Starting Berth for Boufal?

Goals have returned to St Mary’s, however it is no surprise that it has coincided with the return to the team of Maolo Gabbiadini and the introduction of Sofiane Boufal. The former is the most complete forward in the squad and offers the most potent goal threat which is why many supporters have been bemused by his absence from the starting eleven over the past few games.

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Sofiane Boufal is somewhat of an enigma, undoubted talent and the ability to change a game, a trait hard to find. But there have been large question marks over his consistency and work rate. However, after his brief cameo against Stoke and thirty minutes against Newcastle are we starting to see the Moroccan find his feet and possibly his place in the Saints team?

Boufal’s ability to beat a player one on one is something the team really lacks in the final third. A player who can create space and opportunities for others. DeAndre Yedlin saw off Nathan Redmond fairly comfortably on Sunday but was glad to see the final whistle after the introduction of Boufal in the 57th minuite. The tricky winger has been the catalyst for a much improved second half performance in both of Southampton’s last two premier league fixtures and most fans are calling for him to displace Redmond and be given a run of games in the starting eleven, something he has not had since his summer move last year.

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I am still not wholly convinced by Pellegrino, I don’t believe that he knows his best eleven, nor has he really forged an identity for his team. Under Puel you knew what you were getting, the team had a style, a clear tactical stance and brand of football, albeit unpopular. Under Pellegrino I just haven’t seen any evidence that there is a real identity to the team yet. There are signs of improvement, He has proven to be tactically diverse having tried multiple formations already this season. Fans have been calling for two strikers, and on Sunday Pellegrino complied, the result was two goals but I don’t believe this was down to the shift in formation to a four-four-two, The first goal a solo effort from Gabbiadini and arguably poor defending from Newcastle’s back four, the penalty a clumsy and unnecessary challenge.

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When you analyse the squad their is somewhat of an imbalance, Saints are defence heavy with four senior centre halves vying for a starting place. A lot of the fans who have been calling for two up front simply want to see more attacking combinations on the pitch, many have also been calling for the use of a 343 or 352. Releasing fullbacks Ryan Bertrand and Ceric Soares further forward and allowing for the use of more attacking players, either as a front two with one in behind or my personal preference, a front three.

Saints face West Brom next weekend in a game that will be a tough physical test. It will be very interesting to see Mauricio’s team selection, I like many other hope to see a starting place for Boufal who could well be the spark we really need in the final third.

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