With Liverpool facing AFC Bournemouth in the League Cup on Wednesday night, Jack Lusby provides a lowdown on Eddie Howe’s table topping Championshipside.
AFC Bournemouth vs. Liverpool
League Cup Quarter Final
Wednesday 17 December, Goldsands Stadium. 19:45pm KO, Sky Sports 1 (UK)
Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool travel to the south coast this week for Wednesday night’s League Cup Quarter Final against Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth, and face a tough challenge in a high-flying Cherries side.
With the Reds currently struggling in 10th in the Premier League, out of the Champions League and with pressure on Rodgers mounting by the day, things couldn’t be different for Bournemouth.
How have I only just learned that Bournemouth have lost just once in 3 months in all competitions?! #afcb
— Sam McIver (@Samtonio) December 11, 2014
Sitting pretty at the top of the Championship table, as well as reaching this stage of the League Cup, Howe’s side have been one of the success stories of this season in English football so far.
As such, this is not a fixture Liverpool can take lightly.
Jimmy Case: "If Bournemouth play like they did in January they will probably win this tie.": http://t.co/wgqul1ZgiD
— Nabil Hassan (@NabilHassan79) December 15, 2014
Liverpool legend and former Bournemouth midfielder Jimmy Case recently told BBC Radio Solent that: “If I was a Bournemouth fan I would be rubbing my hands [with glee].”
Case continued by referencing last season’s victory over Bournemouth in the FA Cup, claiming: “The team is a shadow of its former self from the one that won down there in January. If Bournemouth play like they did in January they will probably win this tie.”
So how should Rodgers approach this fixture, and how will Bournemouth set up?
How Bournemouth Play
TICKETS: All tickets have been issued for #afcb's @CapitalOne_Cup tie against #lfc: http://t.co/vfZQxQ71sL #AFCBvLFC pic.twitter.com/kLv0tXOrrk
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) December 15, 2014
Bournemouth’s success in the Championship this season somewhat mirrors that of Liverpool in 2013/14, with a high-tempo, attacking style of play hallmarking their dominance.
Cherries fan Ryan Brownen told us that “As a team [Bournemouth] play with fast wingers and overlapping attacking full backs.”
This means a big focus on the pace of wide men Matt Ritchie and Marc Pugh on the right and left wing respectively, while full-backs Simon Francis and Charlie Daniels provide support on either flank for Howe’s side.
Elsewhere, another fan, Sam McIver, detailed how “all midfielders [have] flexible roles to allow them to exploit space provided by the opposition.”
VIDEO: Dan Gosling is enjoying his impressive scoring run in the @CapitalOne_Cup: http://t.co/5nUQzpPVT1 #afcb pic.twitter.com/GXJH0w5hwD
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) September 24, 2014
Ex-Norwich City man Andrew Surman is a key component in the Bournemouth midfield, while former Everton midfielder Dan Gosling may have a point to prove against his once-Merseyside rivals.
McIver called Gosling “the driving force in midfield that can help Bournemouth springboard their attacks.”
Bournemouth typically line up in a variation of a 4-4-2 formation, with Brett Pitman and Callum Wilson as the strike partnership.
Pitman has scored five goals in 14 Championship appearances this season, while Wilson stands as the side’s top scorer, with 10 goals in 20 games.
SNAPSHOT: Brett PItman celebrates putting #afcb two goals ahead before half-time: http://t.co/JwmGt8RyyS pic.twitter.com/tXfyG7PoUD
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) August 27, 2014
How has also utilised 4-1-2-1-2 and Rodgers’ favoured 4-2-3-1 formation at times, too, this season, and therefore could look to spring a tactical surprise on Wednesday.
However, his 4-4-2 has proven the most successful in the league this season, with a 66 per cent win rate compared to the 4-1-2-1-2’s 40 per cent and the 4-2-3-1’s 25 per cent.
Expect Bournemouth to attack Liverpool’s flanks with pace and assurance, and Wilson to provide Liverpool’s centre-backs with a lot to think about at the Goldsands.
SNAPSHOT: Simon Francis and Matt Ritchie combine. #AFCBvCAFC pic.twitter.com/zYB8rXSPKp
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) October 18, 2014
When tasked to choose their key man for this fixture, our Bournemouth correspondents were fairly unanimous in their selection.
Brownen described Ritchie as a “tricky, pacy right winger with a mean shot.”
Meanwhile, Jack Edge opted for Wilson as Bournemouth’s key man, summarising: “[He is the] top goalscorer for Bournemouth this season who has been in tremendous form, which led to him being deservedly called up to the England Under 21 squad. [Wilson] has a lot of pace and [is] a natural finisher.”
Asked who could hurt Liverpool the most in this tie, Edge then opted for Ritchie: “never stops running, can turn very sharply and can go past a full back with ease whilst also being able to cut inside and release a rocket with his left foot.”
Brownen claimed Wilson “is in the mould of Defoe.”
Eddie Howe & Callum Wilson have been named @SkyBetChamp manager & player of the month: http://t.co/X4ige4ZdOZ #afcb pic.twitter.com/plJ0xebwrT
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) November 7, 2014
It is clear who Liverpool must be most wary of on Wednesday night, but Bournemouth’s side is full of dangerous players.
Former Queens Park Rangers Tommy Elphick captains the side from centre-back, with his partner at the back, Steve Cook a formidable presence in the air.
Elsewhere, previous Premier League features Artur Boruc Andrew Surman, Junior Stanislas and Ian Harte could all hope to feature.
How Liverpool Should Approach This Game
Brownen also outlined to us potential weaknesses in Bournemouth’s game, declaring: “Team weaknesses are being caught on the counter with the attacking full backs and not the tallest defence meaning set piece weakness.”
With Rodgers surely interested in using this competition to gain some much-needed support, an attacking Liverpool side would be wise here.
The likes of Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana could be used as wide men, with the former’s pace in particular potentially devastating if Francis or Daniels get caught out of position.
Furthermore, utilising Rickie Lambert, after a well-earned rest on Sunday, could take advantage of Bournemouth’s all-round aerial deficiency.
With Bournemouth’s strengths in the wide areas, Liverpool’s full-backs will need to on top of their game, and with Rodgers likely to rotate his squad, Jose Enrique and Javier Manquillo will have their work cut out for them.
However, remain focussed and attuned to a counter-attacking game, and Liverpool could secure a welcome victory at the Goldsands on Wednesday night.
Which side should Brendan Rodgers select against AFC Bournemouth on Wednesday? Let us know in the comments below.