Will Ralph Change Saints Formation Against Chelsea !
Friday, 19th Feb 2021 09:38
With Ralph Hasenhuttl missing Kyle Walker Peters for the visit of Chelsea and no other specialist right back at the club, the question is whether the Austrian will reshuffle or reshape his line up.
A month ago Saints were in the depths of an injury and suspension crisis meaning that they were so short of players they actually names two goalkeepers on the subs bench, that injury crisis has eased and Ralph Hasenhuttl has a reasonable core of players to call upon at the moment, but he is short in key areas and one of those areas is full back on either side where he only has Kyle Walker Peters on the right and Ryan Bertrand on the left as specialist full backs. Although Jack Stephens can play in either position if called upon.
He does have others who can play there, but it will weaken the balance of the team if he has to drop James Ward Prowse into defence or even the likes of Stuart Armstrong.
But there is another option than reshuffling and that is reshaping, with Mohammed Salisu now fit and having come through a decent debut in the FA Cup game against Wolves, Hasenhuttl could opt to play a back three and revert to a formation that in his first year at the club he was fond of deploying, both from the start of games and even switching to it during them.
The defeat at home to Leicester City last season saw Ralph realise that he didn't have the personnel to play that formation and he went back to basics with a solid 4-4-2 that he has stuck with ever since.
To call it rigid would be unfair, Saints have tweaked the shape of that line up during games, but essentially it kept a shape that the players could adapt to.
Back in December he probably thought that he was starting to get a squad together that he could maximise it's potential with, but injury has ravaged it, some Saints supporters moan about the lack of a plan B , but truth is Hasenhuttl is too experienced a coach not to have other plans, at the moment he just hasn't got the numbers and experienced players to change much.
But now it seems he might, ironically the lack of a right back means he has to have a rethink and ahead of the game against Chelsea he has given a clue to what might be in his plans.
When asked about the possibility of changing formation Hasenhuttl said:
“Everything is possible.
“Whenever we have played a 4-2-2-2 is it possible to change the shape.
“You want to bring the best players on the pitch and if you have no player in one position then it is always an option to think about a change of shape.
“The most important thing is that you bring the best players on the pitch, this is why we changed to a 4-2-2-2, because we had so many offensive players and we had no positions for them.
“This is why we are always open-minded for everything.”
With no midweek fixture, Hasenhuttl has had time able to work with his side on the training ground and it seems that he has worked more on the tactical side of things than physical effort which could lead to injury:
The Saints boss also pointed out that during games although the shape is 4-4-2, it reverts in and out of differing formations as the situation dictates:
"When we build up with the ball we play as a three sometimes.
“This is not something that is too difficult to change quickly. Especially when you have a week to prepare, it is possible to play as back five, definitely."
So it seems that this is an idea that Ralph is considering.
As I see it i would surmise that he is thinking along these lines.
A back three of Bednarek, Vestergaard and Salisu.
Stuart Armstrong on the right and Ryan Bertrand on the left as wing backs as such.
A central three of Oriol Romeu and James Ward Prowse holding the midfield with Tukami Minamino playing just in front of the two strikers, Danny Ings and Che Adams, although the latter might still find Nathan Redmond preferred.
That will still leave a few options on the bench, Redmond, Djenepo & Stephens provide experienced cover in all three areas and then you will have the u and coming Nathan Tella and Dan N'Lundulu and finally a few youngsters.
Obviously the bench isn't as strong as it could be, but it will mean that we do have three substitutions that could adapt and also change the game.
We would obviously prefer to be making these changes against a lesser team than Chelsea, but these are desperate times at the moment, truth is we have to try something to break the run of defeats and this game is as good as any.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
Letters from Wiltshire #30 by wessex_exile
Friday night football – can’t beat it. Gives you that feelgood factor all weekend, sitting back to enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon watching others fail in your wake. Of course, you have to win first, which we’ve been struggling to do for a while now, so be prepared for the possibility of a miserable weekend just in case. We share this evening with Reading v AFC Bournemouth, albeit they kick-off an hour later than we do. In the real world, leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris demanding action on the substantial difficulties they are facing over Brexit bureaucracy, whilst French border authorities are reporting that two-thirds of lorries arriving from the UK are empty (i.e. no exports leaving the UK). Still, at least the NHS can enjoy their extra £350m per week…
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