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Friday 15 March 2013

Graeme Le Saux makes case for Southampton's defence

Former Saints star previews Saturday's match between Southampton and Liverpool

  • Graeme Le Saux is confident Southampton can beat Liverpool on Saturday

  • Le Saux during Southampton's 2-1 defeat by Manchester Utd in 2005

On Saturday Southampton face Liverpool in a match that could have a significant impact on both ends of Barcays Premier League table. Ahead of the match premierleague.com caught up with former Saints and England left-back Graeme Le Saux, who told us why he believes his old side can beat Liverpool, how to stop Luis Suarez and why he feels the South Coast side will avoid relegation.

Premierleague.com: How do you see Southampton-Liverpool going on Saturday?
Graeme Le Saux:
It’s another massive game for Southampton and it is for Liverpool. Liverpool are on a roll at the moment, they’ve got a lot of momentum, having beaten Spurs at the weekend in a very tough game that showed their character. Luis Suarez is in fantastic form; he’s the top goalscorer in the Barclays Premier League this season.

"Defensively Southampton have become much more robust and that’s been the foundation of their decent run of form"
Graeme Le Saux

But Southampton have got a good defensive record and when you look at that compared to the defensive record of the teams around them - their goal difference is -12 compared to -20 plus for the other teams - it is significantly better. So defensively they’ve become much more robust and that’s been the foundation of their decent run of form. Over the next few weeks they have to keep it up, they have to win games, especially at St Mary’s, and keep that gap between themselves and the teams beneath them because a couple of poor results and they’ll be in quite a delicate position. It’ll be a tough game but they are more than capable of beating Liverpool and it’ll be an exciting contest.

PL.com: Do you don’t think it will be a cagey affair then on Saturday?
GLS:
Southampton have to be positive. They have to go out and play with confidence, with belief. This is where you need to see the character of the players. If you go back to Christmas until now they’ve had lots of positive performances. They got a good draw against Norwich away at Carrow Road last weekend, and that’s a good basis for Saturday's game.

But their creative players need to cause Liverpool problems, they can’t rely on a draw, they need to try and go out and win the game, and that’s the balance the manager has to find: creating chances and being clinical but also not going too gung-ho and leaving space for one-and-one situations in which Suarez can expose you.

PL.com: So where will the creative spark come from?
GLS:
Adam Lallana is a creative player, but the full-backs become very important because if they get forward they can overload the sides and create chances. Rickie Lambert’s a very important player for them with his goalscoring record, as well. You have to look at all the players and say, ‘How are we going to set ourselves up to create chances and get goals?’ So set-pieces are impo­­­­rtant, the midfield is important – Jason Puncheon has had a good season, he’s very direct and has been a positive influence on recent results. Jay Rodriguez is a good player as well.

They’ve certainly got enough quality. It took them a while to bed in and familiarise themselves with the Premier League, but the foundations are there and it’s just a case of converting that side of their game into points and having a good run from now until the end of the season.

How to stop Suarez

PL.com: As a former defender who has faced a few good players in his time, what do you do to stop someone like Luis Suarez?
GLS:
Suarez is obviously a handful, he works really hard, he’s a pest. He’s always making runs, if you’ve got the ball he’s always snapping at your heels, he frustrates you as a player because of the way he plays his game, and his first touch when he gets played in is phenomenal. That’s what gives him the opportunities: his movement and his first touch set him up for a shot and he’s lethal in front of goal.

"To play against Suarez requires concentration for every single minute of the match"
Graeme Le Saux

So, to play against him requires concentration for every single minute of the match, you need to have support from team-mates, you don’t want to be left too isolated in one-on-one situations, because he gets very close to players and then puts balls through their legs, gets a ricochet of them, and just gets a yard of space, which is all he needs to strike the ball. So it will require a very diligent defence by Southampton.

But they have a better team of defenders there now so if they all look after each other’s backs they can shut him out. Artur Boruc the goalkeeper is also in very good form and, needless to say, he will be required at some stage during the game. With the form he’s in you would feel confident he can deal with most of what’s thrown at him.

PL.com: Do you think it’s realistic that Liverpool can finish in the top four?
GLS:
They are on 45 points, seven points behind Chelsea, who have a game in hand, with nine games to go. They’ve got a chance. Seven points is more than enough for them to close the gap – you just have to look at the form.

They could also have a huge impact on who goes down because they’ve got to play most of the teams that are down the bottom end of the table. Where the Premier League is so difficult at both ends of the table is just the inconsistency of all the teams.

Manchester United are the only team that have been as consistent, as you would expect for a top-three team in the Premier League. So it becomes unpredictable, which is great for us spectators, but not so great for teams of particular teams and certainly managers.

Relegation struggle

PL.com: Can you remember a relegation battle that could potentially involve so many teams?
GLS:
Maybe not quite so many teams, because you can go right the way up to 10 points clear, where Fulham, on 33 points, are in 10th place and they won’t feel that they are out of it yet.

Wigan, for example, have still got a game in hand over teams like Stoke; suddenly they could leap up to 27 points and then you are only two games away from clawing back that deficit. So there’s a big spread of teams that will consider themselves in danger of getting dragged into the relegation fight.

When I was playing, in my last match for Southampton we were relegated at the hands of Manchester United and at one stage in that game there were three possible teams that were going down, and unfortunately we lost 2-1 at home having been 1-0 up. So you do get these occasions where it all goes down to the last game, which makes it very exciting but desperately disappointed if you’re on the receiving end.

If you look at where Southampton have come from since then, they’ve suffered a lot, but they’ve continued to develop and now they’ve restored lot of momentum so I feel that on Saturday they’ll beat Liverpool and then have a good run until the end of the season.

Graeme Le Saux is an ambassador for Barclays 'Don't pass it, ping it' campaign. Pingit is revolutionary technology developed by Barclays which allows people to transfer money to each other using their mobile phone. Users do not need to be a Barclays customer. For more info go to www.barclays.co.uk.

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Key Points

  • Graeme Le Saux believes Southampton's defence can keep them up this season
  • Former Saint believes diligent team effort can keep out Luis Suarez at St Mary's Stadium
  • Le Saux says Southampton need to show creative spark to secure home win