Written by Waz afcb
So here we are, a new season and a new era. The man the club had been chasing for over a year was finally at the helm for his first (semi) competitive fixture, a first glimpse of what ‘Parker-ball’ was going to be like as a spectacle. Are we to be subjected to the dull and monotonous ‘possession without substance’ style that Fulham fans had been oh so eager to warn us was on the horizon, or could the former midfield general perhaps prove his doubters wrong?… Of course, we cannot possibly judge based purely on this one game in isolation, but the early indications would prove a certain element of intrigue nonetheless.
The ex-midfield enforcer and former England international lined the team up in the 4-1-2-3 system that we had become accustomed to over the course of the pre-season that preceded this fixture. The line up had a very youthful feel to it, with no less than 4 youth team graduates comprising the starting eleven. The inexperienced Mark Travers was entrusted to keep goal, an opportunity born out of circumstance for him to stake claim to the regular number 1 spot. The mountainous Ibsen Rossi lined up next to Lloyd Kelly at the heart of the defence, with the full-back positions occupied by Jack Stacey and Adam Smith, who was yet again deployed on his unnatural side on the left-hand side. The responsibility of making a play from deep was placed onto the young shoulders of Gavin Kilkenny, with the two advanced ‘roaming’ midfielders being the great Danes, the languid figure of Phillip Billing and new recruit Emiliano Marcondes. Hugging the touchline today were exciting talent Jaidon Anthony and the ever mercurial Welsh Wizard David Brooks, with big Dominic Solanke leading the line.
The game got off to a slow start for the cherries. The instruction was clearly to play out from the back at all costs, but the home side were having a great deal of difficulty bypassing the MK dons high press in the early stages. A familiar pattern of play was emerging, in which the centre half would pass out to the full pack who was hugging the touch line. The full-back would then either look to offload the ball to their respective winger or to the deep-lying play maker in Gavin Kilkenny, the issue was that we were being pressed so high that the only feasible option in this situation was to work the ball back to the centre-halves and/or Travers, eventually resulting in a hurried punt up the field. MK Dons profited from our inability to successfully work the ball from the back in the early stages, winning the ball in the attacking third and working themselves into a number of presentable positions. In truth, though Travers wasn’t really tested, a routine save from the busy Scott Twine being all the Dons had to show for this early period of pressure.
The start was not ideal but to Parker’s credit, he was able to recognise that the game plan was not proving fruitful up until this point, and made a couple of subtle tactical changes which paid dividends in a big way. The eagle-eyed and more tactically astute among you will have noticed that around the 15-20 minute mark, the full backs were instructed to come inside and occupy a position in the ‘underlapping channel’ after offloading the ball. This created an extra passing avenue when playing out and enabled us to start progressing the ball out of the defensive third. Emiliano Marcondes was also instructed to drop deeper and assist with the making of the play. The Cherries were now progressing the ball through the lines and the chances all of a sudden started to come thick and fast. Most notably, a lovely move down the left saw Jaidon Anthony find Billing in the left channel, his exquisite pull back laying the ball on the plate for David Brooks to surely plant the ball into the largely unguarded net? Unfortunately not. As we have become accustomed to over the last year, the erratic Welshman fluffed his lines and hit the ball comfortably over the crossbar, a groan of inevitability filled the air. Fortunately, with a number of onlookers still in full flow of their castigation of the Welshman, he decided to go from the ridiculous all the way to the sublime. A peach of a lofted through ball from Kilkenny finding Brooks on the wide right of the area, on the volley, and at full stretch, with his weaker foot, he expertly stroked the ball home into the side of the net. A truly memorable goal to start the season, the events of the first half perhaps perfectly summing up the Welshman. The rest of the half was mostly one-way traffic, an unfortunate Stacy limped off injured to be replaced by Zemura, with Smith reverting to his natural side.
The second half started off with a notable shift in intensity levels from the home side, Parker clearly not happy at the ease in which the away side had been able to bypass the Cherries’ press in the opening period. The players were now harrying in packs to retain possession, and when on the ball the passing was now crisp and precise. The tempo had become frantic and this suited us down to a tee. The second goal soon came, a lovely move involving Kilkenny and Brooks saw the latter find Smith on the underlap. The Englishman provided a pinpoint cut back into the feet of Dom Solanke, who expertly rolled his defender and produced an exquisite turn and composed finish to put the Cherries into the ascendancy. Vibes of vintage Callum Wilson with that one, more of that please Dom. The Cherries were now firing all cylinders, hunting down the beleaguered Dons in packs and forcing them into a number of errors. The Dons, and in particular their goalkeeper Ravizzoli, simply couldn’t cope with the step up in intensity from the home side. Their insistence on playing out from the back at all costs proving fatal, and costing them three more goals, scored by Billing, Saydee, and Brooks respectively. A special shout out to Saydee who looked every inch a football league player on his professional debut, his physical presence proving a handful and finishing the game with a goal and an assist. In truth, the game became a bit comical in the latter stages, with the crowd baiting the Dons to play the ball back to Ravizzoli, in eager anticipation as to what insane thing he would do next. Some of his decision-making was next-level bizarre, to the point that I actually had to google him to check that he was actually a professional goalkeeper and not just a spectator they had thrown in between the sticks for a laugh. The game reached its conclusion with a half-full Dean Court buzzing. Very early days for sure, but for the first time in a long time, it felt like we had an identity to our play, a high pressing and high energy side who are really buying into what their manager wants for them. It is too early to judge for sure, but for now, that will do me.
Man of the Match against MK Dons?
Against that level of opposition, Parker’s tactics / our defender’s ability was just about perfect for drawing them out and creating space. That said there are still one or two slight scares.
Against West Brom and similar decent Championship opposition, we will get caught out and will concede goals from time to time.
I guess the hope is that a) it creates more chances and thus goals than it concedes, b) our defenders improve at it as we go through the season.
As I said at the game, it’s very easy on the eye and very much ‘Bournemouth’. Only 1 game in, but it occurred to me that it looks like a descendant of Sean O’Driscoll, think he would approve of it. As then, it probably develops young players nicely, although isn’t bulletproof in its results! – Join the conversation, click here.