How Iraola brought out the best in Bournemouth hotshot Solanke


Dominic Solanke is putting together a quietly impressive 2023/24 season. The Bournemouth forward has seven Premier League goals to his name, a tally only Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah, Heung-Min Son, Ollie Watkins and Jarrod Bowen can better.  


He has more goals than Evan Ferguson, Bukayo Saka and Julian Alvarez to name but a few and yet his form appears to be going under the radar.  


We’re only just into December and this is already his highest return in the Premier League, surpassing the six goals he scored last season for the Cherries. While his performances have remained fairly consistent - he finished the 2022/23 campaign with a WhoScored rating of 6.79 and his rating so far this season has been 6.80 - his attacking numbers have definitely spiked.  


This is no doubt why he’s scoring at the rate he is.  


The former Liverpool forward, wanted by West Ham United during the summer transfer window, has adapted to Andoni Iraola’s system. Solanke is the focal point of the attack and is being burdened with more of the responsibility in the final third. Some would feel the pressure and it would impact their output. Others thrive. The Bournemouth No.9 falls into the latter category.


Last season, on a per 90 basis, he was averaging 2.4 shots and had an Expected Goals total of 0.29. For a little more context, his xG per shot average was 0.12. This season, he’s averaged three shots per 90, his Expected Goals average has risen to 0.62 - and he’s not taking penalties - while his xG per shot average is coming in at 0.21. He’s not spamming shots. He’s just having higher-value efforts on a more regular basis.  


As a result of this, he’s more dangerous and he’s scoring more goals.  


Another metric to further back this up is the percentage of efforts from outside the penalty area. Last season it was around 13% and this season it has dropped to around 9%. To summarise, he’s taking more shots in general but fewer shots from a distance. It is the perfect storm for a striker.  


How Iraola brought out the best in Bournemouth hotshot Solanke


Iraola heaped praise on his centre-forward recently when speaking to the Daily Echo: "Dom has been really good for us, since the beginning of the season. 


"He is doing all the good things, on the ball, off the ball. I think he helps his teammates a lot. He also has a clear mind, because he missed a couple of chances in the first half. Sometimes when strikers miss chances they start overthinking and I think he continued playing the same way, knowing that it’s what I have to do, I will score or I will not, but the team needs me and for us it is a pleasure to have him up front." 


Solanke has also chipped in with goals against some big opponents. He scored a double against Newcastle United in a 2-0 win for the Cherries and he found the back of the net in a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.  


He has been instrumental in their climb up the table. They now find themselves in 16th position, six points clear of the dropzone despite failing to win any of their opening nine fixtures in the Premier League. They have, however, taken 10 points from a possible 15 over the past five matches. Solanke has three goals during this upturn in form for the Cherries, playing his part in the team picking up four points in the two matches he’s scored in.  


If this form continues, Solanke would well add to the single England cap he won in 2017. Gareth Southgate has a lot of attacking options but he surely can’t ignore a centre-forward scoring goals for a struggling team. Watkins and Bowen are the only two English players to have more Premier League goals than him. This could be a career-defining season for the 26-year-old.

How Iraola brought out the best in Bournemouth hotshot Solanke