Brad Smith among Eddie Howe's unconvincing signings at Bournemouth

One way of describing Bournemouth's transfer dealings this summer? Dangerous.

The Cherries have signed six players who've played just 313 professional club games between them and have a combined average age of just over 20. There's excitement and enthusiasm, but no denying there's apprehension surrounding the season ahead.

The latest player to arrive on the south coast is 22-year-old defender Brad Smith, signing from Liverpool for a reported £6 million. He made his first Premier League start against Bournemouth in April and clearly impressed Eddie Howe in Liverpool's 2-0 win. However, he's unproven at this level and is not going to bring much to the squad in terms of useful experience. He's likely to slot in at left-back with suggestions Tyrone Mings will take up a central position -- another high-risk move considering the former Ipswich man missed last season through injury.

Club chief executive Neill Blake referred to Smith as "yet another promising prospect," and described the current squad as "progressive." Hardly the most reassuring comments for supporters when looking to secure survival for a second season running. The odd tried-and-tested Premier League veteran wouldn't go amiss.

However, Smith's arrival does start to address Bournemouth's thin defence which is pleasing. Howe's activity in the transfer market has also displayed authority, filling fans with confidence he knows what he's doing. But even so, the lack of prestige these players arrive with leaves doubts. The new trio of Lewis Cook, Lys Mousset and Emerson Hyndman do not have the requisite experience.

The Cherries are at risk of becoming a finishing school for promising youth. Once Jordon Ibe and co. blossom into valuable players at the Vitality Stadium, they'll inevitably be picked off by bigger clubs. The south coast side should be looking to become more than just a honing ground. The reported buy-back clauses in Ibe and Smith's contract only proves this -- the players may not stick around. It's all well and good developing young players for future, but if they're not planning on staying, what's the point?

Letting club captain Tommy Elphick and key man Matt Ritchie sign for Championship sides doesn't particularly reflect well on the club's staying power either. Youth development is essential to Premier League stability, but achieving a balance between older players and young talent is absolutely vital to the here and now. On paper, Howe doesn't have this balance yet.

One player who is definitely unlikely to stick around is Nathan Ake. He's on a season-long loan from Chelsea and after spending last year away at Watford, the 21-year-old must really be looking at this as his defining season. The Netherlands' under-21 international will be desperate to impress for Bournemouth to prove to Chelsea boss Antonio Conte he's worth it, but it's exactly the sort of signing the Cherries should be looking to avoid if they want to continue being ambitious. Bringing in loan players is not a feature of top-level clubs, especially when it's relatively untested talent.

Despite this array of unconvincing signings, it's still difficult to properly question Howe's transfer policy after all the success he's brought to Bournemouth. His plan has always been to develop young prospects and it's got the team where they are today.

However, there comes a time when a club must reassess in order to keep progressing. You can't help but feel that time is now, and that the club should be looking up rather than down for all their new players.

Sylvain Distin, Artur Boruc and Juan Iturbe added a helpful gloss to the Championship side last summer but Howe has opted for more low-key signings this time. It's an eyebrow-raising strategy, especially when newly promoted Middlesbrough have managed to bring in Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes.

Even with these reservations, supporters are still comfortable putting their complete faith in the manager's strategy, but his reputation will be tested like never before this season. Only time will tell whether this transfer approach is the right one.

Howe's track record would suggest so, but it's not perfect. Cautious optimism is definitely the feeling along the south coast as they approach the season's opener against Manchester United.