EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics

After 11 fixtures of the Championship, Reading seems to have landed back to earth after their consecutive eight undefeated games which include seven victories and only one draw. The Royals have lost three recent games in a row and also fell from the top spot. Veljko Paunović’s squad is desperate for three points but their opponent was not easy to play against. Jason Tindall’s Bournemouth have been impressive so far; they have lost only one game since the league began. With the purpose of returning to the Premier League, certainly, it would be a tough game for the visitors. 

In this tactical analysis, we bring you an in-depth analysis of the strategy that helped Bournemouth to dominate against Reading, also we point out the weaknesses in Reading’s tactics which led them to blow away their 2-0 lead in Vitality Stadium. 

Lineups

Tindall used the 4-3-3 formation with Asmir Begović stood in the goal, protected by the back-four of Jack Stacey, Steve Cook, Lloyd Kelly, and Diego Rico. The Cherries’ midfield trio included Lewis Cook who stood lowest, played alongside Jefferson Lerma and Junior Stanislas. Their front three were familiar: Arnaut Danjuma, David Brooks, and the former Liverpool striker Dominic Solanke. 

On the other side, Paunović deployed the 4-2-3-1 for his team. Rafael was responsible for guarding the goal with his fellow defenders Tomás Esteves, Michael Morrison, Liam Moore, and Omar Richards. Andy Rinomhota played with Josh Laurent as Reading’s defensive midfielder. Reading played with three attacking midfielders Ovie Ejaria, Sone Aluko, and Alfa Semedo. Lucas João was the only striker that Paunović used in this game. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Credit: WyScout.

Bournemouth’s dominance

The formation did not change the way Bournemouth played. They were still focused on playing through the flanks, controlling the half-spaces, and pressing high up the pitch so they could force the opponents to make mistakes. Solanke and Danjuma were responsible for pressing Reading’s defensive line, and more than once they made Rafael play long, preventing the visitors from playing out of the back. In the meantime, Cook did his job very well with the good aerial challenging ability so he could regain the ball possession for the host. Except for the first two conceded goals which came from personal mistakes, in general, Bournemouth were dominant in this match. 

Different from most of his games this season, Tindall deployed the formation 4-3-3 for his team to thoroughly exploit Reading’s weaknesses in the defensive phase. Owning two defensive midfielders helped Reading to strengthen their central area, but it also created weaknesses in their flanks: these two midfielders had to choose to either come to the flanks, help their full-backs and let the central area loose, or hold their position and handle the work of confronting opposition wingers to the full-backs. The second option would bring the chance for Bournemouth’s flair wingers, Danjuma and Brooks. 

These two did not just stay on the flanks, they were enthusiastic in dropping deep, helping their colleagues to build-up, free the full-backs from pressure, allowing them to go higher and occupy the half-spaces. With support from another midfielder – Lerma or Stanislas, Bournemouth formed a triangle in each flank, which could both keep the width and occupy half-space, when needed they could return to the central area. As we can see in the below instances, Danjuma’s movements dragged along Esteves and allowed Rico to go inside, move to the free half-spaces; when Lerma knows how to move and create the space for Stacey and Brooks to combine. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Danjuma dropped deep and Rico went high.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Lerma’s movement dragged along Laurent and created space for Stacey and Brooks.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
The ball was often distributed to Reading’s weakest area – the flanks.

The midfield trio was the key to Bournemouth’s victory. With Cook protecting behind, Lerma and Stanislas were free to go higher, press Reading’s players, and do many different tasks. They can all stay outside the box and receive the second ball, helping overlap, and run into the box and finish the early crosses. Their protector Cook was solid in defending and accurate in distributing the ball, and he also exploited the gap that appeared when Reading’s player deployed low-block. That gave him and his team a stunning third goal. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Stanislas and Lerma were enthusiastic about overlapping.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Bournemouth’s triangle.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Cook was good in aerial challenging and it helped The Cherries to regain possession.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
The gap appeared outside the box and Cook converted it into a goal.

Reading’s mistakes

Reading faced many troubles in Vitality stadium. Tindall’s midfield trio almost locked Paunović’s double pivots, so they could not help their teammates in building the play up, and their goalkeeper Rafael was unable in delivering accurate long kicks. He constantly put the ball into Bournemouth’s feet, and that led to their fourth conceded goal. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Reading’s centre-backs could not pass the ball to their pivots because they were marked.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Rafael failed in delivering the ball to the right player.

Reading’s double pivots completely lost the connection with the attacking quadrilateral. They often dropped too low, break their team’s compactness in the defensive phase, and opened a massive gap in the central area so Bournemouth could utilise it. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
The gap between Laurent, Rinomhota and other Reading’s attacking midfielders.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
They stood too low.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
Let us see Bournemouth’s third goal again. The Royals’ pivots repeated their mistakes and gave Cook the whole vacancy outside the box to strike.

Even when Reading committed four men in the flanks, the Royals could not stop Bournemouth from crossing. For the host’s first goal, there were three players rushed to Danjuma but the number ten skipped the ball, let it go to Rico and it turned out that no one was after the Spaniard. He was free to cross and Solanke finished it off. For the equaliser, Esteves stood in the right place, so it seemed like he did not do anything to stop Danjuma.

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Reading - tactical analysis tactics
No one was after Rico and the number 21 crosses the ball accurately to Solanke.

Conclusion

The two goals leading from the visitor after the first half surprised the fans because Bournemouth had dominated the game against Reading, but the Royals did well in utilising the opponent’s mistakes. Things went back on the right track in the second half, Reading could not sustain any longer when the Cherries continued squeezing their spaces and preventing them from playing out of the back. Four scored goals were the worthy rewards for the host, and this victory gives Tindall and his men the confidence they need to prepare for the next tough weeks and for the promotion ticket next season.