Home BETTING TIPS Iraola deserves to be in the Manager of the Year discussion

Iraola deserves to be in the Manager of the Year discussion



Initially, Bournemouth’s decision to sack Gary O’Neill in favour of Andoni Iraola last summer looked a foolish one. While O’Neill started well as Wolves’ new manager, the Cherries had to wait until their 10th fixture of the season to register a win in the Premier League. Since then, though, Ireola has set Bournemouth on a steep upward trajectory.

Sunday’s comprehensive 3-0 victory over Brighton lifted the Vitality Stadium outfit into the top half of the table despite the club having one of the smallest budgets in the Premier League this season. Bournemouth have already set a new club-record for the most points in a top flight season and there’s still three fixtures left for them to raise the bar even higher.

“I’m very happy with the 48 points and we have to continue pushing,” said Iraola after the win against the Seagulls which improved Bournemouth’s chances of finishing in the top 10 places. “There are even more difficult games ahead, but we want as many points as we can, we want to finish the season strongly.”

Bournemouth have been vindicated in their effort to hire Iraola who had no shortage of suitors following an impressive stint as Rayo Vallecano manager. Leeds United wanted to appoint the former defender last season while West Ham were also reportedly tracking the Rayo boss at one point.

The Cherries, however, moved quickest. They saw Iraola as the man to impose a more modern, front-foot approach at the Vitality Stadium and that approach has taken root over the course of his first campaign in English football. Indeed, Bournemouth have improved with almost every match they have played under Iraola.

For a long time, Bournemouth were a team that liked to use a low block and play on the counter-attack. With Iraola at the helm, though, the Cherries have played with a high press. They look to win the ball as close to the opposition goal as possible and make sharp, incisive decisions in the final third.

“To be efficient is to play as close to their box as we can,” said Iraola when asked last summer to describe his approach. “We will play a little bit higher up the pitch, as much as we can in their half. We have the work rate, especially from our front players. They can sustain the press, make us play high, so we are closer when we regain possession to their goal.”

Ryan Christie has thrived in a deeper midfield position with the Scotland international key to the way Bournemouth move the ball through the centre of the pitch at speed. Justin Kluivert also reflects much of Iraola’s proactive approach with the Dutchman’s natural creativity now harnessed in a number 10 role.

Antoine Semenyo is another attack-minded figure who has found his best form under the stewardship of Iraola who has emboldened many of his players to have an influence in front of goal. Marcus Tavernier has similarly established himself as someone who is capable of making a difference in the Premier League.

The results are clear. Bournemouth have claimed impressive victories over Manchester United, Newcastle United and most recently Brighton. They have also gone away to Newcastle, Liverpool and Brighton – three teams renowned for their ability to build up from the back – and scored the first goal through pressing high.

Iraola has given Bournemouth a new identity which should sustain them for seasons to come. He deserves to be part of the Manager of the Year conversation in the Premier League such has been the transformation in the Cherries’ fortunes from the start of the 2023/24 campaign to now. Even greater success could be achieved at the Vitality Stadium.