Talking Tactics

Cherries pair can combine to stop Man Utd

By Adrian Clarke 1 Nov 2018
Lewis Cook-Jefferson Lerma composite

Adrian Clarke looks at the success of AFC Bournemouth's new midfield pairing of Lewis Cook and Jefferson Lerma

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AFC Bournemouth v Man Utd

Eddie Howe’s new central midfield unit hold the key to AFC Bournemouth’s hopes of beating Manchester United this weekend.

The Cherries began the season with Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman as the first-choice midfield pairing.

However, across the last four unbeaten Premier League fixtures, Howe has settled on a combination of Jefferson Lerma and Lewis Cook.

These two are technically excellent, defensively strong and brimming with energy, and Cook has played a significant role in the team's three successive clean sheets.

In the midfield pair's four league outings together, AFC Bournemouth have scored nine times and conceded just once.  

A Colombian colossus

Signed from Levante in the summer, Lerma has made a big difference to the substance of Howe’s side.

The 24-year-old's physicality has added a new dimension to the team.

Marrying those traits with the athleticism and the distribution skills his manager demands, the Colombian looks an ideal fit.

Lerma challenging PL's best

Naturally defensive, Lerma has protected the Cherries’ back line consistently.

Indeed, as a ball-winner there is a strong argument to suggest Lerma is the Premier League’s best.

When you compare the times he wins possession inside the middle third with the division’s top exponents, Lerma stands out as the pick of the bunch.

Premier League’s best ball-winners
2018/19  Poss. won middle third Mins Mins/poss. won
Capoue 49 900 18.4
Ndidi 48 900 18.8
Doucoure 47 900 19.1
Wijnaldum 42 835 19.9
Neves 41 900 21.9
Lerma 41 616 15.0
Moutinho 41 885 21.6
Zest and composure

Howe has always been brave enough to start with two men in central midfield, even if it means they are outnumbered.

To make this work within a 4-4-2 or a 3-4-3, his chosen systems this term, the manager is reliant on a pair having a rounded skill set.

Lerma and Cook fit that mould, but they are not identikit players.

Cook is a busy player who looks after the ball well with neat and tidy passing. He can also beat opponents with the ball at his feet.

Lerma is more of a destructive, powerful presence with a sound passing technique.

When defending set-pieces he is an asset, too, clearing danger on a frequent basis. 

What Cook and Lerma bring
2018/19 Cook Lerma
Passes/90 50.5 54.5
Pass accuracy 82.1% 82.6%
Ball recoveries/90 7.6 9.1
Clearances/90 0.25 3.5
Blocks/90 0.25 1.2
Interceptions/90 0.74 1.75
Perfect partners

Lerma and Cook complement one another in and out of possession.

They have laid a firm platform for AFC Bournemouth to play on the front foot with their ability to dictate and dominate the middle of the park in recent weeks.

The visit of Man Utd will undoubtedly be their stiffest test to date, but Jose Mourinho’s men will have to be on top of their game to hold the upper hand.

Up against this on-song duo, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba will not find it easy to stamp their authority on proceedings.

Also in this series

Part 1: Traore and Cavaleiro can give Wolves cutting edge
Part 2: Calm Holding can put brakes on Liverpool
Part 4: Jokanovic needs more bite from midfield

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