Premier League Tactical Preview: Southampton v Liverpool


Saturday's late kick-off sees an in-form Liverpool travel to Southampton, who boast a decent home record against the top clubs but have seen their form dip of late.

The Saints have won just two of their last six games, losing last time out against West Ham. Liverpool have been in fine form of late and their 4-3 victory over Swansea last weekend means that they are just four points off Premier League leaders Chelsea and are now six clear of fifth-placed Spurs.


Possible line-ups

Southampton will welcome back Dejan Lovren at centre-back to partner Jose Fonte at the back. Calum Chambers did not have a good game at right-back against West Ham so could be left out for Nathaniel Clyne. Victor Wanyama could also return to the starting line-up.


Liverpool's Daniel Agger was taken off against Swansea as he struggled to deal with the power of Wilfried Bony, but Brendan Rodgers has confirmed that the Dane will be paired with Martin Skrtel in defence here. That is likely to mean that the Reds will be unchanged, playing in their usual 4-3-3 formation with Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez up top. 


Liverpool's rampant attacking threat

Liverpool have been rampant this season racking up 70 Premier League goals in their 27 league games, making them the top domestic goalscorers. Liverpool have stepped it up in their last three where they have averaged four goals per game, including netting five times against Arsenal. 

Suarez has been the main goal scoring threat for Liverpool, leading the Premier League goal scoring charts with 23 goals. But, in recent weeks Sturridge has emerged as the club’s main threat netting 18 times in 19 Premier League appearances. Sturridge also possesses a better goals per minute ratio than Lionel Messi, Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In fact, only Sergio Aguero has averaged a better rate than Sturridge out of any player in Europe's top five leagues, scoring once every 80 minutes compared to once every 83 minutes for the Englishman.

Sturridge has actually scored in every one of his last eight Premier League games, hitting 11 goals in the process. The young English forward is becoming one of the most feared forwards in Europe and will fancy himself to continue his ridiculous goal scoring run against a Southampton side who were less than impressive at the back against West Ham last weekend. 


Southampton's own English scoring sensation

Whilst Sturridge is the main English goal scorer on show, Southampton boast their own home-grown goal scoring threat in Jay Rodriguez. Sturridge is the only English player in the Premier League to have scored more league goals than Rodriguez's ten. The Southampton wideman's form should be a worry for Liverpool, who themselves have not defended well this season. Liverpool rely on a policy of outscoring their opponents, which thus far has paid dividends but as we saw when they conceded three at home to Swansea last Sunday, this does have its own risks.

Rodriguez has generally played from the left in Southampton's variant of a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation. Rodriguez and Adam Lallana on the other flank tend to come inside and get close to Rickie Lambert up front in order to provide the support and also a goal threat. Rodriguez has notably created 18 chances this season and recorded three assists to go with his ten goals. Coming in from the left he can link up with Lambert at times to play almost as a left sided forward. In the last Premier League game he scored in against Fulham he did this very effectively as we can see below:

 

Whilst he spent 30% of his time in the opposition’s half on the left we can also observe how he moved into positions both behind the central striker and also in the penalty box, where he was able to provide a goal threat, attempting six shots, more than any other Southampton player in this fixture. 

Whilst Liverpool will be looking to drive forward and score goals, including with pushing their right-back Jon Flanagan up the pitch, they will have to be wary of Southampton's threat coming the other way. If they push up on the flanks they will leave gaps for Rodriguez to exploit, particularly the space between the Liverpool right-back and right sided centre-back. If he gets into dangerous positions to shoot in and around the penalty area, he will pose a genuine threat. 


Conclusion

It is not surprising that Liverpool go into this game as favourites, considering their huge scoring capabilities. With the side in such rampant attacking form of late it is difficult to see Southampton keeping a clean sheet, which means they'll have to go toe for toe with Liverpool and look to exploit them using their own attacking threats, mainly in Rodriguez.

Whenever Liverpool play, we can expect an entertaining game involving goals at both ends. 


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