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

After struggling to win one point from the clash versus Middlesbrough in the Championship’s second fixture, Bournemouth returned to their home of Vitality Stadium to welcome a familiar opponent: Norwich City. The visitors had been in the same situation after their relegation – just a 1-0 win and a draw were not enough to satisfy the Canaries’ fans. Apparently, the victory which brings three points is compulsory for both teams but only one squad could achieve it. 

In this tactical analysis, we look at the tactics that Norwich City utilised to dominate against Bournemouth with great ball possession, and this analysis shows the solid way in which the Cherries fought to retain their victory. 

Starting line-ups

Instead of using the 3-4-3 formation as in the game with Boro, Jason Tindall deployed the formation 5-3-2 for the hosts with Asmir Begović in the goal, protected by the back three of Chris Mepham, Steve Cook, and Diego Rico, whilst flanked by the two wing-backs Jack Stacey and Adam Smith. The three players who did their duty in the middle of the field were Jefferson Lerma, Lewis Cook, and Phillip Billing. Tindall’s pair of strikers were Dominic Solanke and Arnaut Danjuma. 

Daniel Farke brought to Vitality Stadium a 4-1-4-1 formation with the back four of Max Aarons, Christoph Zimmermann, Ben Godfrey, and Xavi Quintillà that secured Tim Krul’s net; Oliver Skipp was the man stood lowest in the middle, right behind two central midfielders Lukas Rupp and Kenny McLean. The Canaries’ striker was Teemu Pukki and he got support from the two wingers Onel Hernández and Przemyslaw Placheta.

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
Credit: WyScout

Bournemouth’s methods to break Norwich’s build-up phase and bypass the opponent’s pressing line

Last season in the Premier League, Norwich made the whole of England notice them by playing a fancy attacking playstyle and an almost scientific build-up phase. Tindall understands this well, so he directed his players to push high – the Cherries pressed right after Krul had the ball and did not allow their opponents to progress the ball forward smoothly. This was especially the case at their right flank with the appearances of Lerma and Solanke, where Bournemouth constantly regained the ball and proceeded with counter-attacks. 

Farke wanted his men to thoroughly utilise the field width with the two central defenders to move wider to the touchlines. However, with the hosts constantly pressing Godfrey, it took more than one of Norwich’s players to drop deeper and help his teammates to progress the ball. This was dangerous because it demanded the visitors to commit many players to one flank and thus, the central area and the opposite flank were left empty; spaces appeared for Bournemouth’s midfielders and wing-backs to occupy easily.

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
In this case, even Hernández and Placheta dropped deep to help their teammate to progress the ball. The left flank was too crowded, but the center and the opposite flank wasn’t – this is very dangerous for Norwich if they lose possession
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
Pressure from Bournemouth’s striker forced Krul to play long
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
As we mentioned previously, the Cherries regained the ball and immediately deploy a counter-attack. In this case, the central area was empty and Smith was free to run and occupy it
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
This time Krul decided to pass the ball back to Godfrey and the youngster tried to deliver it to McLean. Unfortunately, that risky pass was stopped by Cook

Unlike the visitors, the Cherries were very proactive in building the play up and breaking Norwich’s pressing line with strikers who possess a good work rate – Solanke and Danjuma often moved wide to the flank near the halfway line to receive the ball from their side-defender Rico, helped him get rid of pressure from Norwich. Under Norwich’s pressure, Steve Cook often delivered the ball to Rico, and the Spaniard would pass it to Solanke perfectly – thanks to the space that Aarons left behind, and then Solanke could drop deep and receive the ball without getting any trouble – this is the way Bournemouth bypassed Farke’s pressing system. With only Zimmermann chasing and marking him, the former Liverpool forward could comfortably shield the ball and think for the next passes. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
Rico tried to pass the ball through five Norwich players
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
An excellent pass from the Spaniard. There was only Zimmermann who chased after Solanke so the English youngster was quite comfortable to control the ball

A common thing that can be seen in teams who play with a back-three and a striking duo is that they always have a striker who roams from his position. This fluidity was the key ingredient to the host’s attack, let us see an instance below to understand this. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
The distance between Godfrey and Zimmermann was stretched by Danjuma’s move
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
Solanke’s move stretched the space vacancy between Godfrey and Quintillà. Assume that the number 9 received the ball from Danjuma, then there were two directions for the Dutch to run into and exploit

Lerma’s mobility was also an important part of Tindall’s squad’s performance. Despite being arranged as a right-sided midfielder, the Colombian usually presented himself in the final third, supported his fellow strikers, and also in the pressing progress. His assist for Danjuma was a typical result of this. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
The Colombian played higher than any of his fellow midfielders
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
We can observe that Lerma’s great stamina helped him much in chasing his opponents. In this case, Lerma even went higher than Solanke
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
Lerma presented at the right place, at the right time to deliver the ball to Danjuma. That was an assist for the Colombian

Norwich’s possession on the right side

As we mentioned earlier, Farke encouraged his men to maximise the width for the build-up phase – doing this created space for Skipp to move lower, receive the ball, and distribute it forward or to the flanks. Therefore, there were three passing options for Krul and the Dutchman was easier to choose. This deployment allowed Aarons and Quintillà to go to a higher position and join the attack more often. The visitors’ shape, therefore, looks like a 3-4-3 formation. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
Again, let us see Norwich’s players’ position. With Skipp playing deep and Aarons, Quintillà pushing high, Farke’s formation looked like a 3-4-3 formation

Theoretically, Norwich’s players had one striker and two wingers, but in fact, instead of always staying near the touchline, Hernández often rotated to the central area and left the right wing for Aarons and Rupp. Hernández’s presence in the box also attracted the Cherries’ defenders and they barely stepped out of the box – this opened space in the flank for those two players to exploit. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
Aarons tended to combine with Rupp and infiltrate the box. Rupp’s presence helped his teammate much in finding the way to Begović’s net
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
In another example, Hernández tried to create an underlap with Rupp; but unfortunately, the Cuban player’s pass lacked a bit accuracy
EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
When Rico stepped out of the box to stop Rupp, he unintentionally left Hernández a space to receive Rupp’s cut-back

In the second half, Bournemouth proactively moved low, deployed a low-block defensive system, and gave the Canaries the whole midfield to control. Nevertheless, Farke’s squad could not pierce through the hosts’ two layers of defending. They undertook many crosses but Bournemouth’s defensive men handled them well. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Bournemouth vs Norwich City - tactical analysis tactics
Aarons and his colleagues were not so successful with crosses

Conclusion

Bournemouth now have three consecutive undefeated matches with two victories and one draw result. Coach Tindall’s team performance has been not so fancy or impressive, but it has been really effective which relies on an extremely solid defensive system. On the other hand, it seems like Farke is still loyal to his possessing philosophy but the German manager must find a way to fix his own problems – especially with breaking low-blocks. It’s too early to talk about promotions, but with the Cherries’ performance so far, their fans can count on Tindall’s players giving a good shot at getting promoted to the Premier League once again next season.