Battling Bournemouths new blood

After consecutive 1-0 losses to Aston Villa and Liverpool, Bournemouth bounced back with an enthralling 4-3 win against West Ham, defying the odds yet again. I have tipped the Cherries to stay up this season, unlike many pundits and football fans across the country. Bournemouth don’t have the financial firepower or the talent most teams have, but they have a young, budding manager in Eddie Howe who is highly regarded by myself and many others. By analysing their performance in their first win of the season, I’m going to analyse where they need to improve to win more games and what they’re doing well, as they have brought new blood and a fresh approach to the league.

To pick up points in this league, you need a sturdy defence. Bourmemouth need to work on their defence, as I noticed few areas that sounded my alarm bells in their 4-3 win over West Ham. The first area I picked up on was their set piece uncertainty. Concededing from set pieces is a giant killer, and it filters out the best teams from the worst. Bournemouth seemed unorganised against West Ham, and they kept on getting in each other’s way. Eddie Howe operates a man marking system, but he doesn’t have the ideal personnel to handle some of the physical players, and this showed as one of the more physical teams in the league bullied the Cherries from corners, free kicks and long throw ins.

The following picture shows a West Ham corner where man marking is being used by Bournemouth, with everyone in maroon and blue picked up by a defender. This system is simpler than zonal marking, as it ensures everyone is picked up and no one should be left unmarked. The downside to this system is that a lot of space is left in the box, the attacking players can exploit and beat weaker defenders and players can loose their markers through good movement easier. At this corner, 6 Bournemouth defenders have picked up a West Ham player (circled in black), and 4 players (circled in red) don’t have a man. Bournemouths number 32 (O’Kane) and number 30 (Ritchie) have jobs already, but I feel number 17 (King) shouldn’t be in the 6 yard box, he should be outside the area waiting to start a counter attack, giving the players who aren’t attacking the corner something to worry about. GradeL (Bournemouths number 10)  doesn’t have a man but is in an ideal position to deal with the West Ham player loitering on the edge of the area. Teams similar to West Ham in terms of physical presence, like Stoke and Crystal Palace will cause Bourenmouth problems if they continue to use man marking. To cover up what Bournemouth lack in physical presence, I think a switch to zonal marking would be beneficial. The reason I am suggesting this game is because Callum Wilson (number 13) is a striker man marking Sakho, and many people would bet on Sakho winning an attacking header against Wilson.


Eddie Howe likes to play a 4-4-2 formation, which provides attacking, direct, forward thinking football, but it also leaves a lot of space for opposition to work with. As the following picture shows, there is no “shield” in front of the back four, so there is no protection, leaving the central defenders exposed and more likely to get dragged out of position. Howe likes to play with an attacking style when he gets the chance, and it shows as Bournemouth conceded 3 against West Ham.

This next picture shows West Ham on the attack, with 4 players in too much space, leaving the back four very exposed. The 2 central midfielders should be challenging for the ball, making life difficult for Sakho and Payet. They should be protecting their centre backs, not giving players like Payet and Sakho time to think and turn, running at the defence. We can see a short distance between the 2 CBs, but the RB has jumped out, giving West Ham a way in behind the defence. West ham easily played between the lines due the lack of an enforcer in Bournemouth’s midfield and it did cause the Cherries a lot of problems. At this level, you cannot allow so much space in between the two “trenches” of four, and in the 4-4-2 system, it is essential for the two fours to be in line with each other, spread out equally and adjusting the how compact or wide the “trench” is depending on the opponents tactics.

The next picture also shows how much space there is to exploit when one player breaks their line, and in this case it resulted in a one-on-one with the keeper, which Maiga scored. There are 4 players surrounding the West Ham striker, and one of them should really win the ball. Maiga went through the defence like a knife through butter, Bournemouth need to stay focused at all times as goals can come from nothing in this league.

Despite their defensive lapses, Bournemouth provided the most entertaining and exciting attacking football I’ve seen in a long time. They remind me of Leicester and the way they directed so many forward runs from their midfield. The thing that has impressed me most about Bournemouth so far is their speed and energy, this means that their transition from defence to attack is very quick. This quick transition speed catches a lot of teams out and certainly caught West Ham out for 3 of the 4 goals that Bournemouth scored, with the West Ham defenders often sluggish and caught off guard.

The following  picture shows Bournemouth starting with the ball in their own half, and Surman (player on the ball to start with) driving forward into the West Ham defence. The reason he only had one challenge on him for the ball is because Bournemouth have started to send 3 men forward to support Surman, so all the defenders are pre occupied marking their man. Gradel splits to the left, Pugh stays down the middle and Wilsom splits right with their runs, so Surmam has 4 options he can make. West Ham look disjointed and are back pedalling by the time Surman reaches the area, giving him time to make a decision. This is the exact direct, counter attacking play I am referring to, the defence can’t deal with how quickly Bournemouth have changed into attack, with so many forward runs giving  the defence fits.

Along with their direct counter attacking style vs West Ham, I also picked up on how many men they put in he area in open play from crosses and other attacks when going into the area.. This is similar to the point I made on the last picture, with how many men Bournemouth put forward. As they play 4-4-2, the 2 strikers are regularly making runs in behind the defence and keeping the 2 CBs occupied. The other thing I picked up on is that unless they have the ball, they wide midfielders are almost inverted forwards with they way that they are regularly coming inside making runs, not hugging their touch line. The wide midfielders offer extra options in the box, giving the strikers more room to work with. This photo is just before Bournemouths first goal, when Wilson fired home from 6 yards by making a clever run in front of the defender. There are 4 or 5 options for the RB to take, with the wide players Gradel (back post run) and Ritchie (edge of the area) pushing high up the pitch, inside and in between the midfielders and defenders. By stacking men into the box, it gives the strikers more room and more options they can take in terms of making runs.

With the 4-4-2 system Howe plays, a high pressing tactic is used, this is something I was really impressed with on Saturday, as it brought Bournemouth two goals. The way they hassled the West Ham defence and the way they closed down the early stages of attacks was particularly impressive, not allowing any time on the ball for the West Ham players. The high pressing system works really well with two strikers, as they support each other closing down the options really quickly. Howe utilitiesed two pacey strikers in King and Wilson, with Gradel often supporting the two pressing highly.  Under Bilic, West Ham are trying to play a more attractive style of football, so they like to build their play up slowly from the back. Bournemouth restricted West Hams ability to play from the back as they gave them no time on the ball whatsoever. On the following picture, we see 6 Bournemouth hassling the West Ham defence and forcing Cresswell into a mistake, which Wilson takes advantage of with his second goal. By using this high pressing scheme, it forces mistakes and limits possession, not letting West sham control the game and move the ball around.

The picuture above shows Max Gradel closing down Carl Jenkinson with immense speed, it was a prime example of the energy and buzz Bournemouth had about them against the Hammers, forcing mistakes and limiting space for the defenders, rushing decisions and flying all over the pitch.

I really believe in Eddie Howe as a manager and I believe Bournemouth will stay up this year, contrary to many peoples beliefs. Their energetic 4-4-2 where the wingers have an amazing work rate and discipline, hugging the touch line to drag the defence out but making inverted runs to keep them on their toes, moving the full backs around but making the CBs aware of their presence too. And with 2 pacey strikers making runs and working in a tandem to pressure the ball, The Cherries can really cause some upsets and ruffle some feathers this season.

Nathan Sweeney.


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