Southampton’s high defensive line is low-hanging fruit

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Southampton’s high defensive line is low-hanging fruit

By the time Son Heung-min had rattled in his fourth goal and Harry Kane had poached one of his own on Sunday afternoon, pundits and Twitter experts alike had furiously spewed out countless bits of advice about Southampton’s high defensive line in to Tottenham.

Indeed, the signs were there from the third minute when Son, who played the ball that led to Kane’s disallowed goal, was ushered through like some sort of VIP being shown to his booth in a swanky nightclub. On this occasion, the South Korean was fractionally offside – but he wouldn’t prove as polite the next five or six times the Southampton defence afforded him such space.

Nonetheless, the frenzy over coach Ralph Hasenhüttl’s employment of a high defensive line, as well as his own supposed naivety in not changing things when it was going so horrifically, has been wildly exaggerated. Hasenhüttl himself dismissed criticism of his high block after the match, instead bemoaning the lack of aggression and, most importantly, intensity from his team. Much as Spurs coach Jose Mourinho last week against Everton for their “lazy pressing”, Hasenhüttl probably had every right to do the same here. Southampton looked lethargic and lacked their trademark tenacity throughout the team.

“We definitely played very naïve after going [behind] and after that it was humiliation.”

After all, since the Austrian’s arrival nearly two years ago, the team’s style has been characterised by an exceptional work rate and a form of organised chaos in their relentless pressing all over the pitch. A large part of Saints’ game is built around forcing the opposition to turnover the ball in dangerous areas and – more significantly – preventing them from having the time on the ball to pick out killer, long-range passes.

For a team to play like this and engage their opposition high up the pitch, a relatively high line is essential. The former Leipzig coach’s team perfected their off the ball work during Project Restart and only lost one game in nine, but have started this season looking off the pace.

With the 3-1 win against Watford in June arguably demonstrating the best of the team’s pressing, they forced the Hornets’ backline into seven losses of possession and played with – you guessed it – a high line. Against Tottenham, they only managed two. Southampton didn’t make sweeping tactical changes. They just didn’t do the fundamentals correctly.

The absence of this pressing against Tottenham was evidenced by the ease with which players were allowed to pick their passes in their own half, with Giovani Lo Celso and Davinson Sánchez given enough time to write a symphony as they fired passes into Kane in the build-up to three of the goals. This sluggish pressure was compounded by repeated defensive errors and a blindingly obvious lack of leadership.

While it might be a reach to suggest a 5-2 defeat was unjust, the manager also took aim at his forwards and their wasteful finishing. “In the first half we should normally be two [or] three goals up in the first half,” he noted.

Fans of almost every team in the country believe their players are guilty of wasting chances. Southampton supporters are no exception. But in reality, last season, Danny Ings was surgically clinical and grabbed 22 goals in the league, when xG suggested he was expected to have scored 15. Southampton often thrive on those low-percentage chances that come from running the hard yards.

So Hasenhüttl shouldn’t be looking for a total reset when on Saturday. Personnel is a wider issue and the individual errors from the likes of Jack Stephens and persist. With the manager hopeful of new additions in what’s left of the window, perhaps their threadbare squad can see some new arrivals challenging for starting places. The newly-signed Mohammed Salisu will be when he returns to fitness next month.

But most of the side’s problems lie in their diminished intensity and pressing since the start of this season, following a remarkably short summer break. Whilst calling these early weeks of a strange Premier League a ‘pre-season’ sounds a convenient excuse for a manager that’s lost his opening two fixtures, you feel there’s more to come from Saints.

Connor Spake is on Twitter


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Liverpool’s ‘perplexing footballer’ who could be next Ings or Joelinton

Liverpool fringe players, a … The post Liverpool’s ‘perplexing footballer’ who could be next Ings or Joelinton appeared first on Football365.

Liverpool’s ‘perplexing footballer’ who could be next Ings or Joelinton

Thank you for your mails. Send more thoughts to


Liverpool fringe players…

After only 4 competitive fixtures this season, Liverpool have already fielded 27 players. In addition, around 10 other players have squad numbers. Their squad is fairly bloated. Now clearly, it is only a matter of days until some of these players get moved on. By all indications, Brewster, Wilson and Phillips are surplus to requirement and likely to leave before the October Deadline. However, Shaqiri, Origi, Karius, and Grujic are all quality players who will likely feature little this year assuming Liverpool do not suffer some apocalyptic injury crisis.

While half of Liverpool would gladly drive Karius to the airport, he is not the worst goalkeeper in the world. In fact, he was briefly Liverpool’s number one before the debacle in Kiev. He would certainly be an upgrade on Kepa and could likely find a starting spot at many clubs across Europe.

Shaqiri remains a very good winger. His crossing ability is excellent and he provides quality from set pieces as well. Consequently, a club that is reliant on a large, immobile centre-forward could do very well out of him. Newcastle with Carroll, AC Milan with Zlatan, and Cadiz with Negredo all spring to mind.

Origi on the other hand is a rather perplexing footballer. He clearly has had great moments in the red shirt. However, it is unclear if he’s actually up to leading a line. The couple of times he’s been the main man – see his year on loan at Wolfsburg in 17/18 – he’s been pretty underwhelming. I personally would love to see him turning out for a club that is desperately in need of goals this year. In particular, it would be great to see him at Sheffield United.

Finally, that leaves Grujic. Despite being Klopp’s first ever signing at Liverpool, he has only ever amassed 15 appearances at the club and has spent the majority of his time on loan at Cardiff and Hertha Berlin. Despite his fine performance against Lincoln, his numbers don’t scream Liverpool midfielder. Over the last two years his 51 appearances for Hertha Berlin have returned 9 goals and 2 assists. That said, he could potentially do a fine job for some of the EPL teams with underweight midfields – Southampton or Tottenham. While Palace could certainly benefit from a center midfielder who knows how to score goals.

I don’t expect all four to leave. However, I think all four are probably available and could certainly strengthen some of the EPL also-rans. Origi is probably the most unknown quantity. Frankly, he could equally be the next Danny Ings or Joeliton.
Oliver, London


A transfer is full of winners & losers

I enjoyed the redefinition of best and worst transfers by Kevin. Usually one party getting a great deal means the other loses out, so it’s interesting to think of a situation where everyone wins or loses.

The deal that stands out to me in Van Dijk. Liverpool got a player that transformed a leaky defence, and became one of the best centre backs in the world. Southampton got a world record transfer fee for a player that was always destined for bigger things. For the player himself, he’s played in 2 Champions League finals, winning one, he’s won the Premier League, Club World Cup and European Super Cup. Not bad.

The worst transfer I can think of is probably Torres. Liverpool lost their talismanic striker, and losing him to a Chelsea emphasised the fact that Liverpool were a step below the top rung of Premier League clubs. Even worse, the money was used to buy Andy Caroll (although also Suarez, which is one mitigating factor). Chelsea paid £50m for a striker that didn’t even manage a goal every 3 games. Torres himself deeply regretted the move and didn’t enjoy his time there.

They would be my two, obviously with my Liverpool hat on, but I’d say they’d be hard to beat,
Mike, LFC, London


Happiest live moment(s)

I want to thank you for allowing me to reminisce about the greatest moments I’ve witnessed live.

I have to pick two from my team because I’m greedy and it’s fun.

The first was at The Valley on what I remember to be a lovely sunny afternoon, Eboue crosses the ball from the right and rushing on to it, jumping about 7 foot in the air as I remember it was Van Persie who lashed home a quite extraordinary volley. I was in the Charlton end (brother is a fan and had season tickets) right behind him as he scored the best goal I’ve ever seen. Luckily, the Charlton fans appreciated it as much as I did so we all clapped and I kept my dark secret hidden.

The second was at the Emirates some years ago. Arsenal were dominating a Blackburn team (I think it ended up 4-0 or something) which included the much-loved Robbie Savage. He was getting the kind of friendly abuse you’d expect all game. Near the end, at the corner flag right in front of me Fabregas drags the ball back and slips one through Savage’s legs to a chorus of “WHHHHHHHEEEEEYYYYYY” from the crowd. At that point he (Savage) just looks in our direction, holds his arms out as if to say “what am I supposed to do with that?” and with it, earned himself a huge cheer.

Both amazing memories for me particularly as those Arsenal sides were so great and we won both games.

Looking forward to reading other mailboxers moments.
James, Kent


Having read G, Enfield’s request for happiest live footballing moments, mine is actually a triptych which fall under one heading – the 1988 FA Trophy final.

Like G, I lived in Enfield as kid and although as a Spurs fan I’d been White Hart Lane a few times, my other love was Enfield FC and I spent many happy Saturday afternoons at the old Southbury Road ground pretending to like Bovril.

The 87/88 season provided me with the greatest live memory however, as Enfield reached the FA Trophy final against Telford United.

As a 10-year old boy that was my first time going to Wembley. The sensory overload of walking up Wembley Way towards the twin towers and the first time that a football match had been an all-day event, with so much build-up and anticipation, followed by stepping out of a stairwell and seeing the huge stadium and pitch.

We drew 0-0. But I was lucky enough to go to the replay at the Hawthorns, which was another live football milestone – an “away” game. By train!

Enfield won 3-2 and to round it off, the 1988 FA Trophy brought me another love moment to complete the set. As member of the junior supporters club, I got to have my photo taken with the trophy and my Enfield hero Paul Furlong!

He left a few years after for Coventry, Watford and Chelsea. The old Southbury Road ground was sold off to build a cinemaplex and Pizza Hut (although I managed to see one the greatest home games there against bitter rivals Barnet in the cup before it’s demise). Eventually a Phoenix club was launched by the supporters – Enfield Town – and the original club dissolved into obscurity and re-brands.

But I’ll never forget the FA Trophy of 1988. First trip to Wembley, first away day and first time meeting a real-life actual footballer. Magical.
Chris (we hate Barnet) Tanner


Friday predictions

Hey there,

Thought I’d do some Friday predictions.

1) Liverpool 15 – 13 Arsenal (Firmino to still not score)
2) Spurs will probably lose
3) Everton to keep on winning
4) United fans to continue their confused approach to whether they want Ole in or out
5) Some players will be wearing gloves
6) William, Leicester will reply to Minty, LFC using terms like “cultural marxism” (incorrectly), out himself as a lib dem, accuse Minty of being a bigot for assuming things about him and probably chuck in something about lefties being evil
7) F365 will continue to publish what it likes, especially if it garners clicks and comments
8) Phil Neville
Rob, Wiltshire (for the weekend)


Is Monday the weekend? (#Consistency)

After reading and seeing Monday night’s Liverpool v Arsenal as the Game To Watch, I couldn’t help but recall a reader writing into the mailbox years ago complaining that X vs Y hadn’t been selected as that weekend’s Game To Watch, only to be snarkily informed by the MC that Monday was not, in fact, The Weekend.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that all we’re asking for is consistency.
Oliver (Pedantry in Motion) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland


Fake pundits

First off Danny, LFC NY from this mornings mailbox, nice shout but please Never use the word BAME again, just stop it. What’s wrong with black, Asian, Chinese etc. If you need to refer to folks collectively what about non-white? BAME is a label, it’s ugly.

Anyway to my point. I’ve developed a growing anger towards pundits criticising referees on TV. I used to play the game and I’ve been guilty of calling the ref some not so flattering names in the past, I haven’t played for a long time, but as a player it’s easily done, hard to control. But, as a viewer I find it distasteful and bad for the game. One who really get’s my goat is Danny Murphy and I know I’m not alone. Last week he had a go at Mike Dean (hear me out) for sending off Billic who approached him at half time – The game is not even done yet, but Danny M thinks the ref was over the top. What message does that send out? He went further during MOTD to criticise another couple of decisions from other games. What is he there for? What is the point of Danny Murphy? I want to see tactical analysis, goal replays etc. Sure ref’s aren’t perfect and occasionally they get things wrong (let’s not get started with VAR) but I fail to see what telling millions of viewers that the ref’s made a rickett here or there gonna achieve other than to make their job harder. He is not the only one but he crops up everywhere spouting the same garbage, I would love to find a way to get him and his like off the gogglebox so I can just enjoy watching. Rant over, I have other views but I just needed to get that off me chest!
Ribbs (Again, good point raised by Danny, LFC)


Ole/log flume/Sir Alex

is getting pretty tedious. People are now just parroting each other and going around in circles. I get it, you can only print what you receive, and what I am about to say will only pour petrol on the fire. I know this.

Ole is basically trying to replicate Fergie from the 90’ / noughties.. football moves forward, not backwards, and the truth is Fergie would have been rubbish in this modern era of football anyway.

Mourinho’s style doesn’t work anymore, Wenger’s wasn’t working either by the end of his tenure, football has moved on. Fergie knew this. He knew this after getting schooled by Pep twice. Pep in the Prem would have highlighted Fergs shortcomings and simple footballing philosophy further. Klopp would annihilate the great gum chewing Knight.

My mate said Ole is at the wheel of a log flume, he has ups and downs but the wheel doesn’t even work. He just sits there with that stupid smile. Anyone with half a footballing brain can see Ole is the wrong man for Utd. Someone needs to assassinate the baby faced assassin. Ed Wood doesn’t have the balls though. Man Utd fans need to accept this and stop moaning. Yes, the Glazers and Ed are evil money sucking succubus’s, but this is the price you pay for getting in bed with the Devil. You deserve each other.

You had the best part of two decades at the top. Your time is over. Your two greatest enemies are lightyears ahead. Signing Sancho will not magically make everything rosy again. Please stop writing the same endless and boring mails to The Mailbox.
Ben (although, to completely contradict my Sir Alex point, Don Carlo seems to be doing pretty well with his archaic tactics) Howarth


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