Talking Tactics

Iraola's vision starting to shine at Bournemouth

By Adrian Clarke 1 Dec 2023
AFC Bournemouth-Talking Tactics

Adrian Clarke analyses why Cherries are in a good run of form ahead of the visit of Aston Villa

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 14.

AFC Bournemouth 

With three wins in their last four Premier League matches, it feels as if AFC Bournemouth are beginning to click under the guidance of head coach Andoni Iraola.

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Their most recent victories, a 3-1 win at Sheffield United and a 2-0 home triumph against a depleted Newcastle United, were especially impressive and have earned Iraola a nomination for the Barclays Manager of the Month for November.

The Cherries are performing with aggression, confidence and positive intent, and have provided optimism they are ready for attack to be their best form of defence in the coming months.

As the numbers below outline, Bournemouth outplayed their last two opponents, registering season bests for expected goals (xG), shots inside the box and expected goals against (xGA).

Assertive & attack-minded
Highest xG Most shots in box
Sheff Utd (A) 2.86 Sheff Utd (A) 16
Newcastle (H) 2.46 Newcastle (H) 15
Brentford (A) 2.09 Brentford (A) 10
Lowest xGA Shots faced
Newcastle (H) 0.49 Burnley (H) 6
Sheff Utd (A) 0.78 Newcastle (H) 8
Burnley (H) 0.83 Sheff Utd (A) 10

Iraola’s men ran out comfortable winners, taking forceful control of those matches.

In their 2-1 comeback win at home to Burnley they also limited the visitors to only six shots, another campaign best.

Learning new methods

Iraola’s players struggled to get the balance right earlier on this season.

They pressed hard but made positional errors, both individually and collectively, because they were still learning about the finer details of what their new head coach wanted.

This exposed an overworked defence.

Across their opening four matches, Bournemouth faced an average of 20 shots per 90 minutes, but they have made marked improvements since.

Step by step they are learning Iraola’s way, and there are tangible signs of improvement.

Tactically more comfortable, they are defending better as a unit.

While they did face 21 shots in a heavy defeat at Manchester City, the Cherries’ three wins had opponents average only eight shots apiece.

Matchweeks Shots faced/ 90
1-4 20.0
5-9 17.6
10-13 11.25
Fitter & stronger

To the naked eye Bournemouth have also looked more energised, and the data proves this to be the case.

The team has covered an extra 2.5km per match in their latest block of four fixtures, compared with their average across the first nine matches.

Making more off the ball runs, with greater intensity, they are pressurising opponents in an effective way.

Iraola has a group who are mentally and physically sharp enough to execute his brand of high-intensity football.

Bournemouth’s greater intensity
  MW1-9 MW10-13
Distance run (km) 110.6 113.1
Pressures 191.7 205.5
Off-ball runs 145.7 149.3
Off-ball runs into box 34.4 37.8

This added layer of physicality has certainly made them tougher to play against.

Able to get closer to opponents, Bournemouth are winning far more duels and tackles.

This controlled aggression has put them on the front foot.

Bournemouth aggression in 2023/24
Most duels won Most tackles won
Sheff Utd (A) 64 Newcastle (H) 18
Burnley (H) 62 Burnley (H) 16
Everton (A) 61 Wolves (H) 12
Villa must shackle wing duo

Attacking midfielders Marcus Tavernier and Antoine Semenyo are in superb form heading into Sunday’s match at home to Aston Villa.

Semenyo scored from a wonderful turnover he created against Burnley, and the Ghanaian has been brimming with confidence ever since.


It was also the 23-year-old’s driving run and incisive pass that set up Tavernier for the Cherries’ crucial opener at Sheff Utd.

Semenyo pass to Tavernier v Sheff Utd

And Tavernier, one of the division’s most effective dribblers, scored a brace at Bramall Lane.

Playing out wide but always looking to carry the ball inside at pace, Semenyo and Tavernier could be tempo setters for Bournemouth this weekend.

Handling their skill and directness will be a priority for Unai Emery’s side. 

Also in this series

Part 1: How Ederson can help Man City overcome Spurs' high press
Part 2: Can Onana and Maguire stand up to Newcastle test?
Part 4: Why Van Hecke can fill leadership void in Dunk's absence

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