Christian Atsu: How the Ghanaian winger can help AFC Bournemouth


AFC Bournemouth took home the Championship title this season behind big-time performances from the likes of Matt Ritchie, Callum Wilson, and Yann Kermorgant (he of the noteworthy bicycle kick), but the Cherries are obviously looking for more help in order to keep the positive momentum going in their first season in the Premier League. After signing Artur Boruc following a successful loan spell with the club (and his release from Southampton), Bournemouth have brought in Chelsea’s Christian Atsu on a loan.

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Chief executive Neil Blake certainly seems elated, as he called Atsu loan deal a “huge coup”. Not only does he have the name recognition of being a Chelsea player, but he was named the Player of the Tournament in this year’s African Cup of Nations, earning Goal of the Tournament honors as well for a scintillating strike against Guinea (one of two goals in that game).

Atsu’s wonder goal is a microcosm of what he’s capable of, but, unfortunately, he’s been an inconsistent player to this point in his career. It’s fair to wonder if Atsu is running out of chances to impress Chelsea or other more notable clubs, as he missed on a good opportunity to impress for Everton last season. The Toffees barely played him, but Atsu was not spectacular in his five appearances with the club. Despite his exceptional pace and skillful dribbling, the winger’s end product has been lacking, and his inability to produce crosses or consistent chances for teammates could be of concern.

This is the third time that Chelsea have loaned the Ghana international out, as he previously played for Vitesse in the Dutch Eredivise, scoring five goals that season. The stakes are pretty high for him, but it is worth noting that this will be the first time he’ll play in the same league in back-to-back seasons, so perhaps the continuity will help him (as will regular playing time).

Since Atsu has the ability to play as a CAM or winger, it will be interesting to see how Bournemouth uses him, but I prefer him as a winger. He has the potential to become a more consistent finisher and has that strike against Guinea to hang his hat on, but his main assets are pace and dribbling; those are best served out wide and could add another dimension to this team’s attack.

I hope the former FC Porto midfielder does well with his newest club, and hopefully Jose Mourinho and other managers will come away impressed with the 23-year-old. Christian Atsu has plenty of upside left to work with, but he just needs to develop some consistency. That’s still not a guarantee with the Cherries, though, since Atsu won’t even be guaranteed playing time with a team that just received its promotion into the first division. He should become a regular (Blake clearly sees major talent in him, as he called Atsu a “huge coup”, after all), though, and I’m hopeful that we’ll see him on the wing.

It’s hard not to feel for Atsu after he was unable to get a real shake at Everton last season, and we can only hope that this loan spell ends up in him receiving considerably more playing time. He’s an exciting player to watch at times, and there’s a good chance he can prove himself this upcoming season.

Blake has every reason to be full of praise, and I couldn’t help but notice that adjective “exciting” was used quite a bit in Blake’s quotes; he’s ready to see manager Eddie Howe tap into Atsu’s electric playing style. I’m sure he’s also being more than just a bit purposefully hyperbolic, but the opportunity is clearly there for Atsu to take and run with.

Additionally, Blake added that the club had to get him on loan over competition from other teams in the league, and that is another piece of evidence that Bournemouth could give Atsu a featured role if he shows well in the lead-up to the start of the next season.

Chelsea will be watching closely, though the writing may already be on the wall for him at Stamford Bridge, and if Atsu’s performances for Ghana this year are any indication, he can turn a spark into something more.

The problem is that he could very easily be a flash-in-the-plan player who can provide pace and energy, but little in the form of chances created or any real end product. But even if he fails to consistently produce, at least he can be a quality bench option due to his pace and energy; it’s just that Bournemouth are expecting more than that from him, especially since we’ve seen glimpses of something special during some of his appearances with the national team.

He’ll probably never catch on at Chelsea, but consider this loan deal an audition for a transfer to a solid club (perhaps even a permanent deal with the Cherries if all goes well in his attempt at a breakout campaign) and more stable situation than endless loan deals to teams of various shapes and sizes.

Atsu joins former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Joshua King as another notable addition to the squad for the 2015-16 season.

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