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Ryan Christie is a pressing machine for Bournemouth under Andoni Iraola as former boss hails 'maverick' midfielder

With insight from Ryan Christie's former coach, Adam Bate looks at how Bournemouth's maverick midfielder has become a pressing machine under Andoni Iraola. Watch Burnley vs Bournemouth live on Sky Sports Premier League this Sunday

Bournemouth's Ryan Christie
Image: Bournemouth's Ryan Christie has been shining in a new role for the Cherries under Andoni Iraola

Ryan Christie recently turned 29 but it is never too late to transform your game. Andoni Iraola has helped reinvent the Scotland international this season at Bournemouth, bringing the best out of a player now producing the best football of his career.

Long seen as a natural No 10 and occasionally used on the wing at Celtic, Christie has been reimagined as a hard-running midfielder. He still has the exquisite touches that have long been a feature of his game but is now registering some astonishing pressing numbers.

Among the top 10 players in the Premier League this season for high turnovers and interceptions leading to a shot, he ranks third for the most pressures on opponents and second for the number of times that he has won possession in the middle third.

Ryan Christie's stats for Bournemouth this season
Image: Ryan Christie's stats for Bournemouth this season highlight his pressing

Christie's pressing has directly led to 156 turnovers of possession, epitomising the front-foot approach that has been a hallmark of Bournemouth's game under Iraola. That he has become so central to the manager's thinking is a reward for his can-do attitude.

"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," Christie told Sky Sports in January. "He had just come through the door so I was saying yes to everything!"

He was right to embrace it - and lean into the methods of Iraola. The Cherries boss has called Christie "the most tactically intuitive player" within the squad, taking to the role with aplomb. For the man who gave him his professional debut, it is a thrill to see him shine.

John Hughes worked with Christie for two seasons at Inverness Caledonian Thistle, giving him his debut within weeks of arriving as manager in December 2013. The pair would go on to make history by winning the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park in 2015.

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11/09/14.CALEDONIAN STADIUM - INVERNESS.A clean sweep for ICT as Manager John Hughes (centre) is named SPFL Manager of the Month with Ross Draper (left) and Ryan Christie scooping Player and Young Player of the Month respectfully.
Image: John Hughes alongside Ryan Christie in 2014 as they win manager and young player awards

He still remembers the first day that he saw Christie play.

"I got very lucky because there was a coach who took the kids called Scott Kellacher and I knew him from my Celtic days," Hughes tells Sky Sports. "I asked him if he had any players. Within two minutes of me watching him play, I wanted him in my first team."

I do not want to compare the two here but I could imagine how Pep Guardiola felt when he first saw Lionel Messi.
John Hughes on Ryan Christie

He adds: "I do not want to compare the two here but I could imagine how Pep Guardiola felt when he first saw Lionel Messi. The reason I am saying that is because, you have to remember, we are up in the Highlands here, way up in Inverness.

"To see a young waif of a boy with a wand of a left foot, nutmegging people with twists and turns, scoring goals and hitting passes, playing with enthusiasm, it was, like, wow, this is something special here. That is what gets you out of your bed in the morning."

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Team-mates took to him quickly. "They knew how good he was." And although Christie continued to use his peg within the youth-team dressing room, he adapted too. "I did not even have to harness it. It was just a case of letting him go. He lit it up."

With a bit of tough love along the way.

"I never gave him a free-kick in the seven-a-sides," laughs Hughes. "He used to get bumped and clattered. He would shout for a free-kick and I would just laugh and yell at him to play on. He knew it was part of his grounding, part of the learning process."

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Tactically, Christie understood it even as a teenager.

"Two or three months in and you are talking tactics with him, maybe getting him deeper or going wide and taking the full-back for a walk by coming into the pocket, and he was so astute. He is one of those guys who you only need to tell once and he gets it."

DINGWALL, SCOTLAND - FEBERUARY 21: Celtic's Ryan Christie with his former Manager at Inverness CT John Hughes during a Scottish Premiership match between Ross County and Celtic at The Global Energy Stadium on February 21, 2021, in Dingwall, Scotland (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Image: Ryan Christie shares a joke with his former boss John Hughes during his Celtic days

Christie would go on to earn his move to Celtic - "all the pass and move stuff was right up his street" - but the acclaim that he is receiving for his performances right now suggests that this shift in his role under Iraola has coaxed that little bit extra from his game.

Hughes still sees him as a No 10. "Definitely, for me," he insists. "He is one of those who you can pass it into and he turns. He does not come back on himself. He is on the half turn and then slotting passes in or taking people in. Some of the stuff he can do."

But he has been able to showcase that stuff even from midfield. Against Tottenham, there was his first time Cruyff turn when taking the ball out of the air from a 60-yard volleyed pass from his own goalkeeper. He had drifted out to the right wing for that one.

Ryan Christie's changing role for Bournemouth this season
Image: Ryan Christie's heatmaps show his changing role for Bournemouth this season

"He can play in any position. He is a maverick with those no-look passes, the reverses, the nutmegs. You get 10s who are lazy and stay up front. Ryan was always prepared to drop into left midfield and go all the way. He does it with a smile on his face. He enjoys it."

Bournemouth are enjoying him. And so is his old boss. "I stay in touch. I am just delighted with how his career has gone and that I had the chance to work with him. It was a big decision to leave Celtic but now he is doing it in the Premier League and for Scotland."

Watch Ryan Christie in action in Burnley vs Bournemouth live on Sky Sports Premier League this Sunday from 12pm; kick-off 1pm

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