Full-backs, change of 8 and diagonal runs – how Bournemouth came from behind to beat Stoke


There will always be a certain moment in football and more broadly in life, where you will have to evolve to keep up with the times.

When Scott Parker took over, one of the first principles introduced pivoted to the role of his two wingers. The influence of Pep Guardiola was and remains palpable. Like the Manchester City boss, Parker wanted his wide players to be perpetually tall and wide in possession.

With both flanks stretched, he then allowed two fixed number 8s in a 4-3-3 form. The pair operated almost exclusively and tirelessly in their assigned channels.

The school of thought became if you were left handed you would play on the left channel and vice versa. Players staying in defined form helped maintain structural balance and, therefore, the kind of control Parker needs.

READ MORE: From ecstasy to ecstasy – Scott Parker now knows Bournemouth’s shared desperation for success

But modern coaching is often underpinned by how far you stay on the curve. Abundant amounts of data and analytics mean opposing parties now have more leeway to learn the intricacies of your methods. Unless you are indeed Manchester City, or one of the prominent teams in Europe, chances are they will get to it sooner rather than later.

In all fairness, Bournemouth have been slow to evolve. Successful teams all followed similar plans. They were breaking their rhythm, feeding on flume balls and isolating Dominic Solanke’s lone striker, knowing both wingers were inclined to stay in position and not provide closer support.

Yet the dramatic nature of the last two matches showed a new hardened spirit – aided by shrewd adjustments made by Parker, particularly in the second half of the matches.

Jamal Lowe celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1

As is standard with the Championship, the following points should be cautioned. They had luck on their side. Morgan Fox’s red card was undoubtedly severe. And, on another day, Stoke would have taken a point thanks to one of their penalty death cries.

Nevertheless, Bournemouth have now won a third of their games by conceding the first. Finding their punch resistance is an essential trait for any team winning a promotion. This is how they made their last edition.

Switch number 8s

As previously stated, Parker’s original setup was based on players playing on the side of their stronger foot. In the first half here they did just that.

Todd Cantwell would fall into the space of a traditional right-back, while Adam Smith occupied slightly more forward areas. But while it was 11v11 and Stoke had moved to five backs – having played with four backs in the past six games – providing success through their full-backs, Cantwell put on a frustrated figure.

He was receiving the ball in ineffective areas and the visitor’s incremental press, where they gradually moved up the pitch before applying pressure on the first touch from either Smith or Zemura, was very productive.

Cantwell was receiving the ball too deep and in areas where Stoke was pressing

Indeed, Stoke was happy to let the ball go wide; Zemura has recorded the most assists of any player (79). As soon as he went to the Zimbabwe international or Cantwell (acting as right-back) they pressed. This was exemplified by Cantwell’s cheap gift in central midfield, which led to Stoke tearing Bournemouth’s spine and forcing Mark Travers into a fingertip save.

At halftime, Parker decided it was time to deviate from the prototype. He changed Cantwell right-footed to the left and Philip Billing left-footed to the right.

Switching the two 8 roles allowed Cantwell and Billing to take positions and the ball on their stronger side

This allowed a distinct game pattern to emerge. Cantwell was now in the channel of his weaker foot. This, in turn, encouraged him to pick up pockets of space high and inside the pitch, with his natural tendency to want to cut on his favorite boot at his most auspicious.

Parker knew that and on the break gave him a role model. He told him to stay disciplined in the inside channel and the final third, acknowledging Billing’s run. The Dane’s change, meanwhile, was to bring him closer to Solanke and practically play the role of a second striker. This caused him to make late runs into the box from Cantwell’s crosses.

The first precursor to the tweak came just after the break, when Cantwell collects the ball down the left and looks to cross

Billing, who made a late run, comes in at the end of Cantwell’s cross but his header hits the bar

“Good point,” replied Parker, when DorsetLive noted the change later. “In the second half we switched sides. I tried to get Todd in on his right foot to cross the ball and shoot. It was the same with Phil. I felt if Todd could get in on his right foot and work the ball out to the sides with Phil running in the box, that might work.

“Phil nearly scored (example above) with a header from that.”

By the end of the match, Cantwell attempted 10 crosses (the next best was Siriki Dembele, who had six less) and managed to find a red and black striped shirt on four occasions. It was a clear instruction which the Norwich City loanee executed extremely well, culminating with his cross which led to Solanke’s equaliser.

Wingers step out of line

From the explanations above, we know the advantages of wingers maintaining their natural width. Against a team defending in medium-to-low block with compact back-to-front distance, however, those potential merits diminish. Wingers tend to be space-constrained and rather inefficient.

But every decision a coach makes has a consequence and several repercussions. Moving a winger inside means the full-back needs to provide the width. And it could lead to opposition teams achieving greater transition success as full-backs are no longer able to stop incipient attacks.

In short, it’s not as simple as telling a player to do one thing. Instead, it’s like telling the builder upstairs in your house to cut a hole in the bathroom floor – without consultation, the builder downstairs may have something to say about it. .

Parker got it. As the Stoke midfield grew increasingly tired, he decided to overload the central areas. Dembele and Lowe have been moved inside Stoke’s full-backs. Smith, Zemura and especially after his arrival Ethan Laird were tasked with driving to the line and putting in crosses.

This meant that Dembele and Lowe were now in better goalscoring positions and their allocations had changed. Their function was no longer to provide width and delivery in the box. Now it was time to score.

Note Lowe’s starting run, who makes the decision to move inside Stoke’s backline – this becomes a third man run, rather than maintaining an outside position

Parker detailed this particular setting for Dorset live.

“I moved Dembele inside the pitch to try to create problems. I swapped Jamal to the left side, so he could come in on his right foot to try and open the goal. He had a big chance before scoring. So it worked.”

Cantwell in the left pocket (as shown) starts the move with five Bournemouth shirts overloading Stoke’s three. Solanke, as Parker demanded throughout the game, stays out of the way and in the right channel.

After staying out of play, Solanke begins his move towards the near post. There are now six red and black jerseys running straight for the goal

Full-backs turned wingers

In fact, the process followed a similar pattern to that of Blackpool. While it was Jaidon Anthony who masked himself as a moonlit right-back but ended up playing as a hard-core winger, this time it was Laird. His arrival saw Siriki Dembele move into a number 10 position and Lowe, who is better suited on the left and with a close focal point, making runs off the touchline.

This space carved out in large areas. Shortly after Laird’s introduction, Parker called Zemura. He asked the left-back to take a starting position to that of Jamal Lowe. By this point, Stoke’s counter-attacking threat had diminished so much that Chris Mepham was locking onto Joe Allen to attack the throw-ins. Their threat was minimal.

Laird and Zemura’s function had changed. They had assumed the roles of wingers.

This, of course, came to the fore for the purpose of the first. Zemura was already so high (practically on Stoke’s baseline) that he could cross from an increasingly dangerous position.

Bournemouth have picked up 12 points from 12 available and given the stage of the season they are in, this is an unequivocal form of promotion. It’s a race where they’ve been largely flawed and fragile. Although throughout they remained tactically astute and were able to make up for most shortcomings.

They wanted to control the games when Parker took over. Now they want to control the emotion of the games. This was done by fixing the shortcomings at certain times and then knowing the appropriate time to implement those changes.

It’s up to the rest of the championship to stop them, once again.

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