Talking Tactics

Record-holder Long can stun Watford again

By Adrian Clarke 25 Jun 2020
Shane Long

Adrian Clarke says scorer of the Premier League's fastest goal can have another fruitful trip to Vicarage Road on Sunday

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 32.

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When Southampton's Shane Long last visited Vicarage Road he scored the fastest goal in Premier League history, and the speedy striker can again make an impact at Watford this weekend.

The hardworking 33-year-old, who recently signed a new two-year contract, produced a lively substitute appearance against Arsenal on Thursday that should secure his starting place on Sunday.

Long is not as clinical as the two strikers who started against the Gunners in midweek, Danny Ings and Michael Obafemi.

His two Premier League goals have come at a lowly 7.7 per cent strike-rate. However, he improves his team in other ways.

Quick and willing to run into the wide channels, he stretches opponents and creates space for others, while helping Saints’ leading scorer Ings reserve his energy for work in the penalty box.

Long also regularly gets into dangerous positions. He just needs to become more ruthless.

Saints strikers' threat 2019/20
Per 90 mins Ings Long Obafemi Adams
Touches in opp. box 5.52 4.63 4.57 4.18
Headed shots 0.37 0.83 0.15 0.37
Shots 3.09 2.35 1.62 2.21
Shots on target 1.24 0.91 0.59 0.25

Watford held a surprisingly high defensive line in their last match at Burnley.

And the Clarets’ mobile strike duo of Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez regularly made successful runs in behind the full-backs and centre-backs.

If Watford adopt the same tactics on Sunday, Long’s lung-busting runs into the channels may well be rewarded.

None of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s other attacking options, including Che Adams, are as fast or willing to make as many sprints. 

Running battle between strikers
2019/20 Sprints/90 Top speed (km/hr)
Long 19 37.35
Obafemi 14 34.34
Ings 12 35.58
Adams 12 32.34

In addition to his other qualities, Long gives Southampton a valuable aerial outlet.

Whether he is flicking on long passes or attacking crosses, his presence up front usually adds an extra layer to Saints' tactical framework.

Meanwhile, Watford have been struggling to defend crosses.

They have conceded a number of goals this season from wide deliveries, both in open play and from set-pieces, including the only goal in their 1-0 midweek loss at Burnley.

Saints strikers' aerial prowess
Aerial duels/90 Aerial duels won/90
Shane Long 15.4 Shane Long 7.4
Che Adams 9.5 Che Adams 3.3
Michael Obafemi 6.2 Danny Ings 1.5
Danny Ings 5.5 Michael Obafemi 1.3

Long definitely has the all-round game to unsettle the Hornets.

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