As Omar Chaudhuri pointed out on Twitter last week, Bournemouth has had quite a good few weeks.
After the 22 game week point that Omar mentions, the Cherries were a single point above the relegation places, the bottom half of the table squished into a Royal Rumble of a free-for-all after the hectic festive period.
The thing that first brought Bournemouth to my attention was not (I promise) Omar’s tweet, but was this spike on a fancy new graph I was building.
It shows the difference in conversion rates between a team and their opponents over the last 3 games, and Bournemouth’s has risen steeply in the past few games to *’Be suspicious and intrigued’ Klaxon* territory (interestingly, after having been in ‘Be suspicious and intrigued’ territory at the other end of the scale).
Bournemouth is not a side who have been on many peoples’ radars this season after the first few games where they had struggled. They’ve since then managed to get results at good moments to keep themselves above the most immediate of the relegation fray.
However, of late, they’ve put a juicy run of form together which has them, in some pundits’ minds, above the relegation battle for good.
Some of this extraordinary rise will undoubtedly be down to the strong conversion difference that they’ve experienced of late. However, some of them will be down to this.
For much of the season, Bournemouth has had genuinely bad shot numbers, but since around the 20-game mark, there has been a real upturn in performance. Now Bournemouth is above a host of teams in this basic shot metric and, given that they’ve already acquired a decent amount of points, this could be enough to keep them up just by staying as good as they are now.
As for how they’ve managed to do this is another question entirely. Unfortunately, there’s no obvious answer.
We can determine, however, that the improvement has primarily been on the attacking side of things.
While the total number of shots conceded have reduced, the shots on target being aimed at Bournemouth’s goal have barely dropped. But going forward they’ve been getting nearly three whole shots on target more per game in the last seven games than the seven games before that.
There are no grand theories that I’ve been able to come up with for this. I’m not aware of major personnel or tactical changes – Bournemouth has played a system with 3 at the back in some recent games, which may free up their wing-backs and allow their forwards to focus playing down the middle, but this doesn’t overlap neatly with the upturn in performances.
Passes into the final third are both coming from and being received in broadly the same places, and I have neither stats nor viewing time under my belt to back up my theory that there’s something about the interplay between Bournemouth’s main three forwards on any given matchday that’s driving things.
Maybe it’s all temporary.
Bournemouth’s cumulative shots in the box graph are levelling out, and even dipping, in the last few games, and the fixture schedule has not been awfully tough for them.
The Cherries’ last few months certainly makes for an interesting story, but as for an answer – that may have to wait for another week.
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