Tactical breakdown: What change did Eddie Howe make to get Bournemouth back into the game?

Bournemouth Newcastle Premier League Tactical Analysis
artwork by @chapluana

Bournemouth hosted Newcastle in what was arguably the pick of the bunch from a depleted round of Saturday fixtures. In this tactical analysis, we will review the tactics employed by Bournemouth who dominated in an entertaining score draw on the South Coast.

The stage was set at the Vitality, Bournemouth came into the game as the team with the most points earned at home, outside of the top six. Newcastle, on the other hand, had only picked up a measly two points out of a possible eighteen on their travels. Their overall form had picked up more recently, with three wins in their last four matches. The Magpies had finally found some rhythm. 

A lively 90 minutes saw Newcastle battle to a 2-2 draw, in a game that ebbed and flowed dramatically. Newcastle took an unlikely lead late in the first half after Rondon fired in a sumptuous freekick from range. Bournemouth who dominated in the first half regrouped and retaliated in the second.

Shortly after the restart, a dubious penalty was dispatched by Josh King for his 10th of the season. This was followed by a tidy finish for his second, which took the score to 2-1 with just 10 minutes to play. The script was complete when ex-Cherries midfielder, Matt Ritchie rifled in a stunning left-foot volley deep in stoppage time to level the game.

Bournemouth edged the match with more fluidity and tactical adventure, however, they were unable to overcome two moments of magic from the Magpies.


Bournemouth Newcastle Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout

Bournemouth lined up in their usual 4-4-2 formation, a shape which has earned them an impressive expected goal difference of 3.08 over the course of the season. A growing injury list gave Eddie Howe a selection headache with six players unavailable for the Saturday afternoon clash.

Leading goalscorer Callum Wilson partnered Joshua King up front, with support provided by pacey Jordan Ibe and Ryan Fraser from the wide areas. A forced reshuffle in the back four gave starts for Nathaniel Clyne and Steve Cook stand-in, Chris Mepham.

Newcastle retained the flexible 5-3-2 shape which earned them their impressive comeback win over Everton last Saturday. With selection troubles of their own, Rafa Benitez made several changes to his in-form side. Injured stalwart Jamaal Lascelles and suspended Fabian Schar provided opportunities for Fernandez and Dummet.

Ritchie and Yedlin remained in the wing-back positions, offering support to the newly formed front three of Almerion, Perez and Rondon. Mohamed Diame was the preferred central midfield partner for Hayden, replacing the injured Longstaff.

Despite going in behind at the break, in this tactical analysis, we look at the tactics used by Eddie Howe’s side to successfully infiltrate the Newcastle structure. We will also analyse the positioning of midfield maestro Ryan Fraser who played a pivotal role in the tactics deployed by the South Coast side.

Advantage home side

In possession, Bournemouth effectively used their 4-4-2 to bypass a lacklustre Newcastle press and move through the phases fluidly.

Bournemouth passed the ball out from the back, drawing Newcastle forward. Their two central midfielders, Brooks and Lerma, dropped deeper and acted as a double pivot to collect the ball. Almiron and Perez drifted wide to block the passing lanes to the wings, leaving Rondon isolated centrally in his press. Dragged too far apart by the width of Bournemouth’s full-backs, the Newcastle front three failed to coordinate effectively and prevent the Bournemouth escape.

The shape worked in conjunction with keeping strikers, King and Wilson narrow, forcing Newcastle’s central midfielders to remain in position to block passing lanes into them. If either Hayden or Diame did decide to press it left open spaces through the midfield into the striker’s feet.

Bournemouth Newcastle Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout

Lerma collects the ball as Bournemouth easily move through Newcastle’s front pressing line. Lerma now has plenty of space to move into or pick an easy pass to progress up the pitch. Newcastle’s central midfielders stretch their shape vertically by remaining deep with the Bournemouth strikers. This leaves excessive gaps for Bournemouth to play into. By using this strategy Bournemouth effectively built attacks and kept possession comfortably whilst moving through the attacking phases.

Once into the attacking phase, Bournemouth utilised the flexibility of Ryan Fraser to penetrate Newcastle’s shape. We will analyse how the Scottish international disrupted Benitez’s tactics.

The Flying Scotsman

Ryan Fraser occupied various positions throughout the match as Bournemouth attempted several techniques to break the back five down.

Bournemouth Newcastle Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: WhoScored.com

Free roaming

Fraser wasn’t restricted to his starting left midfield position. His movement inside created pockets of space to receive passes, creating an overload in the centre of the pitch. This movement off the wing and into the centre allowed space for Charlie Daniels to run at his man 1v1.

Bournemouth Newcastle Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout

In the above scenario, Fraser moves inside allowing space for Wilson to move into the channel. Newcastle midfielders don’t reduce the distance between them and the back four, allowing Fraser plenty of space to operate. This simple movement away from the left wing caused Newcastle constant problems, particularly in the first half.

Vulnerability exposed

Using this tactic wasn’t all reward for Eddie Howe’s men, as the movement inside left them exposed in defensive transition. By coming inside, Fraser left Daniels isolated defensively. He often found himself on the wrong end of a 2v1 scenario as a result of Fraser’s attacking movement. If Newcastle had more quality on the day they could have punished this chink in the armour of Bournemouth’s shape.

Bournemouth Newcastle Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout

In possession, Newcastle’s central defenders were able to pass the ball out to Yedlin easily. This was because Fraser’s narrow positioning meant he couldn’t block this passing lane. Once on the ball, Yedlin used his pace to advance into the space left by Fraser. Yedlin could then attack his Daniels either 1v1 or 2v1 if Perez came across to support. This exposure allowed Newcastle to advance into threatening areas and get dangerous balls into the box for Rondon to attack.

Perhaps it was this exposure that led to Bournemouth adjusting their shape and moving to a 4-2-3-1 before half time. King moved out to the left, whilst Fraser repositioned in the number 10 role, where he was able to occupy the same dangerous spaces but with fewer defensive responsibilities. Out of possession, King was able to stay wider and protect Daniels from an advancing Yedlin.

Tactical tweak reaps rewards

Bournemouth Newcastle Premier League Tactical Analysis

Bournemouth defenders move the ball to the central midfield pivots. In the 4-2-3-1 shape, Fraser found gaps in behind Newcastle’s midfielders who moved forward to close down the ball. One straight pass into Fraser cuts through the centre of Newcastle’s midfield, allowing him to turn and run at the defence.


On reflection, Newcastle may feel lucky to have taken a point. The Magpies never really created the chances they’d have hoped to but Rafa Benitez will travel back to Tyneside with a smile on his face. His side have avoided another miserable away day and are no longer looking worryingly over their shoulders at a dreaded relegation battle.

No doubt Bournemouth will be disappointed to come away with just a point. They were unable to capitalise on the dangerous positions they created with ease. With seven games remaining and relegation no longer a concern, Eddie Howe will be keen to avoid complacency and finish the season strong by beating their record points tally of 46. On another day the Cherries would have taken a comfortable three home points and can take solace they were only scuppered by two brilliant goals.

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