Southampton have made quite an underwhelming start to the new Premier League season, as they sit 12th in the table after seven games.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s goal-shy side have only scored five times this season, despite dominating fixtures and having plenty of scoring opportunities. Saints have failed to score in 10 of their last 14 league games, netting just eight goals from a staggering 180 shots (4.4% success rate).
In recent times, the football at St Mary’s has appeared to be very cautious and negative, with the players seemingly reluctant or apprehensive about attacking the opposition goal.
It is clear that Saints can keep the ball very well, with the majority of matches being dominated and controlled by us, however, we lack cutting edge when it comes to attacking. We deserve more glory than we are getting, which is frustrating.
Obviously no team can stay in-form permanently, but Saints are consistently performing very poorly, with results going against us too easily.
So what could be changed about the way we play?
Play with two strikers
Mauricio Pellegrino’s favoured formation involves playing two holding midfielders, two wide men, an attacking midfielder and a lone striker. On paper, this looks like a very good set up, but the system, quite frankly, isn’t working.
Far too often the strikers get isolated in the final third, severely lacking support whenever we can get the ball forward. This results in the ball going backwards and sideways, which once again frustrates supporters.
The same goes for the wingers. They often find themselves in attacking situations, with no-one to aim for in the middle. How are we supposed to score goals with nobody sniffing around in the middle to latch on to crosses?
Back in the Mauricio Pochettino days with Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez up front, we had a totally different dimension to the way we played. Lambert played as a target man, with Rodriguez playing off him, in a season where we scared the life out of opposition defences, and contested for European places.
Equally as good were Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle, two players who worked with each other and scored plenty of goals between them. But now we look scared and rigid in attack. With one striker there is no support, nothing to feed off, which is why we are heavily lacking goals.
We have proven scorers like Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini wasting away on the bench, when they should be involved in matches. A goal-scorer should be starting week in, week out, so Saints can have an outlet who can take their chances!
Sofiane Boufal is a player that I have great sympathy for. His talent is clear, with his ability to take on his man and open up defences. But the negative football limits him.
Most Saints fans seem to be against him, which is slightly understandable seeing that we paid £16m for him and he hasn’t done a lot, but he hasn’t had the opportunities, let alone a run of games!
When he gets the ball, he has the skills to get around his man, but when he looks up there is no options, so he tries to take on another player which is when he gets tackled. His ability is clear to see, and I feel that a run of games, with the right support and confidence, will help the Moroccan flourish.
He came off the bench at Stoke and for me, changed the game. Although we lost the match, Boufal offered us more creativity and he increased the tempo of our play, making us look more threatening. I’d love to see more of him in the next few matches.
Improve squad depth
Southampton generally have quite good depth to their squad, however ,some of the players on the fringe of the first-team I just feel aren’t good enough to compete at the top-level.
Injuries are certainties now and again for players, but some of the replacements just aren’t up to scratch for me, and this could be another possibility as to why we are under-performing.
Obviously this is something that can’t be addressed until January, but it will need addressing.
Southampton have two home games next in the Premier League against Newcastle and West Brom, where hopefully they can get their season back on track.