefully with players of huge potential. I think that is the beauty, from my perspective: to work with such young players and try to get the best out of them.”
The striker Callum Wilson, who signed a four-year contract with Bournemouth until 2020 in July to end speculation surrounding his future, believes the summer activity reflects the rapid progress made by the club.
“When I joined I think it was the record fee at £3m but now it’s been blown out of the water and it shows how far the club has come in two or three years,” said Wilson, who joined from Coventry City in 2014. Ibe became Howe’s fifth summer signing following the arrivals of Cook, the striker Lys Mousset from Le Havre and the midfield pair, Nathan Aké and Emerson Hyndman.
Wilson added: “The club has grown so much in a short space of time and it will continue to grow. Buying players like that [Ibe] is only going to add strength to the squad. He looks a good player and he looks really sharp. He is good to play with and is a good addition to the team.”
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