Premier League 2018/19: Bournemouth vs West Ham Tactical Analysis Statistics
Artwork by @chapulana

This was a mid-table clash if there ever was one. Bournemouth and West Ham were 12th and 9th respectively in the table before kick-off, with both teams safe from relegation fears and unlikely to make the European places.

Eddie Howe’s side came into this game on a wretched run of form, having won only two of their last 10 games in all competitions, while West Ham were somewhat better off, having beaten Arsenal in their last game. Samir Nasri‘s arrival had provided a welcome fillip for the Hammers, as they looked to continue their charge to be the ‘best of the rest’ this season.

Lineups

Eddie Howe replaced Asmir Begovic with Artur Boruc in goal, while Nathaniel Clyne made his home debut for the Cherries. Adam Smith continued at left-back, and Callum Wilson returned from injury to lead the line with Joshua King.
Manuel Pellegrini had to drop Marko Arnautovic from the squad because he was too “unsettled” over a proposed move to China. Andy Carroll replaced him in the XI. The rest of the side was as expected, with Nasri playing behind Carroll and the midfield anchored by two West Ham academy graduates in Mark Noble and Declan Rice.

Arnautovic sorely missed by Hammers

Marko Arnautovic has been a revelation for West Ham since he was moved to a central striking role by David Moyes. The Austrian’s intelligent movement off the ball has been vital to how the Hammers attack, pulling opposition defenders out of position and creating space for his teammates to attack.

In his absence, Andy Carroll was selected to lead the line. The Englishman is a much more static presence, and he does not possess the speed of thought or foot to make the same runs as Arnautovic. West Ham needed to change their approach if they were to utilise Carroll’s strengths. However, they continued to play as if Arnautovic was in the side. Carroll was completely isolated, and the positions in which he got the ball are illuminating.

Bournemouth West Ham Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Note just how few touches Carroll had in the Bournemouth penalty area – most of them are in deeper central positions, and with quite a few out wide as well.

The Englishman is at his best when playing with his back to goal and when attacking crosses in the box. However, West Ham did not utilise these strengths. Instead, they tried to play passes down the channels, expecting him to chase them or to have made those runs in the first place.

The fact that Michail Antonio was playing as the centre-forward midway through the first half, with Carroll out wide on the right, is illustrative of the fact that West Ham did not change their approach to suit their players. Rather, they continued playing the same way, hoping that Carroll could somehow make it work

Bournemouth West Ham Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
This happened throughout the first half in particular: Antonio played centrally, looking to run onto passes from Anderson or Nasri, with Carroll taking up a position on the right.

There were a couple of instances when Carroll showed his worth, most notably in the first half when he dropped deep and swung a perfect first-time pass out to Felipe Anderson on the left flank, as the image below shows.

Bournemouth West Ham Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Carroll dropped deep here, before spearing a first-time pass out towards Anderson on the left

In general though, he is a static player. Expecting him to provide the sort of dynamism seen from Arnautovic was foolhardy. The image below encapsulates this perfectly.

Bournemouth West Ham Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
The striker is stationary as a West Ham attack develops, with Noble and Antonio making runs into the box.

West Ham faltered on Saturday by not altering their approach to suit Andy Carroll. He may have missed a gilt-edged chance from a yard or so out, but in general, his team’s attacking play did him no favours. Manuel Pellegrini must change his side’s approach if Carroll is going to be a regular in the starting XI.

Nasri struggles to make an impact

Samir Nasri made an immediate difference to West Ham in his debut game, against his former club Arsenal no less. The Frenchman was brilliant in the number 10 role, linking midfield and attack through fluid passing and movement.

However, down on the south coast, he could not replicate that form. Nasri was starved of the ball for long periods, managing only 46 touches during his 66 minutes on the pitch. He was often forced to drop deep to get onto the ball due to Bournemouth’s excellent screening, as well as his own team’s inability to play the ball through the lines.

Bournemouth West Ham Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Bournemouth’s excellent midfield screen prevented West Ham’s centre-backs from playing out centrally.
Bournemouth West Ham Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
This led to Nasri having to drop as deep as this to influence the game.

When he did manage to get on the ball in advanced areas, there was a lack of movement around him to allow him to play perceptive passes. Nasri is at his best when surrounded by intelligent and quick movement, which gives him the opportunity to play defence-splitting through balls.

With Carroll in the side, there was an immobile striker in front of him, while Antonio on the right flank is not renowned for the subtlety of his runs. Only Felipe Anderson was on a similar wavelength, but Bournemouth’s defensive structure was solid enough to keep them both at bay.

Bournemouth West Ham Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Nasri and Anderson are both hemmed in by Bournemouth players, with barely any attacking passing options.

As noted earlier, West Ham’s deeper midfielders were also liable, in that there was a distinct lack of creativity from either Noble or Rice. Both are neat, tidy passers, but do not have the skill or vision to find players between the lines consistently. The example below will demonstrate this.

Bournemouth West Ham Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Rice received the ball with the pass to Nasri easily possible. The Frenchman had found space, but Rice ended up taking too many touches, and eventually passed back to Noble, with a potential opportunity wasted

While Samir Nasri remains a very good player, he needs the right setup around him to thrive, much like Carroll. Pellegrini failed to provide his creator with the necessary tools, and he ended up having minimal impact on the game.

Conclusion

This was not exactly a free-flowing game, with both sides struggling to create too many chances. West Ham, however, were hobbled by their curious refusal to play to their players’ strengths. There was a lack of intensity and movement off the ball from the Hammers, which shackled Nasri, while Andy Carroll is a misfit in this side and the way they play.

With the Arnautovic saga set to carry on till the end of the transfer window, Pellegrini must decide on the way forward soon, or risk popping the little bit of cheer that has come to the London Stadium this season.


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