This is a report on Southampton to look at their team model of play, ways they have set up this season vs different teams and the differences of the team dynamics featuring different players. Rather than being about them facing a specific opponent, like my previous reports, this report will be a more general report.
Please note that this is not an article but a scouting report and it’s style is intended to be written as a scouting report.
Southampton are a club that are looking to build upon their positive early season form, conceding less goals than any other team in the league. They are showing their ambition to be a Champions League team with a new £30m training complex, which will be ready next season, as well as the investment in player staff and taking everything to the finest detail in order to gain any advantage over other teams. A motto of ‘how’ Southampton can win the league, rather than ‘if’. – More details on what they are doing here.
A manager that is changing the culture of the club, through the 1st team and academy. Bielsa and Barcelona influence in his philosophy.
It went badly wrong for him towards the end of his last job at Espanyol, finally leaving the club on the 26th November 2012 with the club in last position in La Liga. After this experience and better conditions at Southampton it shouldn’t happen again. There were signs vs Fulham of looking to control the game with the ball more to conserve energy and reduce the amount the players run to prevent dip in form in the second half of the season. An interview with Schneiderlin, on what Pochettino has asked from him and some of the changes he has brought in, like high pressing [English translation at the bottom].
Use changes of rhythm and look to draw the opposition into their half in the initial build up phases, in order to create bigger spaces between the oppositions defensive lines to disorganise them. When they are then disorganised, they will look for progression into the 3rd phase areas either through the fullbacks [high & wide early] or with passes to one of the moving front 3 players.
Team initially build up in a 2 – 3 – 2 – 3 formation – with both fullbacks high and wide on the 3rd line and 3 central midfielders (moving + tight) in front of the two centre backs (both good on the ball). James Ward-Prowse drops from the right into the 2nd line of 3. Slow tempo and rhythm to gain comfort and control in the game – looking to draw opposition into their half to then have more space in higher phases [vertical passes to Lallana/Lambert coming deep or Clyne up the side]. If short option isn’t on, long and direct from centre-back or Boruc to Lambert = 3 players off him competing for second ball (team working in 2 units initially). Support from both central midfielders (from deep) delayed – moving up as a defensive unit to create 1 collective unit on the 2nd ball.
Short build up:
Long build up:
Centre-backs tight with 2nd line rotating central midfielders and splitting side central midfielders [Schneiderlin & Ward-Prowse – coming deep from the right] into fullback positions to give extra passing options to centre-backs when pressed. Different variations on 3rd and 4th line. With Osvaldo in place of Ward-Prose [Liverpool game] the 3rd line was fullbacks + Schneiderlin moving forward, with a flat 4 on the 4th line – 1v1 capacity on the opposition back 4. With Ward Prose, the 3rd line is fullbacks and Lallana [lateral movements & outside diagonal runs behind fullbacks] with Lambert & Rodriguez [inside diagonals from the right] on the 4th line. Switch of play to the high fullbacks often used to progress into 3rd phase. Usually have a high amount of possession, but due to the way they build up these figures can be misleading as the possession is usually in their own half.
Phase 3: Crossing vs Fulham & Clyne
Moving into 3rd phase increases the speed of the attack and a change in rhythm. Main progression of the team into phase 3 [from phase 1] is the ball to Clyne (high & wide). Upon Clyne receiving the ball, movement is triggered [see image below]. Main source of overloads and ability to get the ball into Clyne comes from Ward-Prowse dropping deep on the right hand side to allow side to gain initiative and free space on the right. Block the vertical passes from him & you force them to play long & on the second ball. Two different ways of doing this has happened recently, vs Arsenal [blocked passing lanes by putting the strikers on the Southampton centre backs and pressure on Ward-Prowse to block pass] and vs Chelsea [used Azpilicueta high to pressure him & forced Southampton deep with relentless, direct and aggressive passing into wide areas & behind centre backs – which forced the Southampton fullbacks to stay deep].
Phase 4: Show 4v4 vs Liverpool & difference between James Ward-Prowse and Osvaldo.
Good numbers in the box in 4th phase, giving good efficiency in sustaining attack & the accumulation of shots/headers. 4v4 in the box vs Liverpool with Osvaldo, Ward-Prowse more likely to move for pullback crosses.
Look to press high [forwards trigger press], control central zones, block passing lanes and force the opposition to make errors on the ball – rather than winning the ball though tackles in high areas – to force the opposition to play long and over the top of the initial pressing zones, where there is a second unit of 5 to create a second phase pressing zone. Compact and collective in deeper areas, with objective to win the ball to counter attack quickly – Rodriguez on the 3rd line as an outlet.
Team initially set up in a 4114 high block [Schneiderlin moving up the the 3rd line] to block vertical passing lanes by moving in relation to the ball behind the front 4. Even though they press high they prefer to force the opposition to make a mistake, rather than regaining the ball in high areas that often – so the best side to play over the top to is to Clyne, on their right, in the air [1.75m and poor in the air].
Short from the goalkeeper – pressuring high (1v1 capacity) blocking passing lanes & forcing the player on the ball to have limited options (presses in deep positions – 180 degrees passing range).
Pass back to the goalkeeper – follow pass and look to force the goalkeeper to one side, where they can then take out one of the oppositions players (block passing lane) to create outfield 3v2 or 2v1 overload.
Team drop to a 442 medium block, with a high defensive line, in phase 2. Hold zonal marking positions, with tight lines between the midfield and strikers – bigger gap between defensive and midfield line. Strikers sitting on central midfielders and central midfielders tight behind them. Full-backs will leave zone and follow wide players coming deep to receive to feet to prevent them from turning and facing the game. Flooding of wide zones to recover (especially on the right) with the central midfielder moving across to cover fullback – allowing 2v1 on the opposition fullback when on the ball.
Team set up in a 4321 low block with Rodriguez in the 3rd line as an inside right to be used as an outlet in transition. This is the teams weak side as it allows initial isolation of Shaw, before being covered by a central midfielder. Image below shows the central midfielders covering fullbacks & half spaces [on both sides] to keep 3 defenders in the box for crosses, as well as the other central midfielder to block pull back crosses. Try to force the opposition back to phase 2 though aggression of pressing when the ball initially enters each players zone [especially when receiving the ball with back to goal].
Team set up in a 4321 ultra low block, 3 defenders in the middle with central midfielders covering fullbacks (double teaming) – other central midfielder in central area to try and block pull back crosses with Lallana deep. Organisation errors when Schneiderlin went off vs Chelsea.
Always look to counter attack if possible. Quick and direct change in mentality, with 3 players in initial counter and 2 lines of support [Ward-Prowse then one of the two central midfielders]. Inside movements from Rodriguez dangerous and he is also used as an outlet to receive and progress with the ball from deep positions.
Weak in transition in the wide areas. Possibility to completely disorganise them with continuous pressure, as the centre-backs can’t cover the full-backs every time – leaving full-backs isolated or exposed. This was done recently by Chelsea with good effect.
Team in a 2431 formation with centre backs split wide and central midfielders recovering central positions in the middle (when one centre-back is wide covering fullback – side of the ball).
Initial space behind fullbacks, Lovren covering Shaw, which leaves Fonte & Clyne in the box with progression.
With a high amount of players forward, there is a lot of space for the centre-backs to defend – forced to move out laterally to cover for the fullbacks with counter attacks in wide areas.
Mix the amount of players that attack each post depending on which post the ball is going to – always 5 in the box, except when they are in front and late in the game.
Offensive free kicks:
Defensive free kicks:
Kick off combination: