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Football News: Southampton v Bournemouth Preview 20 October 2018

Southampton v Bournemouth Preview 20 October 2018
Image from: freelargeimages.com

This weekend sees Southampton take on 6th placed Bournemouth who have won 16 points from their opening 8 games. They have won 5, drawn 1 and lost only twice. By contrast, we have almost the exact opposite with 1 win, 2 draws and 5 losses, mustering an underwhelming 5 points so far.

Bournemouth are at home and have a much better record than us for games played over the last two seasons after the international break. They have a settled squad, style of play, formation and starting line-up. They have great pace in attack which is a headache for anyone. They have scored 10 more goals than us this season and conceded 2 fewer. I'll get ahead of myself here and say I expect Bournemouth to win. All I would like to see from Saints is an improved defensive performance. That would be enough to encourage hope of progression. I fear more of the same as in previous weeks.

So enough about Bournemouth and instead, some thoughts on our last league game. As predicted, MH reverted to a 5-3-2 (ish) formation against Chelsea. It had fared OK in the midweek cup game against Everton but this was only against a very second string Everton side. Plus we only won on pens. Still, it was nice to see a three man midfield against Chelsea as in previous games, our two man midfield had been overrun.

I've said it before and will continue to - the problem with this formation is that it leaves you exposed in the pockets of space behind your wing-backs. It showed in pre-season, on the opening day against Burnley and again against Chelsea. The last place you want Chelsea to have space is in wide areas and channels where Hazard is so effective, drifting out there even when playing as the focal point to Chelsea's attack.

Also, if you want to beat teams with the quality of Chelsea, you have to press and harry them, shut off the vertical channels and make them play sideways. Man-mark Hazard if you can. None of this was evident. We stood off and let them move the ball as they wished, which has become a deep-rooted symptom of Saints' demise. We are impotent in both defence and attack, affording teams too much time and space to work. Even the worst teams in the league will be able to capitalise on this.

As a side note, I do wonder where the art of defending has gone. Not just from the Premier league but other leagues too. Watching the World Cup and this week's Spain v England game, even Spain seem to have forgotten how to stop the opposition simply running at their goal and booting it in. I know we all enjoy watching attacking football. We love goals and fantastic runs with the ball, but there must be a balance. We also love seeing Eric Dier flying in at Ramos. We love the likes of Ramos and Chiellini and their dark arts, Godin etc. The old school enforcers, the Vidics, Staams and dare I say in the same breath Michael 'killer' Svensson.

Yes, goalless draws are often drab affairs lacking in quality, but in the last few seasons, with everyone desperate to emulate Barcelona of yester-year while putting their own stamp on it, every team suffers just as that Barcelona team did. Only more frequently and more greatly, as where Barcelona had an amazing squad of talent throughout, tailormade for the style of football, no-one else does. Otherwise, people get excited about Klopp's heavy metal football at Liverpool and try to follow that path, only with weaker players; even Liverpool aren't infallible yet. The result is that we see more goals but more defensive errors. Its like watching kids playing football when they're not really allowed to tackle as the emphasis is on enjoying the game rather than the pressure of winning or losing.

The approach always used to be, that if you're struggling in both defence and attack, you must sure-up your defence first and make yourself hard to beat. That way, you may at least earn points through draws and nick the odd win. If you focus purely on scoring, ignoring the gaping holes at the back, you ask for trouble because scoring goals is often much harder than making life tough for the opposition.

I still think this is the right approach and I'm sure many others do. When you're not winning games, it looks far worse when the team stands-off and chases shadows, with the opposition walking through on goal. The anger of fans at losing every week is then directed at the players because it doesn't look like they care enough, they're not working hard enough, they have no pride or passion.

But I don't buy this. In the very least, they are competitive people who must all have a level of personal pride, otherwise, they wouldn't have reached this level of football. So every mistake made will hurt, every loss will see them blame themselves or each other and suddenly, playing football becomes a lot harder. MH says we paid Chelsea too much respect but that is manager-ease for saying we didn't press them hard enough. If that is so, that's on you MH. If your specific tactics are for the team to press and harry the opposition, make life hard for them, get tight and physical, then that has been absent in pretty much every game so far this season. Fix it on the training ground and get your message across.

I fear the reality is that MH is a manager who relies on the players to make the right choices during the game without telling them specifically what he wants to see. Expecting them to know their positions, when to sit or run forward, when to get tight or drop off, when to follow a runner or when to let him go and communicate clearly with a teammate. But the best coaches don't do this. They give players clear instructions.

Its even more crucial to do so when the team is struggling because, when players make mistakes or believe they have, they question what they are doing. They're more likely to drop off and try to give themselves more time to see what the opponent will do and try to react to it, rather than imposing his play on the opponent. As we know, dropping off tends to have the negative effect of allowing the opponent more time and space to run or pass, making the chance of beating you greater. If this is to be avoided, MH must drill the players, instruct them, coach them and give them confidence in playing again.

Written by figodasilva October 19 2018 15:28:16

 

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