Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side welcome Southampton to Emirates Stadium on Tuesday evening. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Under previous coach Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton had a very distinctive playing style.
They pushed high up the pitch with an aggressive offside line, and attempted to win the ball in advanced positions through energetic pressing. New coach Ronald Koeman doesn’t insist upon such an extreme strategy, but Southampton remain a very proactive side.
"While the loss of star players over the summer was a cause for concern, it meant Koeman was free to impose his own style on Southampton"
While the loss of star players over the summer was a cause for concern, it meant Koeman was free to impose his own style on Southampton. He wasn’t obliged to continue with the Pochettino template, and was given license to rejuvenate the side with ‘his’ players.
Koeman has played a 4-2-3-1 system so far this season, although he’s subtly changed the balance of the side between matches by varying the players used in the central and right-sided attacking midfield positions. The identity of those players will indicate what type of approach Southampton will use on Tuesday.
For the first couple of league matches, Koeman used Steven Davis on the right. He’s naturally a central midfielder, so remains narrow and offers a passing option to help dominate the middle.
More recently, however, Koeman has brought Davis back into a deep midfield position, and instead played Shane Long on the right. He’s an entirely different option, as a natural centre forward. Inevitably, Long helps retain possession less, and instead moves forward and offers an option for long, diagonal passes into the opposition’s left-back zone.
In the central position, Koeman initially used James Ward-Prowse, an interesting technical player most useful for his set-piece delivery. He tends to stay in advanced positions, drifting in and out of the game, but tries penetrative passes for the forwards. The alternative is Jack Cork, a much more reliable passer who spreads play neatly, although he doesn’t offer Ward-Prowse’s creativity.
The other two players in the attacking quartet are players Koeman has signed from Dutch clubs. He worked with Graziano Pelle at Feyenoord, and knew the Italian was a good all-round centre forward, capable of playing as a target man, but also a neat technical player and a neat finisher.
Dusan Tadic, formerly at Twente, is very similar to his predecessor Adam Lallana - not the quickest, but excellent at finding space, anticipating play and making quick, intelligent decisions when under pressure.
The midfield anchorman is Morgan Schneiderlin, although he’s happiest when given a slightly freer role to charge around the pitch making tackles in advanced positions, and sometimes making clever late runs into the box. Davis should be his partner; if not, Victor Wanyama is more defensive.
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