One of the immediate features Mauricio Pochettino introduced to his team, which may have been missing under Nigel Adkins is the high press.
It was a feature he used well at Espanyol and initially it worked well for the Saints but there has been inconsistency this month which suggests they may need a plan b for the rest of the season.
The basic way to cut out a high press is to play the ball long and rely on one or two target players to hold the ball up, as the defence presses higher up the pitch.
This is the basic way that teams have started to counter Southampton and it leaves them exposed because high pressing means a higher number of players are camped in the opponents half of the pitch.
It’s a risk but it’s common in Spanish football which is where Pochettino has come from.
The challenge for the Saints now is to think of a way to counter this when teams start to effectively evade their high pressing methods.
One such way to do this is to maintain an element of that high pressing tactic but in only a single area of the team.
If the Saints can press out wide high up the pitch but have central players who are slightly deeper, then they shouldn’t get caught out on the break and it will be more difficult for the opposition to play the ball long unless it’s in less dangerous wide areas.
Pressing in wide areas is also a tactic Southampton can used to divert the play into the middle, making the opposition narrower which allows them to confine the opposition and make them more predictable throughout a game.
Southampton are a great side when they have possession and they cave into all of their natural attacking instincts but unless they come up with some sort of plan b, teams are going to grind them down, keep the ball and make it much more difficult for them in tense matches over the rest of the season.
It’s very important for the Saints not to rely on one formula because they are not out of danger just yet; 16th in the table just three points above the bottom three. If they can find a couple of useful and successful methods, they will be fine.
Saints fans, are you happy with the tactics at the moment?
image: © mischatuffield