Ryan Christie exclusive: Bournemouth star on midfield transformation, Andoni Iraola, Dominic Solanke and more

In an exclusive interview, Bournemouth star Ryan Christie discusses his midfield transformation, Andoni Iraola’s methods, the fine form of Dominic Solanke and more; watch Bournemouth vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports from 3.30pm on Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm

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Bournemouth midfielder Ryan Christie discusses his positional change, his side’s impressive form and the qualities of head coach Andoni Iraola

It’s no coincidence that Bournemouth’s impressive turnaround under Andoni Iraola has coincided with a positional change for midfielder Ryan Christie.

Christie, who usually operates as a No 10, was deployed in a deeper role during a 2-0 victory over Newcastle before the November international break and has remained there ever since, proving instrumental in a run that has seen Bournemouth win six of their last eight Premier League games.

“I don’t think I can take credit for that,” he tells Sky Sports with a broad grin ahead of Bournemouth’s home clash with Liverpool on Super Sunday. “I wish I could, but there have been loads of reasons.

“Defensively we’ve been amazing and we’re scoring goals. Everyone has found their game now and it’s all glued together in the last few months.”

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Challenging Rodri and attacking with purpose

Christie’s modesty is admirable but his performances deserve to be highlighted. The 28-year-old is now playing some of the best football of his career and the stats suggest that too.

Since November 10, Christie has won possession more times in the middle third of the pitch than any other Premier League player, placing him above Manchester City’s Rodri and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold.

He also ranks first for tackles and duels won for Bournemouth this season and second for ball recoveries and interceptions.

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“I certainly wasn’t aware of that,” he says with another smile. “Those are a few stats I definitely wouldn’t have imagined being part of at the start of the season.

“In this league, there are a lot of battles in the middle of the park and you go into matches with the mindset that you need to try to outrun the opposition as much as you can because it’s normally the midfield that dictates where a game is going.”

Christie’s success in a double pivot – often alongside Lewis Cook – becomes less of a surprise when he reveals discussions with Iraola about that very subject took place back in the summer.

It led to the Scot performing the role sporadically during the early months of the season before he settled there consistently in recent times, with his experience of playing in a similar position as a youngster proving beneficial.

“The change probably came about because of injuries but to be fair to the manager, when he was trying to implement his ideas in pre-season, he was suggesting and asking me if I thought I could play a No 8 role or a bit deeper. He had just come through the door so I was saying yes to everything!

“I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s kind of where I played growing up. I’ve chopped and changed throughout my career but it’s another position, even at my age, I enjoy playing and I’m learning at the same time too.”

Despite Christie’s deeper role, his attacking output has remained at a high level. Having created the most chances for Bournemouth in the Premier League last season, he has continued to be brave on the ball this term, ranking top for final-third passes completed, big chances created and through balls attempted.

“I’m used to being an attacking player,” he says. “I want to score goals but more importantly create goals and chances for my team-mates.

“The manager is keen on us playing forward-thinking football, so when we turn the ball over he wants us to attack as quickly as possible. I’ve always been attack-minded so that’s probably where these stats are coming from.”

Image: Christie is thriving in a deeper midfield role under Bournemouth head coach Andoni Iraola

‘I love Iraola’s style – but didn’t know much about him at first!’

Christie has started 18 of Bournemouth’s 19 Premier League games this season and his versatility saw Cherries boss Iraola describe him as “the most tactically intuitive player I have in the squad” back in October.

“I’m delighted to hear that,” Christie responds. “I think it’s one of my strengths as a player.

“From a young age, I’ve not been blessed with pace or a stepover or something similar, so you need to be a bit more tactically switched on to know the picture and know what you’re going to do with the ball before it comes to you.

“Playing in a league like this you need it, especially under a manager who’s got so many amazing ideas that he wants to bring across. You need to be switched on to follow them.”

“We had a tough run of fixtures to kick off the campaign and it was going to be difficult,” Christie says. “There were some good performances – the likes of Tottenham at home and Brighton away – but we didn’t get the results to go with it.

“There was still a belief that it would take just one game to go our way and we could kick things off and it seemed to happen after that Burnley win.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good place now. We’re definitely looking up instead of over our shoulder but that can change very quickly in this league, so it’s important for us not to get complacent.

“We’ve proved to ourselves the kind of run we can go on. If we can do something like that between now and the end of the season, it will put us in a great position.”

‘Superb Solanke the face of Bournemouth’

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With Dominic Solanke attracting interest from several clubs during the January transfer window, we take a look at some of his best goals for Bournemouth in the Premier League

Bournemouth’s climb up the Premier League would not have been possible without the performances of Christie’s team-mate Dominic Solanke.

The ex-Liverpool striker has scored 13 times in all competitions this term and recently became the first Bournemouth player to win the Premier League’s Player of the Month award, but Christie has been impressed by the 26-year-old from the moment he arrived on the south coast in 2021.

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“Dom’s been superb this season and he’s been superb since I joined the club. He had an amazing 2021/22 season in the Championship and I thought he was brilliant last season as well in terms of what he gave us.

“Everybody judges a striker on goals, but his overall play goes so unnoticed for the kind of player he is. He’s scoring the goals now this season and is an all-round No 9.

“He’s so honest as well – that’s what I love about him. He’s probably the face of Bournemouth right now and he’s reaping the rewards of the hard work he puts in every day in training.”

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All the numbers you need to know within 75 seconds ahead of this weekend’s Premier League matches

Christie: Liverpool an exciting challenge

Next up for Bournemouth is an eagerly-anticipated clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have lost just once in the league all season and return to a ground where they were 2-1 winners in the Carabao Cup fourth round at the start of November.

Bournemouth have lost eight of their last nine league meetings with Liverpool – including a 3-1 defeat in August – but won this exact fixture 1-0 last season – a result Christie is optimistic can happen again.

“Absolutely [we fancy our chances] and we’re excited. We found the game at Anfield at the start of the season a bit frustrating. We played well against them in the Carabao Cup and we’re looking forward to being at home again.

“We’ve had our little break now. It’s good to refresh but it does give you a desperation to get back on the football pitch again, so everyone’s looking forward to it and we’re going into it with confidence.”

With Christie pulling the strings, Liverpool would be foolish to underestimate the scale of the task facing them this weekend. Don’t be surprised if Bournemouth produce another twist in this intriguing Premier League title race.

Watch Bournemouth vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event from 3.30pm on Super Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm.

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In an interview in December, Christie discusses Scotland team-mate John McGinn’s diving, comparisons to Zinedine Zidane, and why we can expect more tears at Euro 2024

Sourse: skysports.com

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