Andoni Iraola: What To Expect From The New Bournemouth Boss
Having survived Premier League relegation quite comfortably in the 2022/23 season, it came as a surprise to many that the Cherries hierarchy decided to sack fan favourite Gary O’Neil.
However, this should not take away from the exciting appointment of Iraola who will bring with him a new style of football from Spain that is sure to excite all those within the Vitality Stadium.
For many fans in England, Iraola may be largely unknown. The former Spanish international made his name as a left-back for Athletic Bilbao and made over 400 appearances in all competitions for the Basque outfit.
Having installed himself as a Bilbao legend, Iraola went to New York to end his playing career in 2016 before starting to learn the ropes of management.
Just two years later, he was given the reins at a struggling AEK Larnaca, but his first managerial job ended six months later with the Cypriot side sliding down the league table.
As a result of this, Iraola went back to Spain and landed in the second division of Spanish football with newly promoted Mirandes. His new style of high-octane football led to the Segunda Division side making it into the semi-finals of the Spanish Cup in 2019/20.
Iraola then moved to Madrid minnows Rayo Vallecano who he inspired to promotion in his first season before achieving back-to-back mid-table finishes which propelled his name into various managerial jobs such as Leeds United.
Having spent little to no money in Madrid and having exceeded expectations, it will be a welcome change at Bournemouth where he is expected to have a Premier League-level budget to rely on.
With American owner Bill Foley arriving in October and promising to invest in Bournemouth, appointing Iraola signals a change in approach for the Cherries.
Having been born in a small Basque region called Gipuzkoa where other coaches such as Mikel Arteta, Unai Emery, Julen Lopetegui and a host of other managers honed their skills, it will come as no surprise that hard work is at the forefront of Iraola’s work.
Tactically, Iraola likes to line up in a regular 4-2-3-1 with an emphasis on width coming from the full-backs and the wingers coming inside to cause danger.
When not in possession, the Spanish manager likes all of his players to defend in a 4-5-1 block but will then look to counter-attack quickly through the pace of his wingers which was so successful at Vallecano where Alvaro Garcia and Isi Palazon caused havoc.
With youngsters Dango Ouattara, Marcus Tavernier and Justin Kluivert already in the squad, these players look well suited to the style of play Iraola wants to imprint on his side.
In the middle third, Iraola will demand that all of his midfielders can play with versatility and the box-to-box capabilities that made Santi Comesana and Oscar Trejo standout at Vallecano.
With Philip Billing and Hamad Traore, this could be the perfect blend of final third quality and defensive assurance that Iraola needs for his high-octane style of play to become successful in the South Coast.
Meanwhile, in defence, Iraola prefers his full-backs to provide the width but also stay deeper to make sure the centre-backs are not exposed at any time during the game.
The Cherries’ star striker Dominic Solanke will have his work cut out as Iraola’s system usually requires the striker to remain higher up the pitch isolated from the rest of the team.
The English forward could be the perfect fit though as he has played this role throughout his career and has all the physical attributes to succeed.
Although Iraola likes his teams to keep possession, his Rayo Vallecano squad also liked to win the ball in the final third and fire off shots in quick patterns of play. They do this by pressing high and suffocating the opposition’s backline.
These turnovers will no doubt be an aspect of Bournemouth’s play in the upcoming season and with fast, technical players in the squad, Iraola will want to imprint this aspect on his team as soon as possible.
One last aspect that may excite Cherries fans is that Iraola orders his players to shoot on-site. Even though a small proportion of long-range efforts will find the back of the net, the rebounds and set pieces won will help the team progress up the pitch.
Although Bournemouth are still one of the bookies’ favourites to return to the second tier, Iraola brings with him a new style of football that looks well-suited to the Cherries squad.
However, with 13 Premier League managers sacked last season, Iraola will have to work his magic straight away if he wants to continue his managerial rise to the top.