Football has become progressive and now relies on a player’s ability to pass or dribble from A to B in a precise and incisive manner.
At Bournemouth, Ryan Christie is the player Scott Parker and his teammates turn to to get the ball from point B to point C. Christie is doing his best straddling the second blue line, knitting play from the middle third to the back third.
He is Bournemouth’s leading assist provider with eight and no player, who has started at least six games, made more key passes or moved the ball further in the final third. Only Todd Cantwell, who forged an early agreement with the Scot, was so incisive.
“It’s strange because I noticed that,” says Cantwell DorsetLive. “You can naturally have a connection with someone on a football pitch. It’s just such a strange thing, really, because we haven’t even had conversations about how we want to play or how we want to do things. It just seems to be working.”
Despite the element of risk naturally associated with making assists, which are often eye-of-the-needle entities and require a high degree of precision to play in congested areas, Christie averages 1.5 passes keys per game. More pertinently, it still maintains an impressive accuracy rate of 81%.
READ MORE: Scott Parker, Bournemouth and the win over Coventry that was defined by three tactical steps
Christie is seen internally as the main team builder, the one player Parker turns to when Bournemouth are passing too slowly and lack the type of verve needed to break a deep backline.
Although the lavish finish has at times let the 27-year-old down, he never seems outwardly deterred from carrying that same sense of risk into his game. In the recent goalless draw with Sheffield United, where Parker looked to double defensively , the former Celtic man was the one to have his position changed during the game, instead being given greater license to drift inside. It quickly became apparent that Christie was only relied on to split a defense that had conceded just twice in 11 home games.
Christie’s malleability was also a key aspect of Parker aiming to balance attack and defense.
Originally slated to play as one of the advanced No. 8s upon his arrival, with David Brooks taking the widest position, Christie soon had to move on. He became one of two wingers expected to maintain width at all times, staying on the touchline and fighting inward drifting instincts in the process.
“In my youth, I was an 8 or 10 midfielder, which I like to play in,” says Christie. “But right now, for the way we’re playing, I think the width suits my game perfectly as well.”
The former Celtic man has played 26 times on the right this season, registering seven of his eight assists from the position. His ability to carve out pockets of space, even in games where space is tight, added a different slant to Bournemouth and Parker’s attacking patterns.
“I loved playing on the right,” continues Christie. “Especially the way we play, we have a lot of possession. You get a lot of touches on the ball and in the creative areas which suits a player like me down to the ground. I love that. I started to get an idea of the job and what the manager expects of me.”
When Parker has switched to a full-back system in games, Christie is regularly the offensive cog who has to adjust his role accordingly. A case in point came on Easter Monday against Coventry, where Parker’s employment of full-backs in the second half meant Christie essentially became one of two No. 10s in a 5-2-2-1 form. The change would come to the fore in the build-up to his assist for Dominic Solanke’s second goal.
“We have smart, smart players. Ryan Christie is exactly that,” Parker insists, speaking to Dorset live. “You can give him tactical information a few hours after kick-off and he will understand and execute.”
Christie has already surpassed his season best for minutes played, which came in the 2017-18 season while he was still at Aberdeen. General hardiness, inherent fitness levels and the speed with which he recovers after games have all been attributed as key factors behind his record of over 2,500 minutes in the Championship – the first time he has done so. .
Due to Parker’s search for ways to address shortcomings in attack, Christie’s positional mission had to evolve once again. Rather than staying forever wide, there are now more opportunities to play between the lines, especially in the middle. When it drifts inward, it’s usually Jefferson Lerma or Adam Smith who fills in the remaining space.
The vignettes before the first whistle in both matches against Middlesbrough illustrate the change perhaps best. In the away game in December, Christie’s position was surprisingly wide.
In the reverse match, however, Christie was granted the license to fabricate pockets of space in different areas of the pitch.
As we detailed earlier, Christie’s craving for possession came to epitomize Bournemouth’s defensive work. The data indicates that they remain the most in-form team, consistently topping league records and their forward line, including Solanke and Christie, leading the press.
Excluding defenders, Christie had the most interceptions of any player with 35, and only Philip Billing, galvanized under the new regime, had more tackles.
“I have an idea of what the manager expects of me,” concludes Christie. “I love the ball time I get.
“I’ve played in teams before where I’ve played on the right and I look at the clock half an hour later and I haven’t touched the ball yet. So it’s completely different from those days. , which is good, of course.”
For Parker, the equation is simple. The more Christie takes the ball, the more dangerous Bournemouth is. Moving the ball from point B to point C is one thing, but being the player who carves out goal openings is a whole other matter of importance.
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