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Tactical Analysis

Tactical Analysis | West Ham 3-4 Bournemouth: Cherries dominate with wide overloads

Premier league new boys AFC Bournemouth picked up their first ever top flight win in a 7 goal thriller at Upton Park. The game was characterised by drastic swings of momentum for both sides, though on the overall balance of play, Bournemouth certainly deserved to win the match and were rewarded for their refreshing attacking bravery.


Line Ups

West Ham Bournemouth_FORMATION 1

West Ham (4-4-2 diamond): 1.Randolph // 12. Jenkinson, 2. Reid, 21. Ogbonna, 3. Cresswell // 14. Obiang, 16. Noble, 8. Kouyate, 27. Payet // 4. Nolan, 15. Sakho

AFC Bournemouth (4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1):  1. Boruc // 2. Francis, 5. Elphick, 3. Cook, 11. Daniels // 30. Ritchie, 32. O’Kane, 6. Surman, 10. Gradel // 17. King, 13. Wilson

Substitutions: Tomkins for Ogbonna (‘35) Jarvis for Nolan (‘45) Maiga for Sakho (‘73)

Pugh for King (’51) Gosling for Gradel (‘85) Smith for Ritchie (‘90+4)

Bournemouth’s wide orientation


As the image above shows (Bournemouth in orange) 72% of Bournemouth’s attacks were in wide areas (this includes flanks and half spaces) which demonstrates their wide orientation in attack. Although Bournemouth generally attack by creating overloads in wide areas, the focus seemed particularly high on the day and this could have been to manipulate the narrowness of West Ham’s diamond midfield.

numerical formation match up

The formation match-ups above demonstrates that Bournemouth could easily create 3v2 advantages on both flanks if the full-backs could escape the attention of Sakho and Nolan. Also key to this was Wilson who needed to occupy the centre backs on either side to prevent them creating numerical equality in the wide areas.

The role of O’Kane and Surman was to aid the horizontal circulation of the ball by supporting the man in possession. When the ball is in wide areas they remained behind the ball to provide connection to the centre and other flank if needed. This was a major problem for Bournemouth in their unfortunate loss at Anfield which was exacerbated by their wide men’s general failure to beat full-backs in 1v1 duels. However there was no such problem in this game for them as Francis and Daniels in particular managed to ghost to the by-line unmarked a number of times.

Bournemouth frequently overloaded the flanks with the near-side winger, full-back, central midfielder (at the base) and at times Josh King. As the attacking 3rd pass map shows there was a high concentration of passes to, from and through the right half space. On the left side the focus was slightly different with most passes taking place on the flank. West Ham’s biggest issue was an inability to track runners (mostly Daniels and Francis) with any consistency. Furthermore Bournemouth were effective at making options for cut-backs and low crosses when players got to the by-line. Below is a good example which should have led to a goal.

AFCB full-backs runs

Defensive Systems

AFCB mark Obiang

Bournemouth defended with zonal man-orientations in the midfield zone, the zone in which these man-orientations were active was in their own half. The forwards, King and Wilson had a key role to play in preventing the midfield from being overloaded against West Ham’s diamond (theoretically should have given West Ham a 4v2 advantage). From the off, Bournemouth managed to effectively disrupt West Ham’s build-up. At all times one of or even both King and Wilson used their cover shadows to prevent passes into Obiang. This meant Obiang had to drop out of his zone into the defensive line to get on the ball. However, this made West Ham lose connection to the midfield meaning they were forced to be more direct with their passing which helped Bournemouth regain possession frequently as these long passes were either over hit or easily headed away. O’Kane was instructed to mark Noble with Surman either marking or cover shadowing Kouyate with these marking assignments were only active in the central zone of the pitch. If their man dropped too deep (into their own half) or drifted too wide they would be left alone. This made Bournemouth’s defensive system far more difficult to disorganise than a full pitch man-marking system as they only built resistance in key areas whilst generally maintaining their shape. What it also did was diminish the threat of Payet who was forced to drop out of dangerous areas in order to exert some influence on the match as his supply from Obiang, Noble or Kouyate was effectively limited. Furthermore if West Ham’s attacks advanced deep into Bournemouth’s half, their system altered with Surman and O’Kane dropping to close the 10 space and King dropping to put pressure on the deep midfielder which was either Obiang or Noble.

However their defensive shape was not perfect and they often suffered from fairly poor vertical compactness between their midfield and defensive line. This was dangerous particularly with Payet in the number 10 position and West Ham found it relatively easy to slide passes into the ’10 space’. Bournemouth did well to defend these situations with their back-line collectively dropping to reduce through ball possibilities for West Ham’s attackers. However as the saying goes ‘an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure’, in this case meaning it is better to prevent passes into the ’10 space’ before thinking about reactive strategies to reduce its effectiveness.

West Ham demonstrated a number of serious defensive issues which transcended the individual mistakes that were evident in a number of the goals. Firstly their midfield line often lacked co-ordination and urgency in their ball-oriented shifts. As a result, Ritchie and Gradel were able to present themselves as vertical passing options easily as gaps appeared in their midfield line. With their quick horizontal circulation of the ball Bournemouth were easily able to create openings in the half spaces which they exploited through quick one-two combinations between wingers and full-backs on both sides (most notably on the right).

West Ham’s attempts at pressing were generally woeful, at times their block was positioned very high but without intense pressure on the ball. Their vertical distances were often too large making it relatively easy for Bournemouth to play through their lines of pressure. Instead of protecting their defence, as good pressing should do (think prevention not cure again), their pressing was at times hazardous and only succeeded in exposing their back line to the pace of Callum Wilson and Josh King who were always willing to make runs down both flanks. To compound these strategic flaws (which were both the first and main problem) Jenkinson and Cresswell made comical individual errors. Strategic issues combined with individual errors is quite simply a recipe for disaster and the four goals West Ham conceded was proof of this.

The image below is symptomatic of West Ham’s ineffective pressing attempts. Nolan and Sakho move to close down Francis but are not supported by the next line which leaves O’Kane free to drive forward into the large vacated space.

West Ham poor pressing

Second Half

West Ham long balls

West Ham improved immediately after the interval and it came as they seemingly embraced their directness, meaning they went long out of choice rather than necessity as in the 1st half. A feature of this was launching the ball towards a target, usually Kouyate (for obvious reasons) and surrounding the area with high numbers to give them a good chance of winning the 2nd ball. Through this method West Ham began to get into Bournemouth’s final 3rd more regularly, forcing their opponents deeper, in turn reducing their counter-attacking opportunities which led to sustained pressure on Bournemouth’s defence. This direct approach paid dividends and within 8 minutes of the restart West Ham had scored twice to level the match at 2-2. As for Bournemouth a familiar problem reared its ugly head once again: their inability to defend set-pieces. In their three matches so far they have conceded from a set-piece in every match, an alarming statistic for Eddie Howe’s men. In this particular match, West Ham’s first two goals came from set-pieces (a free-kick and a long-throw) indirectly at first and then directly for Kouyate’s goal. In general their open-play defending was quite good in this game but the majority of West Ham’s attempts were from set-pieces (5 out of 9) and for Bournemouth to realise their potential in this league, Howe will need to iron out this issue.


Bournemouth finally secured the 3 points their performances thus far have deserved which was mainly due to their invention in the final 3rd. With a number of winnable fixtures coming up, Howe’s men will fancy their chances of picking up further morale boosting victories. In my opinion the final score line does not reflect the superiority Bournemouth enjoyed at Upton Park on Saturday and this is mainly due to their Achilles heel: defending set-pieces.

As far as West Ham are concerned, the optimism that surrounded their opening weekend victory at the Emirates has been dampened by consecutive home losses against teams they are expected to finish above. Bilic and his coaching staff will be concerned at the complete lack of invention they showed in attack, their reliance on long balls and set-pieces, their systematic defensive issues and the individual mistakes that contributed to the goals they conceded. In short there is much work to do for the Hammers but of course at this stage of the season there is more than enough time to work on these issues.

Written by Judah Davies

Judah Davies

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