Jordon Ibe: How it all went wrong for the £15m Bournemouth star
By Matthew Jackson (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Would it be better to be the little fish in a big pond with low expectations or the big fish in the little pond with all the pressure on your shoulders? Jordon Ibe has already experienced both scenarios in his young career; and has failed twice.
At Liverpool, the 23-year-old fell under the weight of expectations from supporters who tipped him to surpass Raheem Sterling. At Bournemouth, he’s failing to live up to his £15m price tag and, by his own admission, hasn’t worked hard enough to earn a starting place in the side.
So, how did it all go wrong for Ibe?
Failed to realise potential at Liverpool
Ibe joined Liverpool as a 16-year-old from Wycombe Wanderers in January 2012. The winger was the youngest scorer for Wycombe for more than 20 years and had impressively made 11 appearances prior to his departure. As per BBC Sport, former manager Gary Waddock was tipping Ibe to “play at the highest level” when he was just 15, so the winger had big expectations to meet.
He struggled for playing time initially, making only two appearances in his first 18 months at Liverpool and being loaned out to Birmingham City (11 appearances, 1 goal, 1 assist) between February 2014 and May 2014. Ibe was loaned out to Derby (24 appearances, 5 goals) the following season but found some form at the iPro and forced Liverpool to recall him early in January 2015.
The winger was thrown straight into the side and showcased his ability in beating his opponents with pace while pulling defences out of position with his off-the-ball movement. He likes to come inside and fashion chances for himself, but just needed to polish his finishing. Ibe earned himself a contract extension at the end of the campaign and went into 2015/16 with the hope of being a first-team regular.
Raheem Sterling was sold that summer and fans placed a lot of pressure on Ibe to be his replacement. Such expectation may have weighed heavily on the winger, but a mid-season managerial change also affected the trajectory of his career – Brendan Rodgers had a lot of faith in his ability, but Jurgen Klopp ran out of patience when his form dipped.
Ibe made 41 appearances in 2015/16 but was either substituted on or substituted off on 33 occasions. His goal output was an issue too, with the winger scoring just four times across the board. He was brilliant at taking on his opponent but lacked a good enough end product to make it count.
Klopp was getting more output from Adam Lallana (4 goals, 6 assists), Roberto Firmino (10 goals, 7 assists) and James Milner (5 goals, 11 assists) and was unwilling to hand the youngster more than second-half substitute appearances in games. Ibe then felt his chances of first-team football would be better off away from Liverpool and a move to Bournemouth ensued in the summer of 2016.
Lack of hard work and development at Bournemouth
Ibe quickly find out that being the big fish in a little pond brings its own pressure. He was the Cherries’ record signing at £15m and was expected to thrive under Eddie Howe’s attacking ethos. Unfortunately, Ibe’s end product never improved and he failed to score or make an assist in 25 league games for Bournemouth.
In the first-half of his debut season, he made 11 league starts but provided very little of a goal threat, so Ibe was frequently hooked in the second-half by Howe. The Cherries boss eventually lost his patience, however, and benched Ibe from mid-November onwards. He made only one more league start that season and racked up just 288 minutes of top-flight football after the turn of the year.
His second season was an improvement, with teammate Asmir Begovic tipping him for an England callup in February 2018, but his end product remains Ibe’s biggest weakness. For a player that took 54 shots in the Premier League, scoring only two wasn’t good enough. Ibe hasn’t registered a shot on target in the league this campaign and finds himself out of the matchday squad for his troubles.
He can’t afford to flop at another club, so the hard work has to begin now to resurrect his career.