Could Virgil Van Dijk’s inevitable return to first team action mean a change of system for Southampton manager Maurcio Pellegrino?
It is no secret that the saints have struggled for goals of late having score only four goals in their opening six Premier League fixtures of which only two have been from open play.
Pellegrino isn’t lacking in attacking options, he has three fully fit again senior strikers and an abundance of midfield options, the task is to find the right balance between defensive solidity and creativity.
Manolo Gabbiadini was dropped from the first eleven for last Saturdays visit of Manchester United having suffered a succession of games in which he had very little impact. Gabbiadini isn’t your typical centre forward, he isn’t a big physical presence, nor is he blessed with raw natural pace. He is however a very intelligent footballer, using clever positioning and off the ball runs to cause the opposition problems. Seemingly Southampton’s issue is the inability to create and provide the service that playing Gabbiadini requires.Embed from Getty Images
With Virgil Van Dijk’s re-integration into the first team after an 8 month injury absence almost complete Pellegrino now has an abundance of centre halves; it is a possibility that this may see the return of the back 3 used by Ronald Koeman on a number of occasions and more recently in the defeat to Wolves in the League Cup.
A back three of Hoedt, Van Dijk and Stephens for example would allow both fullbacks to play more advanced roles in turn this would either free up a midfield position to play a second striker or what I believe the more likely option is for two midfielders to play further forward with Gabbiadini; a system similar to that which Chelsea employ. A 343 if you will.Embed from Getty Images
Pellegrino has publicly stated that just playing a second striker will not solve the teams goal scoring woes. However a tactical switch to allow midfield bodies to get closer to the sole striker may well help create more opportunities.
This weekend saints travel to the Bet 365 Stadium, Stoke have issues of their own with plenty of injury doubts in the defensive department. This could be the perfect opportunity to play with a front 3 and really build confidence and momentum after two good displays.