While Mark Travers did his best to live up to his inherited “El Pulpo” moniker by grabbing his four season-ending awards, Scott Parker’s methods were, in a sense, ultimately vindicated.
Since his arrival, Parker has continued to implement a patient style of play at Bournemouth, seeking control rather than chaos. Its core values centered on building a defined framework, where each player understood their role. If/when individual performance levels fluctuated, the defined team structure would provide a basis of support.
This was partly due to Parker shaping and sculpting the balance of his squad throughout the season, depending on personnel and the state of the game. Reflecting Pep Guardiola’s interpretation of inverted full-backs, not only by generating rotational patterns on the outside, but also by being able to stop counter-attacks, Bournemouth rarely showed repeated frailty.
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This, in turn, resulted in Travers or El Pulpo – Spanish for octopus – winning three player of the season awards, as well as the championship gold glove for cleanest sheets. In total, Bournemouth have recorded 21 shutouts in 46 games, conceding just 39 goals. He laid the groundwork for defensive stability, ensuring that if the attacking mechanics malfunctioned, as they would during the winter, they didn’t implode at the other end.
Bournemouth have suffered eight defeats – the fewest of any side in the Championship. They were also never completely beaten either, having not lost a game by more than two goals. If you compare that with Fulham, who also got a promotion, instances of implosion were seen from time to time. Their two matches against Coventry, for example, ended in a 7-2 aggregate defeat.
“We’re going into a division next year that’s unforgiving and clinical,” Parker said. DorsetLive. “It’s another 10 steps towards what the Championship is. The gap between the Championship and the Premier League is vast.
“We are going to have to build our game on real team strength, not just the goalkeeper and the defender. As a unit, we are going to have to constantly give ourselves a solid foundation. But our defensive record (in the Championship) puts us in good shape. position.”
Parker’s Bournemouth were based on defensive solidity from the start, with intensive work in pre-season focused on correcting shortcomings, such as defending from set pieces and crosses. He may not always have been the most aesthetically pleasing or possessed of the attacking verve that supporters had become accustomed to under Eddie Howe, but he proved effective in compensating for the see-saw nature of the Championship.
It is now likely that promotion to the Premier League will see Parker doubling down on his defensive efforts, with interchangeable forms – which can be run and reworked during and between games – a cornerstone. The head coach’s 4-3-3 will be adopted when the situation calls for it, but the system will be supported by fluidity. Opposing teams who share a similar desire for ball dominance can get Parker to adopt a flexible three/five back form that can turn into a 4-3-3 in possession.
Building from the bottom will come with a view to adding layers in the forward positions, with Bournemouth’s reliance on ruthlessness and Dominic Solanke undoubtedly an area that needs improvement. But as Parker woke up and recalled his players at half-time against Nottingham Forest, his side had been ‘deadly’ in front of goal. Their total of 74 goals from 64.3 xG highlighted the notion.
“The difference between the Premier League and the Championship is unforgiving,” added Parker. “It’s ruthless. Absolutely ruthless. This is a division where you give up on an error nine out of 10 times and it’s in the back of the net. We’re going to have to figure that out.
“At Fulham we did very well when we were in the Premier League. At first we were really poor defensively, losing goals at a crazy rate. But we got the upper hand as a team and that helped us. We haven’t “We haven’t scored enough goals. We created enough of them, but we certainly didn’t convert those chances. There are elements that we will have to look at for sure.”
Building from the bottom up means Parker will need reliable sources of creativity, something of which was missing during his time with Fulham in the Premier League. Obviously, if Bournemouth repeat Fulham’s total of nine home goals in the 2020/21 campaign, then there will be a distinct lack of credit in the bank with Parker. Such chronic problems will inevitably lead to scrutiny.
Yet, like a nostalgic Sat Nav, all paths will naturally lead you back to the starting point. The start being the defense and the basis of Bournemouth’s success.
Parker’s answer said when DorsetLive asked which aspect of the team will need the most attention next season.
“The nice margins, in the Premier League at both ends of the pitch and in both boxes, means you have to be ultra solid. Defensively, you have to constantly give yourself a platform. And on the other hand, you have to be clinic in attacking moments.”
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