Watford and Bournemouth, two of the Premier League’s overachievers so far this season, go head-to-head on Saturday at Vicarage Road for a fixture which could see either side move into the top-four with a victory.
It’s certainly too early in the season to be making concrete judgements on how the table will look in May, but the promising form of both Watford and Bournemouth suggests that both clubs possess the necessary tools to steer well clear of a relegation battle.
Ahead of the weekend fixture it’s an appropriate time to look at some of the signings which both clubs have made in their bid to establish themselves in the top-flight.
In recent years Chelsea have consistently used their academy as a money making machine rather than as a hunting ground for the next generation of talent, and their willingness to offload both Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake served to legitimise that notion.
Both players showed immense promise throughout their development at youth level, but who has blossomed into the better player since leaving Stamford Bridge?
A few eyebrows were raised when Bournemouth decided to part with £20 million to secure Ake’s services in 2017 after an inconclusive loan spell on the south coast, but he has thoroughly justified his price-tag since completing a permanent switch.
Although he predominantly played at full-back as a youth player, Ake has cemented a place in central defence under Eddie Howe and he looks the real deal in that position.
Not only is Ake an intelligent defender with a natural ability to anticipate proceedings and distribute effectively into his forward-thinking teammates, he can be a nuisance in the opponents penalty area.
The Netherlands international scored 2 and provided 3 assists last season and, with a goal already to his name this season, his attacking instincts from playing at full-back continue to manifest themselves in his performances – even at centre-back.
£20 million was a huge sum for Bournemouth to part with but he already looks excellent value with plenty more to come from the 23-year-old.
TT Grade: A
Watford signed Chalobah for a modest £6 million in July 2017, but he has become something of a forgotten man at Vicarage Road.
His debut season was tarnished by a knee injury which restricted him to just 5 starts in the Premier League, and with competition from the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue it’s a long way back for the 23-year-old.
Javi Gracia left him as an unused substitute in Watford’s three most recent fixtures and, barring a major injury problem for either of his first-choice central midfielders, he will struggle to break back into the first-team.
It’s difficult to make a judgement on Chalobah due to his lack of opportunity to impress but at this moment in time it’s difficult to see a way back for him at Watford.
TT Grade: B-
That Nathan Ake has established himself as one of Bournemouth’s most important players since joining the club proves that they were wise to part with £20 million.
He has been an inspired signing and there’s no doubt that the Cherries signed the better of the two players from Chelsea in the 2017 summer window.
Chalobah may prove his doubters wrong in the future, but he’s a long way behind Ake right now.
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