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Talking Tactics

Wilson and Austin central to south-coast derby

Adrian Clarke 2 Dec 2017
Callum Wilson- Charlie Austin composite.

With AFC Bournemouth and Southampton struggling for goals, Adrian Clarke on the two strikers who could be key

Adrian Clarke is looking at a key area of three Matchweek 15 Premier League fixtures.

AFC Bournemouth v Southampton

Outside of the “Big Six” AFC Bournemouth and Southampton are two of the Premier League’s most confident teams in possession.

Both are comfortable passing the ball to feet anywhere on the pitch and they share similar philosophies that are built around players with good technique, distribution and intuitive movement.

This makes them pleasing on the eye, but during 2017/18 they have both lacked penetration inside the final third.

Between them they have scored only 16 goals from open play and lightweight performances up front areas have cost them points.

Least clinical sides in 2017/18
Rank Passes per shot on target   Passes per goal  
16 BOU  142  BOU  509 
17 BHA  146  SOU  512 
18 HUD  149  HUD  594 
19 SOU  175  CRY  700 
20 SWA 244 SWA 837

For a squad containing Dusan Tadic, Nathan Redmond and Sofiane Boufal, Southampton have not been creative enough. 

All three of these attacking midfielders are gifted, but operating as a unit behind the main striker they have offered up too few chances and assists.

No player at Southampton has laid on more than two goals and, in total, only eight assisted goals have been scored by Saints.

On Southampton's travels, the problem has been even worse. They have not scored more than once on the road this season.

What’s the issue?

In and around the opposition area, their link play has been stilted, the movement off the ball has been too predictable, and the end product of Southampton’s forward players has lacked quality.

Mauricio Pellegrino desperately needs a clinical striker who can build a chemistry with the playmakers operating around him.

He will hope Charlie Austin can be that man. 

The striker marked his return to the side with a brace against Everton last weekend and was rested in midweek, probably with Sunday’s south-coast derby in mind.

In terms of getting himself into scoring positions and making the most of the opportunities, Austin stands out as the pick of the Southampton's forwards. 

If he stays free of injury he appears the best bet to give Southampton more punch for the rest of the season.

Southampton strikers in 2017/18
  Long Gabbiadini Austin
Minutes played 674 676 225
Shots/90 1.9 2.1 4.8
Shots on target/90 0.5 0.7 1.2
Shot conversion rate 0.0 18.7 2.5
Howe's issues up front

Eddie Howe probably envisaged summer signing Jermain Defoe being his most effective penalty-box striker, but injury problems and a lack of form from the England player means Callum Wilson has since leapfrogged him in the pecking order.

Wilson's hat-trick against Huddersfield Town was a reminder of how his finishing ability and pace down the channels are part of what makes AFC Bournemouth tick as an attacking force.

From low crosses and quickly constructed transitions he is a very sharp and dangerous centre-forward.

AFC Bournemouth strikers in 2017/18
  Afobe King Defoe Wilson
Minutes 349 1,064 536 350
Shots/90 1.0 1.9 1.9 2.8
Shots on target/90 0.3 0.6 1.0 1.0
Shot conversion 0.0 9.1 9.1 27.3

Unfortunately, like Southampton, AFC Bournemouth have also lacked imagination in midfield and wide areas.

They also only have eight assisted goals this season. Jordon Ibe, with three, is the only player to have set up more than two goals. 

AFC Bournemouth’s traditionally slick pass-and-move football has not been seen enough.

Wilson will require better service to maintain his impressive start, but a prolonged run in the side should help the Cherries build up better understandings inside the final third, which is something they need.

Sunday’s match is a tough one to call between two shot-shy teams, but don’t be surprised if the fit-again Austin and Wilson have a major say in the outcome.

Also in this series 

Part 1: Doucoure and Cleverley can outmuscle Spurs midfield
Part 2: Man Utd transformed by new Pogba role

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