After spending Bournemouth’s first Premier League campaign on loan at Ipswich Town, Ryan Fraser has been almost like a new signing for Eddie Howe’s side this season.
In truth, he’s probably gone a little under the radar, as have the Cherries in general, but ranking third throughout the squad for assists and sixth for goals in the Premier League despite clocking up only the tenth-most minutes, the pint-sized Scot has made crucial contributions throughout the campaign, not least including goals against Liverpool and Arsenal and two assists in his last three appearances as Bournemouth have steadily solidified their standing in mid-table.
Measuring in at just 5 foot 4, you’ll struggle to find a shorter player in the Premier League this season. But the 23-year-old has used his modest stature to his advantage; he’s an anxious, busy little player able to make delicate turns in tight areas and keep his body close to the ball; whilst ensuring he hasn’t been out-muscled physically, actually winning 57% of his duels (shoulder-to-shoulders, tackle attempts and aerial duels) this season.
Three goals and four assists is a decent return for a bit-part midfielder in a mid-table side and in terms of contributions from the bench, Fraser is up there with the Premier League’s best this term, playing a hand in three goals from eight substitute outings. But football is about far more than just output and it’s the youngster’s tricky style that truly stands out, particularly when running with the ball at his feet. He always looks to drive at the defence in central areas which, as you can see from the high number of free kicks he wins per ninety minutes, commits defenders and forces them to make fouls.
In terms of where that could take Fraser, Arsenal and Liverpool particularly stand out. Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp both like jinking players who can pick up space between the lines or drive on the counter and on both fronts, the former Aberdeen ace fits the bill.
Likewise, Transfermarkt value him at just £1.7million and although Bournemouth will feel they can demand considerably more, especially considering Fraser has three years left on his contract, it does highlight how he’s a substantially cheaper alternative amid an era of over-inflated price-tags for British players.
Is Fraser the finished article just yet? Perhaps not. Although he’s been dispossessed and committed an unsuccessful touch less than once per match this season, a lack of experience in the Premier League, with just 26 appearances to date, would undoubtedly cost him at top level.
But important goals against big teams, the ability to change the game from the bench and exceptional talent when running with the ball at feet are all the hallmarks of a top player in the making. Arsenal and Liverpool would be wise to act before Fraser’s progress in the top flight is noticed by some of their divisional rivals.