Monday, August 8, 2022

Alter Thought: Could The Europa League Be A Good Competition For Puel To Find The Right Tactics?

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Snehanjan Banerjee
Snehanjan used to a former columnist at The 4th Official. Fan of KK, Cricket and Liverpool (in no particular order).

The new season hasn’t started really well for Southampton. The Saints have come a long way over the last four years since they were promoted to the Premier League and will be playing the group stage of the Europa League for the first time in their history. However, the departure of Ronald Koeman and pivotal players like Mane, Wanyama and Pelle has hit the Saints badly. Puel is yet to win his first game of the season but there is a definite sense of optimism growing around the Saints’ first ever Europa League campaign.

Claude Puel’s tactics have come under scrutiny as the Saints are yet to impress this season but we have to understand that it is still early days of the season and Puel has to be given time to settle in the Premier League as well. He had his fair share of success in France in a 4-4-2 diamond formation and we do understand the reason why he is sticking to that.

However, Southampton have been drawn in a pretty difficult group with sides like Inter Milan, Sparta Prague and Hapoel Be’er Sheva accompanying them. Puel has to get his tactics right at any cost in order to qualify for the knockout stage from such a tight group. He has spent quite a lot of time with his new team now and has to get his tactics right now.

Replace Redmond up front with a natural forward and play him at the tip of the diamond

Nathan Redmond has been an ever-present member of the Southampton team this season but has been used in each game as one of the two forwards up front. Shane Long, Charlie Austin and Jay Rodriguez has been rotated in the other centre-forward position and none have managed to impress so far. If you keep on playing a winger as a striker ahead of natural forwards without offering them too many chances, their confidence will eventually diminish and now is the time for Puel to start with two natural forwards up front.

SOUTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 27: Jay Rodriguez of Southampton (L) celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Southampton and Sunderland at St Mary's Stadium on August 27, 2016 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM – AUGUST 27: Jay Rodriguez of Southampton (L) celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Southampton and Sunderland at St Mary’s Stadium on August 27, 2016 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

For a proper 4-4-2 diamond formation to be fruitful, you need two mobile centre forwards who can create chances for each other and work their socks off for the team. Both Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez are quality attackers and bring much different qualities to the team. While the former is all about his burst of pace and finding pockets of space behind the defence, the latter is more of a complete forward who excels with his off-the ball movement. Puel has to try with the two of them up front.

Redmond has been impressive for Southampton so far this season but his game will improve if used at the tip of the midfield diamond in place of Dusan Tadic. The Englishman is more mobile when compared to the Serbian wizard and would be a big success at the tip of the midfield. Redmond’s passing success this season is 89% which is much better than Tadic’s 78%. Even though Tadic has created more chances (3.32) and made more key passes (3.32) every 90 minutes this season than Redmond (2.50, 2.50), Redmond’s figures will improve if used as a number ten.

The Saints have had 16 shots every game this season and have conceded just 9.8 shots while boasting an average of 55% possession and 83% passing accuracy. So, as a unit, they haven’t really done bad but need to improve their finishing and for that, Puel has to try using two natural strikers up front and play Redmond just behind them.

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