The final week of the EPL season saw an epic Super Sunday on the cards as the race for Champions League places and the relegation fight were very much still alive. AFC Bournemouth were in the thick of it and they travelled to Goodison Park to take on Everton in a game they had to win and hope West Ham beat Aston Villa to have a hope of surviving. Their last game saw them lose 2-0 at home to Southampton, in a game which made it extremely hard for them going into the last game. They haven’t hit their normal heights this season and will be disappointed with the season that they have obtained. It was all or nothing during this game and only a win would give them a prayer of making a great escape. Everton have also been extremely disappointing since the restart of the EPL, however, an impressive 1-0 away win at Sheffield United shows the quality that the squad possesses. Carlo Ancelotti will no doubt be looking to make changes when the transfer window opens, so for a lot of these Everton players, they were playing for their futures. An interesting game was on the horizon, where it was all on the line.

An excellent 3-1 away victory for AFC Bournemouth was not enough to keep them in the EPL, as Aston Villa managed to get a 1-1 draw at West Ham which saw them stay in the Premier League for another season. This game saw Bournemouth give one of their best performances of the season but it was still not enough to keep them in the division. The work that Eddie Howe and his staff have done at Bournemouth has been nothing short of remarkable and even if they have been relegated, we should not forget the incredible run they have had in the Premier League. They have had fantastic wins against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea which will never be forgotten. Everton, on the other hand, were very poor during this game and lacked character, ambition and quality. They will need to improve significantly if they are to start moving up the table next season.

This tactical analysis will examine the tactics used by both sides. The analysis will also focus on how Bournemouth managed to put Everton under pressure and maintain a solid defensive structure, despite Everton’s attacking strength.

Lineups

Premier League 2019/20: Everton Vs AFC Bournemouth – tactical analysis tactics

Bournemouth lined up in a traditional 4-4-2. Aaron Ramsdale started in goal. Adam Smith, Steve Cook Lloyd Kelly and Diego Rico were the back four. Jefferson Lerma and Dan Gosling were the holding midfielders. Their job would be to protect the back four and also to move the ball forward when it was possible. David Brooks and Josh King were the wider players. Getting them on the ball to create spaces and get at the Everton backline would be important. Callum Wilson and Dominic Solanke were the two centre-forwards. Bournemouth would be hoping their goals could guarantee them safety and Premier League football for next season.

As for Everton, they lined up in a 4-2-3-1. The ever-present Jordan Pickford started between the sticks. Michael Keane and Jarrad Branthwaite were the two centre-backs. Séamus Coleman and Lucas Digne were the full-backs. The pair would be vital for Everton when they looked to move the ball forward out of defence. André Gomes and Tom Davies were the two central midfielders who needed to get control of the ball to influence the game. Theo Walcott and Richarlison were the wingers, however, they often rotated in midfield which confused the opposition. Gylfi Sigurðsson was deployed as the central attacking midfielder, with Moise Kean playing through the middle.

Bournemouth’s pressing

From the start of the game, Bournemouth pressed extremely high and with an intensity that they have not shown in a while. King, Wilson, Solanke and Brooks were all situated extremely high up the pitch and pressed the Everton backline whenever they got the ball. This included when Pickford got the ball and they pressed on him specially to force a mistake. They did this well in the first half against Manchester United a few weeks ago, which worked for them before United got back into the match. The pressing they did in this game was similar to when Bournemouth were at their best in the Premier League. The pressing took place in Everton’s 18-yard box intending to force a mistake which could lead to a goal. The difference in this game is that they pressed as a team, with the likes of Lerma and Gosling also coming forward to deny spaces. This meant Bournemouth were pushing high as a team, in comparison to previous games where they struggled to press due to their defensive players being too deep.

It could very easily be argued that the attacking setup Eddie Howe began the game with was in tune with trying to win the ball back extremely high up the pitch. King, Wilson, Solanke and Brooks are all full of attacking talent, however, their work rate is always at the highest level and they are dedicated to winning the ball back when they don’t have it. The noticeable aspect was how they shifted their press when the ball was moved from one side to another. Everton tried to form triangles when building out from the back using Davies dropping in from midfield which Bournemouth countered by always having someone pressing on him to prevent him turning with the ball. This pressing, therefore, was not unorthodox and random but structured and planned out to win the ball back high.

Below is an example of this. We can see Digne on the ball, with Brooks closing him down. We can also see all the other Everton players being marked by Bournemouth players, which makes it extremely difficult for them to build from the back. Although Bournemouth switched this up slightly towards the end of the game and dropped off into a 4-4-2 defensive structure with a deep low-block when Everton put the pressure on, it was when they were pressing right at the heart of the Everton defence that they were getting their most joy in terms of winning back possession.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton Vs AFC Bournemouth – tactical analysis tactics
An example of Bournemouth’s high press.

The high press that Bournemouth took out during the majority of the first half was replicated during the early parts of the second. Bournemouth were as effective with their pressing at the beginning of the second half as they were in the first. The personal in terms of who was pressing the ball changed slightly to cope with the tactical tweaks that Ancelotti made at half time. The main change that he made was to drop Gomes slightly deeper to help the centre-backs build out from defence into attacking areas. This was to counter Bournemouth’s early press in the first half. The way Bournemouth responded to these changes was to push Gosling and Lerma higher up the pitch to support Wilson and Solanke with the press itself. King and Brooks tended to stay slightly wider and deeper in comparison to the first half. This again was a method used by Bournemouth to make Everton go long as opposed to having options coming out from the back.

Bournemouth overall were extremely compact. The block that they formed often shifted depending on when they were pressing or not. There was not much space between the midfield and defensive line, which was a method from stopping Sigurðsson finding space. They pressed high as a team and when they sat back in more of a low block, they did this as a team. This once again is evidence of them being more compact when defending, especially when using the high press.

Below is another example of Bournemouth using the high press to win the ball back high up the pitch. We can see Gosling and Lerma coming in from behind to support the press which allows King and Brooks to stay slightly wider which allows Bournemouth to almost form a cage around the Everton defensive line.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton Vs AFC Bournemouth – tactical analysis tactics
Another example of Bournemouth pressing high in a compact manner.

Bournemouth’s defensive shape

As mentioned, the high press that Bournemouth started the game with changed towards the mid to end part of the second half, whereby Everton put on a lot more pressure in an attempt to get back into the game. Instead of being up in the faces of the Everton backline and pressing them in their box, Bournemouth sat off and moved into an extremely tight and compact low-block. The two strikers, Wilson and Solanke, as opposed to pressing right up against Pickford and the centre-backs were situated near the halfway line with the midfield four extremely close together and deep within their half. The defensive line was even deeper and the spaces between the midfield and defensive line were extremely limited. This once again was an example of Bournemouth being compact, however, in the form of a low-block to deny Everton any space to create from. Bournemouth was excellent when defending during the second half and Everton was restricted to very few chances during the game.

The low-block they had in place was also critical to stopping Everton’s build-up play. As will be discussed later on, Richarlison was playing very narrow to get close to Kean which meant that there was a defensive requirement to watch his movement on the inside. Digne pushed wide which also needed attention and deploying the low-block was a great way to counter this.

Below is an example of Bournemouth in the low-block. We can see them in an extremely good defensive shape which allows them to get multiple bodies back to prevent Everton having any chance creation opportunities. Although Everton has been mixed in terms of their form, they still have excellent attacking talent on the pitch which allows them to be a threat at any time during the game. Bournemouth dug in and maintained a great defensive shape which allowed them to win the game.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton Vs AFC Bournemouth – tactical analysis tactics
An example of Bournemouth’s excellent defensive shape in the second half.

Moreover, another interesting development to Bournemouth’s shape during the game was their change information during the second half. In the Lineups section, we discussed how Bournemouth lined up in a 4-4-2. However, to counter the Everton pressure in the second half, they switched to a 4-5-1 where Phillip Billing came on for Solanke which then moved Bournemouth into playing with three central midfielders. This meant that they had an extra body in the centre of midfield when Everton was at their strongest. Furthermore, the job Billing had when he came on was to focus on Sigurðsson who was coming extremely deep to collect the ball. This meant that when Billing when out to press against Sigurðsson who was coming near the centre-backs to get the ball, Gosling and Lerma could tighten up and form a midfield two to cover the space he had abandoned.

Another aspect of this was the wider players. Due to Everton’s attacking structure, it was the case that Digne was extremely wide and pushed on as Coleman tucked in as a third centre-back. Brooks, who was the right-sided midfielder and was eventually replaced by Junior Stanislas, therefore, dropped extremely deep to manage this and provide a double-up option on Digne who was almost playing as a left-winger. This was an excellent tactical tweak by Bournemouth to stop what was an obvious threat to their goal.
Below is an example of this excellent defensive shape that they managed to take out during the second half. We can see Billing coming close to Sigurðsson to stop him influencing the game. Gosling and Lerma then take up good positions behind him to cover which allows the press to occur. This puts pressure on Sigurðsson and doesn’t allow him to influence the game as he can do.

Below is an example of this excellent defensive shape that they managed to take out during the second half. We can see Billing coming close to Sigurðsson to stop him influencing the game. Gosling and Lerma then take up good positions behind him to cover which allows the press to occur. This puts pressure on Sigurðsson and doesn’t allow him to influence the game as he can do.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton Vs AFC Bournemouth – tactical analysis tactics
Another excellent example of Bournemouth’s defensive shape.

Everton’s attacking setup

Although the focus of this analysis has been on how Bournemouth were extremely effective and well structured during the game, it is important to understand how Everton set up in an attacking sense. As mentioned, Everton lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. As has been the case in the last few games, Everton builds from the back with a back three. Coleman came in with Holgate and Branthwaite when Everton tried to bring the ball out from defence to have another option.

Gomes and Davies would drop deep to collect the ball, especially Davies in the first half. Walcott would drift wide and would be occupied by the left full-back and Digne would drift wide on the left side as a result of having the extra cover behind him. This, therefore allowed Richarlison and Sigurðsson to come a lot more to the inside and play almost as right and left-sided attacking midfielders. The objective of this was to get them more involved in the game and not allow them to be isolated. Richarlison has often played in a 4-4-2 as a second striker, so getting him closer to Kean was vital.

This approach has been used a lot by Ancelotti since he arrived at Goodison Park. The benefits of having two players coming to the inside spaces that were behind the midfield line was that if the ball got into those areas, there was a great chance of a goal being scored. Sigurðsson thrives on the spaces that are in front of the opposition box and he is most effective in these areas. The plan was, therefore to beat the press and find these spaces in which hopefully Sigurðsson or Richarlison could create from.

Below is an example of this attacking structure. We can see both Sigurðsson and Richarlison attacking the spaces that have been created within the inside channels. They tried their best to get into these positions, however, Bournemouth’s tactical set up made it very difficult for this to occur.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton Vs AFC Bournemouth – tactical analysis tactics
An example of Everton’s attacking structure.

The main problem Everton had during this game was the fact that the ball was not getting into these areas quick enough. Davies played only two passes into Sigurðsson and only four passes into Richarlison. Gomes played 11 into Sigurðsson and only three into Richarlison. This highlights the key problem Everton had in terms of attacking Bournemouth was that the ball was not getting into these areas enough. The spaces were often there in the first half due to Bournemouth’s high press, however, the Everton central midfielders just couldn’t make that key pass into the decisive areas.

Bournemouth, therefore, weren’t under any real pressure to deal with these spaces in transitions. Overall, Everton made it very easy for Bournemouth to defend and lacked intensity when they had the ball. If some of these players are to have success with Ancelotti they are going to have to change their tune in terms of attacking play. Everton were far too slow and kept the ball around the back as opposed to getting the ball into key areas where they could hurt what is a poor Bournemouth backline.

Below is an example of this. We can see the passing option that Gomes is looking to take, however, it is these sorts of passes that they needed to take up more often to get the attacking players involved in the game. Both Sigurðsson and Richarlison were extremely ineffective during the game and never got involved. A large portion of blame can be attributed to them not getting the ball enough in these areas.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton Vs AFC Bournemouth – tactical analysis tactics
Another example of the spaces that were not being found by the Everton midfielders.

Conclusion

To conclude, the Premier League is over for AFC Bournemouth and Eddie Howe for now. They have been a fantastic story in the Premier League thus far and its sad to see them go. Their football has been a joy to watch and they will be missed. However, they have fell well below expectations this year and conceded far too many goals. This game in particular was an excellent away performance and on Bournemouth’s day they can do this to any team. They will be looking to keep their key players and manager and if they can do this they will have every chance of them coming up next season.

As for Everton, there is major work to be done for Ancelotti and his players. They are well behind for the teams they are attempting to catch and need major improvements if they are to have a chance of moving up in the league table. Overall, it’s been a fantastic season and we all look forward to the 2020/2021 season.