Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis

This post initially featured on our dedicated analysis site for football around the globe, totalfootballanalysis.com

Raul Jimenez averages a goal or assist every 151 minutes (rounded down). Something which will never get old is having a striker with Raul and the number nine on the back of his shirt scoring at Molineux. As the season presses on, Jimenez is proving more and more valuable to Nuno’s side and while no decision has been made as to whether to make his loan from Benfica permanent, he is certainly doing everything in his power to make it happen. His second goal in as many starts got Wolves off to the perfect start against Bournemouth before an admirable defensive performance from Wolves’ rearguard kept Eddie Howe’s side at bay. Cavaleiro sealed the win deep in stoppage time with a goal on the counter.

Wolves’ third Premier League win on the bounce has seen them leapfrog Bournemouth and move to seventh in the table, one point behind Manchester United. It’s the first time Wolves have won three games on the spin in the Premier League era. They’ve also equalled their points tally from the 2011/12 season with 21 games to spare. Before I start waxing lyrical about Nuno, let’s have a tactical analysis of the game itself and see how Bournemouth failed to trouble Wolves despite having plenty of the ball. First up, team news.

Team news

Nothing surprising about the Wolves line-up as it was exactly as we said it would be in the preview. Jonny came through the 90 minutes unscathed which is a huge bonus. Nuno’s substitutions were interesting and while I found myself disagreeing with them, ultimately, they all worked out. That’s probably why he’s the head coach.

Eddie Howe kept up his unpredictable nature when it comes to team and formation selections. Despite playing with four at the back for the majority of the season, he reverted to a 3-4-3 to match Wolves. In some ways it was successful, in others it wasn’t. For example, Bournemouth had plenty of the ball (63%), yet failed to create anything of any real note. Yes, Stanislas hit the bar with a free-kick and the Cherries looked more threatening when Wilson came off the bench. On the whole though, Rui, in the Wolves goal, didn’t have that much to do.

Essentially, you could tell it was a shape that Wolves were more used to playing than the visitors. To illustrate that, let’s take a look at the pass maps and average positions of each player. Beginning with Wolves.

Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout.

If we focus our attention on the outfield ‘defensive’ seven that started, you’ll see it’s pretty much business as usual. Coady (#16) is always deeper than Bennett (#5) & Boly (#15). Jonny (#19) and Doherty (#2) provide the width for Nuno’s side. Moutinho (#28) is slightly ahead of Neves (#8), however, he did play in the false nine position once Gibbs-White was taken off, so perhaps that has skewed the average position ever so slightly.

The enigma that is Helder Costa

Costa (#10) is a strange player at the moment. He doesn’t seem to play with the same intensity as whoever he plays with in the front three. He also missed a glorious opportunity when through one-on-one with Begovic. Costa seemingly lost his bottle when all he had to was roll it beyond the Bournemouth keeper. Naturally, it’s always easier watching it from afar, but when Gibbs-White set him free it looked like it was going to be a goal. Incorrect.

On the flipside, Costa assisted Cavaleiro for the second in stoppage time with a cracking one-touch pass and after teeing up Jota last week at St James’ Park, that’s two assists in two games. Furthermore, there was an instance with just over five minutes of normal left which much more like the Costa of old. Let’s look at now before coming back and breaking down the rest of the average positions.

Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis
If the ball was played a yard further forward, who knows what might have happened?

Willy Boly’s lofted through ball ends up falling ever so slightly short for Costa to be able to take it in his stride. He ends up with his back to goal before bringing Moutinho into play and then having the ball back. The front triangle of Wolves’ three is an interesting shape here, to say the least. Yes, the possession has turned over relatively quickly and Costa is making the run, but Jimenez being the base of the triangle isn’t something I imagined at the beginning of the season. Regardless, the Mexican’s versatility shone through as he played each of the three forward positions on Saturday.

That’s more like it!

Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis
Backwards to go forwards.

Costa plays it back to Moutinho before getting on his bike. Note, the ever-changing shape of the triangle. Bournemouth’s defence don’t exactly cover themselves in glory here, it is particularly magnified in the next image.

Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis
Costa stings Begovic’s palms.

While it may seem like there’s an awful lot going on in the picture, there are a couple of points that I’d advise you to focus on. Firstly, Costa’s ability to shuffle from a seemingly impossible location and to get a shot away is fantastic. Could he have used the ball better, though? As the red arrow across the six-yard box suggests, if he fizzes one across there, there’s every chance that Doherty or Jimenez get a touch on it and score.

Secondly, what on earth are Eddie Howe’s side doing? There are seven red & black shirts in the above image, yet only one player is being paid attention to. Costa. You could argue that Surman has got Moutinho covered, but if we’re honest, the likelihood of Costa turning around and playing it back to the ex-Monaco man with three Bournemouth players surrounding him is pretty slim. Doherty and Jimenez are basically free. Every single Bournemouth player is looking at Costa. Something for Eddie Howe to work on, no doubt.

The art of substituting: starring Nuno Espirito Santo

Reverting back to Nuno’s subs that I brushed over earlier. He brought on Costa for Jota as we know. That was enforced due to injury. At the time I was wondering why Traore or Cavaleiro weren’t brought on instead. Costa, in parts, proved to be the right man for the job.

Secondly, Saiss was brought on for Gibbs-White. Once again, Gibbs-White was sensational as he’s really making that ‘false nine’ position his own. That also proved correct as Moutinho, as discussed, slotted in majestically into the ‘MGW’ role.

Lastly, Cavaleiro was brought on for Jimenez. It was screaming out for Traore or so I would have you believe it was. The game was stretched and Traore is like a cheetah on steroids. Nonetheless, Cavaleiro was composed enough to seal the victory in stoppage time and there’s a possibility that Traore wouldn’t have done that. Hindsight is wonderful, isn’t it?

Bournemouth’s average positions

Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout.

Eddie Howe’s defence is slightly skewed after Tyrone Mings (#26) was withdrawn with injury. The player under Mings is Charlie Daniels (#11), he replaced Mings at LCB as Rico (#21), who actually replaced Mings off the bench, went to LWB.

From Rico’s position and Jordan Ibe’s (#10), you can see they’re much more advanced than the Wolves players in the wing-back roles. Lerma (#8) and Surman (#6) are acting as the two pivots which are similar to Neves and Moutinho. The biggest difference for me is the lack of cohesion amongst the attacking players.

The Cherries have nobody firmly on the left-hand side ala Diogo Jota (#18) on the Wolves map. Yes, you could attribute that to Stanislas and King switching a few times throughout the match, but considering Wolves’ weakness at defending on the right, did Bournemouth miss a trick?

Rico, for all of his worth, isn’t as attack-minded as Jordon Ibe. Even when Ibe went off and Ryan Fraser moved to RWB, Bournemouth still didn’t have any success down the right. So, why didn’t they press the left-hand side more?

Bournemouth fail to press where it hurts consistently

Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout.

From above, you can see that half of Bournemouth’s recorded positional attacks went down the Wolves right-hand side and it yielded an xG of 0.26. If this was recognised on a higher level and Howe’s side pressed on Doherty and Bennett more, perhaps they would’ve got the elusive goal.

All in all, the Dorset side had plenty of the ball and more shots, however, the fact that they didn’t create any big chances should tell you that Wolves defended admirably.

Bouncing back to the ‘attack momentum’ feature we looked at in the preview for the game, there’s no real shock as to how it played out. Let’s take a look.

Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: SofaScore.

Remember, the higher the bar, the bigger the momentum. So, even though Bournemouth had more of the ball around that normal 15-30 minute mark where Wolves dip, they didn’t really threaten Nuno’s side. Bournemouth’s best chance on the xG scale didn’t get anywhere near the 0.1 mark and Wolves had three above that alone. See below.

Wolves created the better chances

Wolves Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Infogol.

Even the efforts on the edge of the area were more dangerous from Wolves perspective. Patricio was a spectator for a lot of the game, something Begovic could only dream of as Bournemouth’s high line was exploited countless times.

Regarding the goals themselves, there’s not a great deal to analyse as they were both relatively simple from Wolves’ point of view. Jota pounced on Daniels’ horrific backpass and his shot-cum-cross was converted by Jimenez.

The second was beautifully worked but there’s not much to talk about. Cavaleiro to Costa, Costa back to Cavaleiro with one touch and he coolly slotted beyond Begovic in a one-on-one situation.

Final Thoughts

In summary, Wolves deserved to win. The defensive resilience shown by a side that hadn’t kept a clean sheet since 6 October was admirable. No coincidence that it coincided with Jonny returning. Hell, you only need to look at Bournemouth’s positional attacks above to see that they had no luck down the Wolves left-hand side.

Liverpool arrive at Molineux on Friday with their unbeaten record still intact. Considering that Wolves tend to perform rather well against the ‘bigger’ sides, maybe Liverpool’s Christmas will be ruined come 22:00 on Friday night.

Until the next time.


If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Get your copy of the FIRST of two December issues for just £4.99 here or preorder the SECOND of the December issues with an annual membership right here.

Previous articleThree in a row?
Next articleWolves continue winning streak by seeing off Bournemouth
I've got an unhealthy obsession with Wolves, Wolverhampton Wanderers, WWFC, whatever you fancy calling us today. When we win I'm on top of the world, when we lose I'm a nightmare to be around. It's been that way for as long as I can remember and people tell me that you're meant to grow out of it, however, I don't envisage that happening anytime soon. Anyway, I'm the lead analyst on here and while I try and keep my opinion out of my writing, sometimes it's too difficult to do that. I also use the terms 'we' and 'us' when talking about Wolves and I do try and remain impartial although it's debatable whether or not I do. In hindsight, I'm probably over critical of Wolves in the same manner that I'm over complimentary, so I guess it all balances itself out in the end. Grab yourself a cuppa and have a look around.