In January, AFC Bournemouth completed the signing of Chris Mepham from Championship side Brentford.
The Cherries had been chasing the Wales defender for well over a year and a deal was officially announced on 22nd January.
The fee, as always, was undisclosed but was widely reported to be in the region of £12million.
Despite the large outlay, over double the figure that AFC Bournemouth had tried to sign him for a year earlier, I don’t think any of us expected for Mepham to get straight into the first team fold, did we?
At that time the centre back options were Netherlands international Nathan Ake, often stand in captain Steve Cook and injury-ravaged Tyrone Mings.
AFC Bournemouth captain Simon Francis had just been ruled out with a knee injury for the next six to nine months.
However, despite being somewhat down the pecking order he made his debut as a late substitute in the 4-0 win over Chelsea just a week after signing and before February came to an end he was making his first Premier League start following the injury of Steve Cook and Mings making the loan move to Championship side Aston Villa.
Mepham told afcb.co.uk…
“…I certainly got my opportunity quicker than probably me and the gaffer thought I would but that happens in football. I was delighted I got the opportunity so early as it allowed me to get the game-time which is so valuable for me at such a young age.
“I’ve experienced the good side of winning and playing well and the not-so-good times. But at 21, it’s important to experience both because it will stand you in good stead going forward.
“When you lose 5-1 at Arsenal, you have to come away and see it as a learning experience. The following week we had Manchester City and they don’t come much harder than that.
“When you make mistakes or the team doesn’t deliver collectively, you need to see it as a learning opportunity and try to bounce back. There are probably more lows than highs in football so it’s important to deal with them…”
Mepham and Simpson (probable mainstays of our future defence) are big lads. But both known more for their comfort with the ball at their feet rather than their stout defending. Again this is all in the Eddie mould, reflecting his focus for our defenders to be the starting point for attacks. That’s how he looks at them, not as goal concession preventers, but as starters for potential goal scoring movements.
I feel this is one reason why Mings doesn’t (yet) quite fit because Mings wants to be a bruising defender first and foremost, you can see he enjoys getting in the opposition’s face. More so than thinking mostly about what passing triangle he can set up with the midfield.
Steve Cook over the years has transitioned slightly from a very attacking centre back into a generally more stout defender, happier than he used to be in the old fashioned basics. But he is who he is and you’ll never turn him into an old fashioned ‘kick and head everything into row Z’ type defender even if you wanted to.
Combine that with full backs who want to attack, and a midfield often out-numbered by the opposition who rarely play midfield twos these days, and it leaves us exposed. We could make systemic changes to help make us more solid if we wanted, but it would mean tweaking a few of Eddie’s favourite patterns of play. – Join the conversation, click here.