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Tactical Analysis of Southampton’s Defence

The Boot Room

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Southampton have arguably been the most overachieving team this season. They currently lie in 7th place and are competing for European football, potentially Champions League. Only four teams have a better goal difference in the Premier League, and not one team in the whole of the football league has a better defensive record having, conceded just 20 goals in 28 games. But many have been wondering what would account for this? Especially since they don’t appear to be a team happy to sit back with 10 men behind the ball all game and “park the bus”. Therefore, I will be discussing the major components to what makes The Saint’s defence so formidable.

Since it’s rise to success in 1970’s Kyiv, pressing has become an integral part of any defence. The notion of reducing the oppositions time and space on the ball is a crucial factor of modern football, and one Koeman employs at Southampton to great success. This requires great stamina from his players in order to keep up the high work rate throughout the game. Even strikers, such as Shane Long, have covered great distances in order just to make the opposition less comfortable in possession. However, it all proves to be worthwhile as it makes it extremely difficult for even the best opposition to get any real “flow” going.

Many spectators of Premier League football will see Allardyce teams willing to sit back and invite opposition on to them, whilst keeping defensive structure, and believe this is the most effective way to keep the ball out of your net, even if it doesn’t get the adrenaline going. An idea Koeman laughs in the face of, willing to push his side forward leaving space in behind for opposition strikers, in order to reduce the space the opposition play in and to regain possession. They are able to deploy a high defensive line, in part due to the fact that the likes of Clyne and Bertrand posses immense pace, and are able to sweep up if a ball is played behind them.

We can expand upon the importance of Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand further. Despite technically being defenders they play a strong part in Southampton’s offense(as many fantasy football players ought to know by now). Their willingness to push forwards has not only created goals, but prevented them as well. Since Clyne punished the Liverpool defence on the opening game of the season, teams have been keen to ensure their wingers drop back and be wary of the threat the full-backs posses. This allows Southampton to acquire territory and reduces the likelihood of an opposition counter-attack.

Another key player for The Saints this season is Morgan Schneiderlin, a player who receives a lot of attention over transfer rumours, but not enough for his ability. He’s brilliant at breaking up play, averaging 3.3 tackles and 2.4 interceptions a game(whoscored.com). But an even more important statistic is his passing accuracy; at 89.3%. His ability to retain possession is just as important as his ability to make a tackle when trying to keep the number of goals conceded to a minimum.

Since the rise of ‘tika-taka’ football the idea that possession is just as important in scoring goals as in preventing them has become increasingly more apparent. This could be seen when Spain went through a period of dominating international football. However, in the 2010 World Cup they only managed 8 goals over the whole tournament, compare this to Germany’s 18 goals in the most recent World Cup. Despite this they won the tournament, seemingly quite comfortably. The reason being, since they kept vast amounts of possession, they only conceded 2 goals over the 7 game period. Therefore the fact that Koeman’s side go into most games expecting to have the majority of possession is crucial. This reduces the oppositions opportunity to create chances and ultimately score goals. Although, when it comes to facing the likes of Chelsea this weekend, Southampton will have to accept that they won’t be able to control the game as much as they would prefer. In situations like these Koeman has to consider damage control as the threat cannot be erased completely.

Like a car has crumple zones in case of a crash, in order to reduce the risk of critical damage, Ronald Koeman’s defence has similar safety mechanism built in. The positioning and angling of the central midfield (mostly Wanyama and Schneiderlin) pushes incoming attacks wide and away from the goal. This is done partly by the midfield pairing compressing the space just in front of the defence and making it near-impossible to play in. But also forming a diagonal line in order to shun them in the direction of the full-back. As readers might shape their bodies in order to make attackers go where you want them to during a Sunday league match, Southampton do this on a larger scale, which takes practice and organisation.

By designing a system based on key principles such as space compression, forcing opposition wide and retaining possession;which highlights the strengths of his individual players. Ronald Koeman has got his side defending at a level of quality that is, in my eyes, equal to or better than almost any other side in Europe this season.

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West Ham United

Marlon Santos joining West Ham would be ideal solution to defensive woes

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Photo: Getty Images.

There will be a summer of change at West Ham United this summer and with James Collins leaving the club there will be a spot opening up in defence. Reports from Spain indicate that the man to fill it could be Barcelona youngster Marlon Santos.

The Brazilian joined the Spanish giants permanently last summer after impressing for their B team and earning a first team debut in 2016/17 and spent pre-season with Ernesto Valverde’s first team before being sent out on loan.

Now, reliable Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo say that West Ham are interested in taking the defender on loan next season after he has impressed in France, playing for OGC Nice, making 27 appearances during his loan spell.

(Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old has also been linked with Leicester but with West Ham believed to be leading the chase, it would be a wise move from Manuel Pellegrini to seal a deal as soon as possible.

Strong in the tackle, Santos would also bring some much needed pace to the West Ham defence. Replacing the likes of Collins and Jose Fonte who departed in January, the arrival of a fleet-footed defender would be a welcome turnaround at the London Stadium.

It may also suggest a change in style, with the former Fluminense youth product known for his ability on the ball, often looking to dribble out from the back to get his team transitioning from defence to attack.

Pellegrini is clearly putting the building blocks in place to build a side in his own image, and bringing in Marlon Santos would be a cheap and sensible addition to fix a major problem area.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Malcom would add another dimension to Tottenham’s attack

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Photo: Getty Images.

After an impressive 2017/18 campaign, Tottenham are already beginning to plan for 2018/19 and are keen to make a statement in their first season in a new look White Hart Lane. One way they may do so is with the addition of Girondins Bordeaux forward Malcom.

Sky Bet currently list Tottenham at 7/2 to sign the Brazilian, just behind favourites Manchester United in the running at 3/1, and such an acquisition would bring an exciting new element to Mauricio Pochettino‘s attacking set-up.

Predominantly playing on the right wing, Malcom may offer more width than many of the options within the Tottenham squad, but much like Heung-Min Son and Erik Lamela, he likes to dribble on the ball and cut inside, offering a direct threat rather than looking to cross into others.

The 21-year-old scored 12 goals in 35 Ligue Un games for Bordeaux this season and whilst not exactly prolific, would help to add goals to the Lilywhites’ midfield and reduce the reliance on Harry Kane.

(Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)

He also has some similarities to the likes of Christian Eriksen as a superb set piece taker who likes to shoot from distance, helping to add another dimension as Tottenham look to break down more defensive sides who sit deep in hope of frustrating them.

With huge potential to develop even further, Malcom may not come cheaply but would represent an interesting project for Pochettino to get even more out of him. Whilst he bares many similarities to Erik Lamela when he arrived in north London, if he can avoid injury he could go on to become the player Spurs had hoped to see Lamela become.

His pace and threat would add a much needed option into the Spurs attack, complimenting the playmakers like Eriksen, Dele Alli and Lucas Moura and supporting the goalgetter Harry Kane. Strength in depth is key in Tottenham’s quest for silverware and Malcom would be a step in the right direction to achieving it.

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Newcastle United

Fulham promotion opens up £15m exit for Aleksandar Mitrovic

The Newcastle United star is likely to move away from the club this summer.

Mathew Coull

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Fulham won promotion to the Premier League yesterday with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final. The Cottagers scored in the first-half through Tom Cairney to rightfully take their place back in the top-flight of English football.

It was a tremendous performance and in the summer Fulham will be looking to bring in some new faces to help them stay in the top-flight. One of those faces, will not be necessarily new. Aleksandar Mitrovic has been brilliant for Fulham since joining on loan in January.

The Serbian striker has scored 12 goals since his arrival at Craven Cottage and will no doubt be wanted permanently at the club.

Is this good news for Newcastle United?

There has been plenty of talk regarding the Serbian’s exit from St James’ Park in the winter. Many fans on Tyneside are wondering whether the club should have kept him at Newcastle, considering his goal record in London.

(during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Watford at St. James Park on November 25, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

However, it is clear that Rafa Benitez is not a fan of the player and the Spaniard certainly made things work without him.

The best thing for Newcastle right now is to sell him and ensure they bring in enough money to cover the cost of his original signing.

Fulham represent their best option to do so. Newcastle want about £15 million for the player, according to the London Evening Standard, which is the fee they paid for the Serbian in 2015.

Fulham will no doubt want to bring him to the club this summer, but would not have been able to bring him to the club had they failed to secure promotion to the Premier League.

The Cottagers can now afford the player and Mitrovic’s price-tag is unlikely to be a problem with the bonus they will receive for heading into the top-flight. Newcastle must be pleased that Fulham earned promotion, as it will allow them the best opportunity to move Mitrovic on without a major loss.

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