Talking Tactics

How Hasenhuttl's tweaks can stop Man Utd

By Adrian Clarke 25 Aug 2022
Southampton, Talking Tactics

Adrian Clarke says Southampton head coach's subs and bold switches can reap rewards

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Bold and successful tactical changes from Southampton head coach Ralph Hasenhuttl have raised morale at St Mary's ahead of Manchester United's visit.

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A superb brace from substitute Che Adams inspired a 2-1 comeback victory at Leicester City last weekend.

And in their previous fixture, a 2-2 comeback draw against Leeds United, Adam Armstrong and Sekou Mara climbed off the bench to supply fabulous assists for fellow sub Joe Aribo and right-back Kyle Walker-Peters.

Changing formation several times, Hasenhuttl's in-game decision-making was outstanding during the second halves of both matches.

Those calls effectively earned his side four precious points.

Adams' winner v Leicester

Southampton have never enjoyed the benefit of a huge squad, yet they have still made game-changing substitutions.

Since Hasenhuttl took charge in December 2018, only Leicester City of the "non-Big Six" clubs has benefited from more goals and assists from players who started on the bench.

PL subs' contributions since Dec 2018
Club Goals Assists Goal involvements
LIV 31 23 54
LEI 20 28 48
MUN 29 15 44
MCI 27 13 40
CHE 19 19 38
ARS 22 10 32
SOU 19 19 31

Saints would prefer a fast start this weekend against a rejuvenated Man Utd but if they do go behind there will be no reason to panic.

Given the influence of Adams, Aribo, Armstrong and Mara across the last two matches as subs, Hasenhuttl's selection against United will be interesting.

Changing formations

During the 2020/21 campaign Southampton used a 4-4-2 in all 38 matches.

Last season that remained their preferred shape for 28 matches, but Hasenhuttl also displayed a new penchant for varying his formations.

In those remaining 10 fixtures he experimented with seven different systems of play.

This season Southampton's shape has already evolved from a 3-5-2 against Tottenham Hotspur to a 3-4-2-1 versus Leeds and the 4-2-3-1 formation at Leicester.

During their thrilling draw with Jesse Marsch's side, Hasenhuttl’s second-half switch to a back four was an inspired call.

Southampton are expected to start this weekend’s encounter with a flat back four.

Mara's assist for Walker-Peters v Leeds

One of Southampton's standout players has been 18-year-old summer signing Romeo Lavia.

The Belgian joined from Manchester City and despite his inexperience he has looked at home in midfield.

Lavia's contribution 2022/23
  Total SOU rank
Poss. won 27 1st=
Interceptions 7 1st=
Pass accuracy* 91.0% 1st=
Successful passes 101 2nd
Fouls won 6 2nd

*Min 30 successful passes

Playing all 270 minutes so far, the defensive midfielder has broken up play in a confident manner, topping Southampton's rankings for interceptions and ball recoveries.

In possession he has also used the ball accurately.

Lavia's principle role on Saturday will be to disrupt Man Utd’s attacks.

If he can ensure Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford are kept quiet down the spine, it will give Hasenhuttl's men a great chance to take all three points.

Also in this series

Part 1: Arsenal must be alert to aerial threat of Mitrovic
Part 3: Williams and Perisic set for key duel of the wing-backs

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