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

The seventh fixture of the Championship witnessed Watford facing the team who was directly below then in the table: Bournemouth. Coach Vladimir Ivić and his team’s purpose is nothing less than claiming another three points so they could raise their winning streak to three. The Cherries were also impatient to take down the host to overrun them and take the 3rd position. They had experienced three consecutive draws before the clash on Vicarage Road and this gave Tindall’s team motivation. 

In this tactical analysis, we explain to you how did Bournemouth dominates over the host’s players with their tactics. This analysis also shows the mistakes that both teams made in the early game of Championship this week and how did these mistakes lead to a draw. 

Starting line-ups

Ivić deployed the formation of 5-4-1 for the Hornets with the back-three of Craig Cathcart, William Troost-Ekong, and Christian Kabasele protecting Ben Foster’s goal; the pair of wing-backs who played alongside them were Jeremy Ngakia and Ken Sema. Ismaïla Sarr and Tom Cleverley played as wingers; Nathaniel Chalobah and James Garner formed the midfield duo. Stipe Perica was the man who stood highest in the formation.

The visitor brought to Vicarage Road the 3-1-4-2 formation with Asmir Begović as their goalie. His goal was guarded by the trio Lloyd Kelly, Steve Cook, and Chris Mepham; Diego Rico and Jack Stacey covered the whole flanks for Tindall’s team. In the meantime, Lewis Cook stayed deepest, behind Phillip Billing and Jefferson Lerma. The Cherries’ strikers were Arnaut Danjuma and Joshua King. 

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

Bournemouth’s approach and Tindall’s weakest links

Watford deployed the high pressing line right after the starting whistle by pushing their wing-back high up the field, combining him with his fellow winger and striker to disrupt the visitor’s build-up phase. Plus, the middle area was a bit tight so it was dangerous to progress the ball through this area of the field. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Watford’s high pressing line

In the previous match by using the two strikers Dominic Solanke and Danjuma, Bournemouth’s centre-backs were allowed to progress the ball through the half-space; thanks to both Danjuma and Solanke usually dropping deep and receiving the ball and by doing so, they released The Cherries’ defenders from pressure. However, in this game versus Watford what Bournemouth had was not Solanke but King up front.

Instead of directing King to drop deeper and receive the ball like Solanke, Tindall told Mepham to pass the ball long so King could use his pace to overrun his marker and retain possession for the team. Sema was the man who usually pushed high, therefore Cathcart had to move and cover the left flank which Sema left behind; thanks to this, Bournemouth’s right half-space was not so crowded and King had enough space to control the long ball. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Mepham’s long ball for King.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
10 passes from a defender to a striker, Mepham to King: The most used attacking method of Bournemouth.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Rico forgot about the duty to mark Sarr.

Despite possessing the ball well, Bournemouth had two deathly weaknesses in their defending system. First one: Rico. The Spaniard had a very bad game on the left-wing. He usually abandoned the duty to mark Sarr and unconsciously created the space behind for the Senegalese to occupy. Typical instance: Sarr’s assist for Perica to score the opening goal. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Sarr’s assist.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Rico not following Sarr happened the whole game and that explains why Rico was one of the weakest points of Bournemouth.

He not only lost his concentration on marking Sarr, but Rico was also being distracted by the ball. Many times in the game, Rico directed his attention to the moving ball and forgot men who were moving behind him. If Sarr’s teammates were more observant, maybe he could get some more crossing chances. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Rico should focus on his area, not the ball.

The second weakness in Bournemouth’s system came from Mepham. The Welshman scored a late goal to save his team from a loss, but it cannot save him from having a bad day. Just like Rico, Mepham usually left his original position as a right centre-back, to move forward and try to recover the ball in a place that was very far from Begović’s goal. This, of course, opened a massive gap behind and put Mepham’s colleagues in a situation that they must confront Watford players who possess good pace. One of those mistakes forced Begović to face Sarr in a 1v1 situation and only the Bosnian’s talent could save The Cherries from conceding the second goal. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Sarr thoroughly utilised the gap that was opened due to Mepham leaving.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Another instance.

Another bad thing from Bournemouth was their finishing/converting ability. Despite having 14 shots and six of them were on target, alongside the xG rating of 1.89, the visitors only had one goal from Mepham’s tap-in but they could have scored more than that. In spite of having an underperformed defense, Bournemouth could have left the Vicarage road with three points. 

Watford’s approach and their loss in compactness

Watford had the same back-three system but The Hornets was struggling in moving the ball forward. It was very difficult for them to build the play up smoothly because the triangle created by Danjuma, King, and Lerma didn’t allow them to step into the central area. After the 18th minute when Lerma had to leave the field due to injury, Solanke – a former Liverpool player with a good work-rate came to the field, and Bournemouth continued keeping this triangle. Watford had no choice but to play long balls. They also failed this because the visitors excelled in aerial challenging ability. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Bournemouth’s triangle didn’t let Watford step into the center.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Bournemouth’s personnel was tight in the center.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
The Cherries’ players had excellent aerial challenging ability.

Just like Bournemouth’s defense, Watford’s defending system has its own problems. Their centre-backs spent most of their time watching the opponent’s striker and forgot that they had the duty to maintain their distance as well. Thus, this led to an enormous gap between them for The Cherries to exploit. Another problem was instead of guarding the half-space, Watford’s centre-backs usually moved near the touchline and there were vacancies in there too. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Watford’s centre-backs were not focusing on maintaining the distance.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Billing moved and occupied the gap.
EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Instead of protecting the half-space, Cathcart moved to mark Stacey – which was unnecessary – and opened a gap between him and Ekong.

Foster had a tough day. Watford’s goalkeeper had six saves in addition and had to command the defense to deal with many of Bournemouth’s crosses. 

EFL Championship 2020/21: Watford vs Bournemouth - tactical analysis tactics
Foster had a tough game.

Conclusion

The clash between Watford and Bournemouth was the show of both teams’ goalkeeper. Ivić’s team an acceptable performance but unluckily they have missed two points. Bournemouth had great possession and fortunately, the errors in their defence did not make them pay. With Tindall, his team still retains the consecutive undefeated game result and Bournemouth are still below Watford on the table. Positions on the top six are good for both coaches, but not enough. To get a promotion to the Premier League next season, they have to fix the problems in the defending system and count on the next matches to see the result.