How has Scott Parker changed Bournemouth?
Bournemouth could have been seen to have peaked during their years under Eddie Howe in the Premier League. They miraculously climbed from the fourth tier of English football to the top flight. When there, they managed to secure a ninth-place finish, even with a stadium that holds 11,364 people.
However, the best could be yet to come under new coach Scott Parker. Parker was given his first coaching stint at Fulham, earning them a promotion before being relegated in their first season back. First jobs are often a learning curve, and Parker looks to have brought all of that experience to Bournemouth.
The tale of Bournemouth’s success so far this season has been their rock-solid defence. The Cherries have been impenetrable, leading them to the top of the table thus far. They have been so convincing that Championship betting odds have made them near guaranteed for promotion at 3/10, while if you check championship tips they are the second favourite to win it all at 15/8.
Nevertheless, Parker has built his side with the ethos that they must not concede chances. Gary Cahill and Lloyd Kelly have a solid centre-back partnership, while Jordan Zemura and Jack Stacey flank them. The defensive solidity is an excellent balance between fresh energy and experience. Cahill can marshall the line and is a commanding presence, while the more energetic Kelly can play on the front foot and even cover. Having centre-backs who are comfortable on the ball helps them build from the back, making the defensive unit all the more crucial.
They don’t give up many high-quality chances as a team and are excellent at defending in the box. However, they want to be aggressive without the ball and are more willing to press into the oppositions half. They don’t let opponents pass the ball as much as last season and are overall more committed to pressing. It has given them the chance to get the ball quickly and attack when the other team is unsettled.
Engaging in the opposition’s final third puts pressure on the opposition to make moves quickly. It must be fully committed, though, as a lazy half-press will quickly expose gaps. The energy of the front-line of Ryan Christie, Jaidon Anthony and Dominic Solanke has given Bournemouth a front line of defence. They are there to hassle the opposition early and move with quick and calculated engagements. Supplemented by a dynamic midfield, Bournemouth has a formula that should see them towards the top for the entire season.
Solanke was heralded early in his career and was thought of as the next great striker. The problem for him seemed that goals were hard to come by. Being thrown into the Premier League at an early stage of his career didn’t get the best out of him. However, last year in his first season in the Championship, he bagged 15 goals. It was the perfect scenario for him to adapt to professional football, and this season he appears to be even better. He has already scored 13 goals and is now a reliable goal scorer for Bournemouth.
What Bournemouth seems to have come out with this season is an ability to capitalise on their defence and pressing chances. There is no point in being a dynamic team and winning the ball back high up the field if they can’t put away the opportunities it brings with it.