Football Manager 2023 AFC Bournemouth Tactics

In today’s tactical recreation, we’ll bring Football Manager 2023 AFC Bournemouth tactics into the spotlight.

Holding the helm of a struggling team after a disastrous 9-0 defeat was never going to be an easy job. And that too in the Premier League with no first-team managerial experience.

Nobody would have bet a dime for Gary O’Neil to keep the team in the Premier League. And yet, here we are at the end of the season, with the south coast side comfortably sitting outside the relegation zone. 

His brave mid-game tactical changes and a rather fluid counter-attacking approach have seen the Cherries climb against the odds. 

In this article, we’re going to find out how Gary O’Neil did the impossible. Let’s have a closer look at Gary O’Neil’s AFC Bournemouth Tactics in FM 23. 

Football Manager 2023 AFC Bournemouth: Overview

O’Neil’s demands are pretty simple. Be defensively solid, Be physical, and Be direct. 

He looks to set a solid defensive base with three at the back. A half-back pivots in front of the center backs, letting the wing backs get forward and stretch the play. It’s basically a 5-4-1 Diamond which can occasionally turn into a 3-1-4-1-1 formation in certain phases of the play. 

Gary O'Neils AFC Bournemouth formation in Football Manager 2023.

Oftentimes, Bournemouth can look to change their tactical shape to a diamond 4-4-2 with two center backs.

With a Pressing Forward/Target Man up front supported by Shadow strikers, this tactic is equally effective in quick route-one fashioned counter.  

I’ve broken down Gary O’Neils tactical approach with my Football Manager 2023 replication of the tactic. 

FM23 AFC Bournemouth: The Squad

Calling the squad “Poorly equipped” will be an understatement. The newly promoted side boasts a lot of highly versatile players capable of playing all over the pitch in FM23. 

Besides, they also got the likes of Dominic Solanke, Phillip Billing, and Jefferson Lerma in their roster who can easily fit into any mid-table Premier League club. 

With ex-Barcelona keeper Neto guarding the goalpost, this side is very capable to fight and stay in the Premier League. 

The challenge was to strengthen the defense. And that proved more and more crucial as the side started leaking goals at the start of the season. A 9-0 defeat to Liverpool was the last nail hammered into Scott Parker’s stint in the Premier League. 

Rebuilding the defense became the priority under Gary O’Neil as we saw in his earlier games as in charge of Bournemouth. While his side managed to fix the leak in defense, the attack was toothless most of the time and lacked any real goalscoring threat. 

After the World Cup, the new owner brought in Hamed Traore, Illia Zebarnyi, Dango Ouattara, and Mattias Vina, the latter two being vital for the side’s survival in the Premier League. 

The cherries have quite a lot of good dribblers of the ball. They also have pacy players with high work rates who can hurt any side on the counter. 

AFC Bournemouth have higher than average Off the ball movement and work rate in the Premier League.

FM23 AFC Bournemouth Tactics: In Possession

In Possession, the team prefers to buildup quickly from the back. In fact, the Cherries are among the most direct teams in the Premier League.

They look to progress the ball up the pitch by playing it long to the Target Man. The Center Backs take their time on the ball to let the wide players make runs into the channels. 

Bournemouth looks to create their attacking opportunities through the wide players, maintaining a standard attacking width. However, they also look to break the opposition’s defense through the middle with clever one-two passes. 

Wasting time with slow buildup is not an option for the players. Their main objective is to take advantage of the holes in the opposition’s structure with high-tempo play and quick passes into space

Despite having tall players up front, Bournemouth prefers low crosses in the box. One of the squad’s massive weaknesses is lacking good headers of the ball.

The In Possession team instructions for  Football Manager 2023 AFC Bournemouth tactics.

Good dribblers in the squad also play to Bournemouth’s advantage as they have a lot of capable players who can carry the ball up the field.

With so many attacking players up the pitch, the team looks to overload the box with frequent runs into the channel. 

Hitting early crosses instruction in Final third can also benefit the play if you have strikers like Solanke leading the line.

Here are the team instructions for Gary O’Neil’s AFC Bournemouth while in possession:

Passing DirectnessMore Direct Passing
TempoSlightly Higher
DribblingRun at Defense
Approach PlayPlay Out of Defense
CrossesLow Crosses
PassingPass into Space

FM23 AFC Bournemouth: In Transition

Proper execution of the transitional periods of the game is the main focus of Gary O’Neil’s Bournemouth strategy in FM23. Heavy emphasis is put on it as they look to be deadly on the counter while sitting deep in the defensive periods. 

Gary O’Neil’s side looks to hit the counter as soon as they win the ball. The high-tempo, direct style of play means that they are serious about their business and will look to draw blood as soon as they get the ball.

Similarly, the attacking players will look to counter-press the opposition after losing the ball. Gifted with a squad full of high work-rate players, Bournemouth can run all around the pitch non-stop and keep pressing the opposition constantly. 

The In transition team instructions for Football Manager 2023 AFC Bournemouth tactics.

Depending on the phase of the play, the goalkeeper distribution might vary. The goalkeeper is instructed to play the ball to the Center backs to build up the play from the defense. 

However, in the later stages of the game, they look to play it long to the Target Man. They also look to stop counter-pressing and sit deep to defend a lead. 

Here are the team instructions for Gary O’Neil’s AFC Bournemouth while in transition:

When Possession Has Been LostCounter-Press
When Possession Has Been WonCounter
Goalkeeper DistributionDistribute to Center Backs

FM23 AFC Bournemouth: Out of Possession

Bournemouth likes to maintain a mid-block structure during the defensive phase of the game. Triggering press more often and forcing the opposition into the wide area of the pitch. 

This makes them heavily rely on their center-back trio(pair at times) to defend crosses into the box. It’s easier for them to take this approach with the likes of Mepham and Kelly who are good aerially.

Gary O’Neil prefers his side to defend closer to the box with a lower defensive line. Playing a low defensive line gives the center-back an edge over opposition attackers looking for in-behind runs. Plus, the mid-block line of engagement makes sure that the opposition mid-field doesn’t get to play long balls that often. 

The Out of Possession team instructions for  Football Manager 2023 AFC Bournemouth Tactics.

In a leading situation, Gary O’Neil looks to adopt a lower line of engagement. This makes them a compact unit in defense. They also look to lower the pressing intensity to maintain the compact defensive structure.

Here are the team instructions for Gary O’Neil’s AFC Bournemouth while out of possession:

Trigger PressMore Often
Defensive LineLower
Line of EngagementMid-block
Pressing TrapTrap Outside

Individual Instructions

There are a few positions that require some individual instructions to maximize their effectiveness.

Start off by instructing your WCB to press more often while telling the other two center backs to tone down their pressing. 

You can demand more runs into the channel from your Pressing Forward as Dominic Solanke does in the Bournemouth team. 

Playing Jefferson Lerma as a Segundo Volante in FM can use his attacking abilities up the final third.


One huge improvement you can make to the squad is by playing Joe Rothwell instead of Lewis Cook in BBM. 

Joe Rothwell will remain unavailable for the first 4 months in your FM save due to a torn thigh muscle. Once he recovers, he can be a great boost to the squad with his impressive dribbling, pace, work rate, and flair. 


AFC Bournemouth has really struggled in defending set pieces this season. The squad lacks strength and good overall jumping reach to be good in the corner kicks.

They lack Aggression, Bravery, and Leadership in the game This makes them struggle in particular phases of the game.

The Cherries also lack quality squad depth which can lead them to serious shortcomings if one of the crucial players gets injured. There is really no good secondary option for Solanke, Tavernier, and Neto.

Final Words

Gary O’Neil’s AFC Bournemouth Tactics on Football Manager 2023 focuses on staying defensively solid. At the same time, Gary O’Neil looks to hit quick counters to catch the opponents off-guard.

Keep in mind that this tactic won’t create that many attacking opportunities. A high-tempo football with direct passing might not be the best strategy against a highly capable defense. 

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