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Dejan Lovren

478liv-fin-86148-1069424_478x359The Premier League season is now six games old and we have seen a completely different side to Saints compared to last year; at this very point last season Saints had conceded 18 goals in the first six games. Currently we sit in 4th (at the time of writing) and have conceded just 2 goals in the opening 6 games. As a unit Saints have broken teams down well minimising any chance that may fall to the opposition in the Defensive Third. For that reason alone the team should be congratulated; there are a number of reasons why Saints have done well defensively, but for me the player that has consistently stood out is Dejan Lovren.

Since Dejan moved to Saints from Lyon in the Summer he has shown that he is more than capable of mixing it with some of the best players in the league putting in some very combative displays that have left opposition attackers quaking in their boots.


Dejan is currently playing as Left Centre Back, partnering Jose Fonte (RCB) and linking up with Luke Shaw (LB). See Heat Maps Below.

DJ Heat Map 1

The Heat Maps show how high the Saints Defensive Line is with Lovren positioning himself just inside the Saints Half; due to the defensive line being high closes off the space in-between the defence and midfield making it harder for the opposition attackers to drop in and pick up the ball, this is because the Saints defence can either press the player into a mistake or intercept any loose passes played into that area.

As we can see below Dejan intercepted 3 balls high up the field against Crystal Palace.

DJ Interceptions

Even when the opposition manage to attack Saints, Dejan Lovren positions himself so that he can see the player and the ball; the picture below against Liverpool shows just this.

DJ Positioning 1

and if that ball should be played into the opposition…

DJ Pressure

Dejan will then apply pressure to stop the Liverpool player from using the ball effectively; as a result Saints win the ball back.

Notably one of his most impressive statistics this season is his clearances he has made for Saints; so far he has attempted to clear the ball 51 times, of which he has successfully cleared every single one! This shows a number of things, firstly and I believe most importantly is how composed he is under pressure, you could be a 6ft 5 attacker chasing Dejan down and he will deal with the ball effectively and efficiently; Lovren also shows great awareness of where the ball is going to be played and then believes in himself that he will be the first to deal with it.

No doubt this belief and desire to win the ball showed when he headed in against Liverpool at Anfield.

DJ Goal vs Lpool

 Despite getting pulled all over the place Dejan was focused on attacking and guiding the ball into the back of the net.

 However, there is one part of his play that suits the style we play under Pochettino and that is his ability to retain possession of the ball when passing out of the back. The first thing Saints do when Boruc has the ball is get the Centre Backs out wide on the edge of the Penalty Area; See Below.

DJ Receiving 1

As we can see Lovren has put himself in a position to receive the ball from Boruc; there are then two passages of play that then follows from Lovren.

1)    After receiving the ball if there is space in front Lovren will drive the ball forward and look to pull opposition midfielders out of position before laying off a pass to a supporting Saints midfielder or attacker.

2)    If teams apply pressure to the Saints defence Lovren looks to maintain possession of the ball by playing across the backline or into the midfield player who drops short (Wanyama/Schneiderlin).

 Against Sunderland Dejan showed a high pass completion rate of 97%. See Below.

DJ Pass Accuracy

Due to Sunderlands defensive positioning it was hard for Saints to breakthrough their defensive lines; as a result we can see Lovren try to mix up his passes.

1)    A number of passes have been played into Shaw to get the youngster attacking the opposition wingers/defence.

2)    Some passes have been played accurately into the Saints attackers, bypassing the midfield.

3)    Other passes have been played straight out to Chambers at RB looking to switch play and get in behind the Sunderland defence.

Despite the result being a draw, Lovren has shown a range of passes that has seen Saints retain possession of the ball which is key to how Saints play their game in order to get a positive result; notably in other games Lovren has an excellent diagonal pass which has enabled the Saints player to attack the full back in a 1 v 1.

478liv-fin-65148-1069400_478x359If there was one thing I would like Dejan Lovren to improve, it would be dealing with opposing players inside the Penalty Area, so far he has managed to get away with it, having tripped Sturridge up at Anfield and I thought he needlessly went into the back of the Palace player in the Penalty Area in yesterday’s game. However, these are things that can be prevented and the most important thing is the fact Saints have only conceded 2 goals in their first 6 games and look like a strong defensive unit. Dejan deservedly got his goal last week and like many fans I have been impressed with his start to his Premier League Campaign! Does he deserve to be the Premier League’s September Player of the Month? I think so.

REFERENCES: Stats and Maps (Squawka.com); Pictures (saintsfc.co.uk/Paul Watts)

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Team Analysis: Attacking Corners

saintsHaving returned from my coaching trip in Brazil I wondered what should be my first article for the new season…Transfer targets? Pre-season games? Premier League Oppositions?

Nope, there’s one aspect of Saint’s play that has propped up over the course of the 2012/13 season and has even continued into the pre-season games in Spain. The answer: Attacking Corners. I’m sure now it’s been mentioned some Saints fans will be nodding in agreement, the lack of goals scored has proved to be a weakness in Saints attacking game; therefore I have decided to take an analytical look at Saints Attacking Corners.


Last season Saints took 209 corners in the Premier League; below is a comparison with the rest of the league in terms of corners taken.

Corners Taken 1As we can see Saints sit in 9th position for most corners taken in the league during the 2012/13 season, Saints have shown through their performances how attacking orientated they are with a number of players getting into the Final Third of the pitch, this has no doubt led to an increase in corners taken due to the amount of pressure the Saints players have put on the opposition defenders; as a result this shows that Saints don’t have a problem creating corner chances. What about the accuracy?

Out of the 209 kicks taken, 191 of the corners were directly played into the penalty box with 61 of them finding a Saints player. (Accuracy= 32%). Where does that fit in with the Premier League teams?

Corners Taken 2The bar chart shows Saints in the bottom half of the league, although it must be said that the accuracy from 3rd place QPR (35%) all the way to 16th place Norwich (31%) isn’t the most significant difference. We can also see that some of the teams who had taken fewer corners tend to have a higher accuracy than teams who have taken more corners.

In the Premier League Saints have scored just two goals directly from corner kicks (Jay Rodriguez vs Tottenham was a secondary shot), the first coming away from home against Everton when Gaston Ramirez was left unmarked at the far post to head in. See Below.

640dsc-6334a148-398112_478x359The other coming against Fulham at St. Mary’s when Jose Fonte looping header found its way into the Fulham goal.

640cc8r9683148-413781_478x359Notably, both goals came from an in swinging delivery from Adam Lallana.

Over the course of the season Saints have had 9 different corner takers, with Adam Lallana (51) and Gaston Ramirez (44) taking the most corners for the team.

Ind CornersThis table shows the amount of corners each player has delivered into the Penalty Box, and how many of the deliveries have reached a Saints body in the Penalty Box. As we can see we have a varied success rate with Lallana and Ramirez the most frequent corner takers but also the least accurate in terms of corners taken; Puncheon, S. Davis and Schneiderlin all have fairly decent success rates when delivering the ball.

These ‘Corner Maps’ from Squawka.com show some of the games where Saints have struggled to deliver the ball.

Saints CornersAs we can see from the pictures we have 15 corners from the two games but only 3 finding a Saints player, so where has it gone wrong? Against Everton we can see some of the corners have failed to get past the 1st man on the edge of the 6 yard box, the other deliveries have tended to drift away from the goal, as a result this is either punching territory for the Goalkeeper or the defenders can look to attack the ball and clear their lines. Fulham on the other hand shows three of the deliveries getting too close to the goalkeeper, as well as two deliveries failing to get anywhere near the Penalty Box…

Did you know Rickie Lambert won the most corners for Saints last season (30).


Corners are not always about the delivery, it’s also about the players making the runs into the Penalty Box. Below are the starting positions for the players under Adkins and Pochettino.


Adkins Attacking Corners

  • 7 players (excluding corner taker) are in attacking positions for the corner.
  • Yellow – 2 players sitting outside the box waiting for the ball to drop to them.
  • Blue – 3 players set up at the far side, attacking 6 yard box once ball has been delivered.
  • Red – 1 player on the Goalkeeper
  • Purple – 1 player set up on near side, waiting to flick on or head towards the goal.


Pochettino Attacking Corners

  • 7 players (excluding corner taker) are in attacking positions for the corner.
  • Blue – 2 player outside box waiting for ball to drop down to them (1 player is currently out of picture).
  • Yellow – 1 player running towards corner taker, leaving space in behind for runners to attack.
  • Red – 4 players attacking from edge of the Penalty area.

As we can see there are 2 different managers and 2 slightly different set-ups, either way you look at it both have proved unsuccessful over the course of the season as I would expect more than 2 goals from corner kicks over 38 games.

Four points that Saints need to consider when Attacking Corners

1)      Early organisation; as soon as you get awarded the corner get the players in position ready to attack the ball, don’t wait for the opposition to mark you up.

2)      Start Point and Attack Point; the players want to know where they’re starting their runs and where they’re ending up to attack the ball, you don’t want players getting in each other’s way cutting off the space available to the Saints players.

3)      Anticipation area; look for rebounds or secondary shots that can be followed up.

4)      Delivery point; the corner takers need to hit the prime areas in the Penalty Area.

So what has been done about the corners? Well apart from working on it in pre-season Saints have secured the signings of Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama. Lovren’s only goal for Lyon last season came from a corner kick, whilst Wanyama scored 4/9 goals from corners, notably his best coming against Barcelona in the Champions League.

Wanyama Goal vs Barcelona http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhKbm8XiUTw

Lovren Goal vs AC Ajaccio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9cnKuGiFME

640dsc-2889148-933711_478x359Wanyama getting his head on a corner in the last pre-season game against Palamós CF.

Overall when Saints are playing away from home at places like Old Trafford or the Emirates you may not get many chances during the game, so when you get Set Plays such as Corner Kicks it’s fundamental you make it count; this season Saints have averaged 6 corners a game so you expect at least one of them to make the goalkeeper work. Hopefully over the course of pre-season and the start of the new season we will see Saints become a serious threat from Corner balls.

Thanks for reading!

References: EPL Index (statistics), Squawka.com (corner maps), SaintsFC.co.uk (corner pictures), Paul Watts (Saints Pictures)

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Southampton FC Season Review: Home vs Away

saintsThis long and detailed article will look at how Southampton have performed when playing home and away this season; hopefully we will see patterns of positivity from the statistics produced as well as areas of Saints play that could see improvements for next season in the Premier League.

For starters we can see the overall statistics of how Southampton have fared at Home and Away below.

Saints H and A statsAs any Saints fan would hope we have picked up more points at Home than Away, especially with notable wins against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea under Mauricio Pochettino. The only disappointment is the fact we lost to teams such as Wigan Athletic and Queens Park Rangers where Saints should be taking all three points. In terms of Away games Saints picked up some crucial points on the road; however they lacked defensive fight which enabled teams to get back at them which resulted in a lot of goals being conceded. This is the gap that I feel will need to be sorted this summer to help see Saints progress up the league.

If we take a look at when goals have been scored and conceded it can help us understand when Saints tend to be dangerous at scoring, but also give us the opportunity to show when we concede and how it can be stopped.


Goals Scored TimeFirstly, the graph shows all the goals that have been scored Home and Away, within the graph Saints tend to start games brightly with 7 goals scored in the first 10 minutes. The next time phase 11-20 minutes shows Saints dry patch with only 1 goal in that period of play. Interestingly the 10 minute period before the 40th and the 10 minutes after the 51st  has seen Saints score 15 goals, this could be down to the Manager’s half time team talk. Another positive point is the fact Saints have proved that they can score late on in games, with 10 goals in the last 20 minutes; in particular Jose Fonte last minute equaliser against Fulham at St. Mary’s.


Goals Conceded TimeIf we look at Goals Conceded we can see that the dry period Saints had when scoring (11-20mins) is also a period where they have conceded 4 goals; despite this the main problem lies between the 15 minutes before and the 5 minutes after half-time as Saints have shipped 23 goals in that time. For me there is nothing more frustrating than conceding before the break, this could also explain why Saints have scored a lot of goals between the 51-60th minute because they have had to come out and attack teams to get back in the game, which has resulted in only 2 goals being conceded in that time frame. But, one of Saints biggest downfalls is conceding late on in the game with 17 goals in the last 20 minutes being conceded; games such as Manchester United at Home and Wigan Away prove that no matter what the time or the score is you have to keep switched on for the full 90+ minutes the game lasts for.


Goals Scored and Conceded HomeThis season has seen Saints finish up with a Goal Difference of +2 at Home; the majority of the 26 goals have been scored from within the Penalty Area, with the only goals outside the area scored from Rickie Lambert’s free kicks against Liverpool and Chelsea. A specific cluster of goals scored can be seen on the corner of the 6 yard box, we have seen Lambert a number of times isolate the opposition fullback in order to gain an aerial advantage to get a shot on goal.

However, as well as Saints looking to isolate the fullback, the opposition have also used the same pattern of play against Saints, such as Gareth Bale and Robin Van Persie pulling off at the far post before expertly finishing it in the goal. Despite being the subject of quality finishing from these players we have also been the masters of our own downfall with basic defensive errors that have gifted the opposition goals. This includes Gazzaniga/Yoshida’s error against Swansea and Jose Fonte getting dispossessed of possession against Wigan Athletic.


Having seen where Saints score and concede, it’s important to look at where Saints have been scoring and conceding the goals Away from Home; as this can help Saints patch up certain areas of weakness ahead of the new season.

Goals Scored and Conceded Away 3Just like Goals Scored at Home a lot of the goals have been scored inside the Penalty Area, with 9 goals being scored within the 6 yard box, this shows the poachers instinct from Saints which has no doubt helped pick up the odd point or three. However, I believe we still should be looking at more shots on goal from outside the area, in this day and age teams are so compact and tight in and around the box by the time you want to get a shot off it has been blocked or shielded out wide. Therefore, I feel when Saints get into the Final Third they should up the tempo giving the opposition no time to get tight which will leave room for more shots on goal.

The Goals Conceded has a different story as the goals that Saints have let in have come from all over the pitch, it’s typical that Saints have come across world class strikes that the players will most likely never replicate, such as Cameron Jerome…however, you can’t fault the fact they have actually had a shot on goal from distance. Interestingly, there is a cluster of goals around the Penalty Spot which could indicate late runs from the opposition that might not have been picked up by the Saints players, or the Saints players didn’t get tight enough to the opposition to prevent the shot from going in.



Tackle Win Percentage HAIn general Saints tackling this season has been particularly good with Saints preventing the opposition a number of times, as the graph shows on 5 occasions Saints have had a tackling win percentage of over 90%. Individually Morgan Schneiderlin has attempted the most tackles (146), whilst Jack Cork was the most successful winning 87% of his tackles. This season Saints have averaged a tackling win percentage of 78% at Home, whereas the win percentage Away is 76%. The end of the season Saints seemed to struggle to win the ball through tackling with a notable drop under the season’s average from Game 14 to 18; this could be down to the fatigue of the players as Pochettino aggressive pressing finally took its toll on the players in the closing fixtures.


Ground Duel Win PercentageThroughout the season we can see from the graph that Saints have excelled at winning Ground Duels whilst playing at Home, but struggled when playing away having only been over the Season’s Average 5 times over the course of the season. As a result the winning percentage at Home is 52%, whereas Away is 49%. Individually Morgan Schneiderlin has attempted the most Ground Duels (325), whilst Maya Yoshida has had the better of the opposition’s strike force having successfully won 68% of his Ground Duels. Rickie Lambert on the other hand had a tougher time against the opposition defence with a win percentage of only 34%.


Aerial Duel Win P HAThis season Saints have attempted a total of 1248 Aerial Duels with an average win percentage of 50%, but when you look at how Saints fared Home and Away we can get a clearer picture of how Saints have attempted these duels. For instance, the graph shows a lot of blue line below the average line which indicates a struggle when away from home; whereas at Home Saints aerial duel win percentage is 52%, therefore proving how difficult the opposition find it when attempting aerial duels, unless of course your team name is Stoke City who annihilated are aerial duels winning 76% of the aerial balls. This season Jos Hooiveld has been the most successful in the air winning 75% of his aerial duels, whereas Rickie Lambert has attempted the most aerial balls (201).



Touches HomeThis season Saints have touched the ball 12748 times whilst playing at St. Mary’s; averaging 671 touches per game. Despite having a lot of touches of the ball it’s important you use it wisely to help exploit the opposition, for example in Game 14 against QPR Saints had the most touches of the ball this season but lost 2-1, whereas in Game 7 Saints only touched the ball 582 times yet beat Newcastle United 2-1.


Away Touches HAIn terms of touches of the ball away from home; Saints amassed a total of 12618 touches of the ball, with an average of 664 touches every game. Therefore, showing that Saints are more than comfortable in possession of the ball when going to other Premier League grounds, the confidence shown by the team can be seen from Games 1 to 6 where there is an increase in touches of the ball as each game passes.

This season Morgan Schneiderlin has touched the ball 2499 times the most from any Saints player, this comes as no surprise as Morgan helps maintain possession of the ball in all thirds of the pitch as he helps link up the defence to the midfield and midfield to the attacking players.


Loss of PossessionBLUE – HOME


Losing possession of the ball is a frustrating feeling when Saints gather momentum when attacking the opposition, I know from being at the ground that fans believe we lose possession of the ball more when we lose a game than when we win. But, I analysed this in my last article which stated that ‘Saints actually lose more possession of the ball when we win than when we lose’ this was down to a number of reasons such as passes played forward and how many touches of the ball Saints had. As a result if the team are using the ball effectively then losing possession isn’t too bad as the team are still creating chances, but if they’re not then that’s when Saints start to lose or draw games.

Looking at the graph we can see that in the first five games of the season Saints tended to lose the same amount of possession when playing at Home and Away, whereas from Game 11 to 15 Saints lost more possession at Home than when Away, but the last four games of the season Saints lost more possession Away than Home; therefore, Saints tended to lose possession in specific stages of the season.

This season Saints have lost the ball 6655 times; individually Rickie Lambert has lost possession of the ball 610 times this season, more than any other player at Saints.


InterceptionsFor me this is the best graph of the whole article, simply because you can see the sudden increase of interceptions made since Mauricio Pochettino took over from Nigel Adkins. Pochettino first game against Everton is Game 11 on the graph, as we can clearly see Saints have adopted his pressing game forcing the opposition into mistakes and picking up possession through wayward passes made by the opposing team. I believe this has had the biggest effect on how teams have struggled to break Saints down, this is due to the constant pressure they’re under when in possession of the ball by the Saints players. As a result Mauricio ended up with a Goal Difference of -1, whereas under Nigel Adkins it was -10.

Once again Morgan Schneiderlin topped the charts with 139 interceptions, Nathaniel Clyne with the second most intercepting the ball 72 times for Saints.



Fouls Won HAThis Premier League season has seen Saints win a total of 357 fouls, as we can see the graph has fluctuated quite frequently over the course of the season, for example, at times Saints win over 12 fouls in one game before only winning 6 in the next. This season has seen Gaston Ramirez fouled 44 times making him the most fouled player at Saints; the Saints Full Backs have also won their fair share of fouls as they look to attack down the channels at the opposing teams wingers and fullbacks, Nathaniel Clyne winning 18 and Luke Shaw 25 fouls this season.


Fouls Lost HASaints have averaged 11 fouls lost per game, in comparison Saints averaged 9 fouls won per game. Consequently giving away more than we win; this has had an effect on results as games such as Manchester United Away where Saints conceded fouls outside the area led to goals being scored by the opposition. In this league any foul you give away outside the box that can be delivered into a dangerous area can lead to a big chance, these chances will most likely be put away due to the standard of player in this division.

This season has seen the opposing team win more fouls than Saints; this comes as no surprise as the Saints players get tight to the opposition players due to the aggressive pressing. In the Premier League Morgan Schneiderlin has lost 65 fouls, as mentioned above Morgan is one of Saints main enforcers in terms of pressing and squeezing the opposition out of possession so will no doubt lose some fouls over the course of the season.

Due to Saints pressing high a lot of the fouls lost are in the opposition’s half, therefore the Saints attacking players have lost quite a lot of fouls as well, Jason Puncheon lost 37, Jay Rodriguez 37, Gaston Ramirez 33 and Rickie Lambert 35 fouls in total.


Yellow and Red OffThe Yellow and Red Card Map show us where the majority of the cards have been awarded to the players, as we can see the cards have been mainly distributed in the Southampton half with the majority out wide on the left hand side. This season Saints have averaged 1.18 cards per match, therefore showing how disciplined the team have been over the course of the year, a number of other Premier League teams have suffered due to ill-discipline of the players which has left the team in trouble due to top players facing suspension.

This season’s bad boy goes to Morgan Schneiderlin with 9 Yellow Cards to his name, followed by the defensive duo of Jos Hooiveld and Jose Fonte with 5 Yellow Cards.


Passing Accuracy HAPassing has become an integral part of Saints game this season with specific variations that have seen teams struggle to cope with Saints high tempo passing, this is because they can play it short but have the option to play it long into Lambert who is capable of holding the ball up. Saints Passing Accuracy has averaged at 78% this season with Saints passing at home also averaging at 78%, whilst playing away has seen a slight drop to 77%. From Game 7 to 13 at Home we can see that Saints dropped in terms of Passing Accuracy as it failed to get above the average line. However, from Game 16 to 19 Saints picked up the accuracy as it increased over the games. Game 9 away from home has seen a massive drop in accuracy, hardly surprising the team that we played was Stoke City.

This season Morgan Schneiderlin attempted 1873 passes at a Passing Accuracy of 85%, by far the most accomplished passer in the side; although Steven Davis also managed an accuracy of 85% having attempted 1311 passes.


Final Third PassesThe Final Third passes shows how fundamental it is to get the ball into these areas if you look to penetrate the opposition’s defence, for example Game 13 against Manchester City at Home Saints played 173 passes in the Final Third, 21more passes than the average this season; as a result Saints won 3-1. However they attempted even more in the next game but couldn’t breakthrough the QPR defence and lost, but Saints still maintained a high number of Final Third passes and beat the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool in the next Home games. But, just like some of the graphs above we have a seen a drop below the season’s average in the final few games Home and Away, in this case Saints haven’t managed to get enough passes played in the Final Third, which has subsequently led to only 3 goals being scored in the Final 6 games of the season Home and Away.

There have been 5582 passes played in the Final Third with Rickie Lambert playing 770 passes in that third of the pitch, Jason Puncheon the most accurate with a 75% accuracy from 405 passes made in the Final Third.


Crossing AccuracyI’m sure some people will believe that Southampton’s Crossing Accuracy has been poor this season, especially the latter part; but all in all the crossing hasn’t been too bad, for instance the first 10 games at Home we can see that the Saints players have found their teammates fairly often with a high accuracy, despite the fact the crossing away from home is slightly disappointing. In comparison with other teams Manchester United Crossing Season’s Average is 22%, West Ham United is 27% and Queens Park Rangers is 20%, therefore Saints haven’t done to badly with their crossing; although I will say that Saints have certainly struggled in the closing part of the season having seen the Home average drop in the last 7 games.

Individually Steven Davis has the best accuracy with 37% of his crosses finding a Saints player, whereas Adam Lallana has attempted 146 (most) crosses at an accuracy of 16%.


Dribbling AccuracyI believe dribbling has been an important aspect of Saints play this season, this is because Saints have players more than capable of beating the oppositions players with the ball at their feet, for example we have the two fullbacks in Clyne and Shaw who have the ability to drive the ball on from deep into the Final Third, Puncheon and Lallana with their flicks in and out putting the opposition players in a daze, as well as Rodriguez and Ramirez who can drive the ball on opening up room in the oppositions defence for Saints to exploit. However, I feel under Adkins the players weren’t given the freedom to run with the ball, which would explain why the dribbling accuracy is low for both home and away games in the first part of the graph, since the managerial change we can see the accuracy level out before it starts to increase in the Home games.

As a result players like Rodriguez flourished as he ended the season with the most dribbles attempted (79), whereas Nathaniel Clyne finished with the best accuracy of 59% from 51 dribbles.


Chances Created HomeTo win games in the Premier League you need to create chances, this season Saints averaged 11 chances every game at St. Mary’s. Looking at the graph it looks like a wave with chances created increasing each game before a sudden decrease in each game; this trend appears to happen throughout the season.  Despite creating a lot at home I feel that we haven’t used it to our advantage, this is because Southampton have lost 6 games at Home and the two lowest chances created are Games 8 and 11, both ending in draws. Therefore in the games Saints have lost they have still created a minimum of 9 chances and failed to get a positive result from it.

Chances Created AwayWhen Saints travel away we can see from the graph that 15/19 games have seen Saints create less than their Home average, therefore indicating a lack of chances created for the team. However, once again I bring up the managerial change which clearly shows an increase in chances created from Game 12; due to the increased chances we have seen 7 points come from these games as well as 8 goals.

Southampton have a created a total of 367 chances with Rickie Lambert creating the most with 80; more than double of his next Saints teammate Adam Lallana with 40 and Gaston Ramirez 31.


Total ShotsRED – HOME


As the graph highlights we can see a distinct amount of red which shows how many more shots at Home we have compared to playing Away. This season has seen Southampton have 289 shots on goal at Home and 227 shots on goal Away, with Saints averaging 15 shots a game at Home and 12 shots a game Away. Saints started the season brightly when playing at Home having seen the graph touch 15 shots in 5 of the first 6 games, however they could only muster a measly 4 points in total which no doubt put more pressure on the side as the season wore on. The Away Shots increased dramatically after the 12th Game which also happens to be Pochettino first game in charge.

Rickie Lambert has attempted 94 shots on goal this season, with Jay Rodriguez closely behind firing 89 shots on goal.


Shot AccuracyIt’s important for Saints to have shots on goal but it’s far more important that the shots on goal are accurate to help increase the chances of scoring, this season Saints have a Shooting Accuracy of 43%. The graph shows the accuracy of the shot has fluctuated quite rapidly over the course of the season, but what we can see is the low accuracy in the first half of the season when shooting at Home, however this then increases in the second half from Game 11 as the accuracy at Home only drops below the average twice in the 9 games.

Just like the Total Shots graph we can see Away from Home in the latter part of the season an increase in shots but also an increase in accuracy, which is fundamental in picking up points for the team as Saints are now capable of getting shots on goal with accuracy.

Rickie Lambert has the highest Shot Accuracy for players who have had more than 20 shots, with 52% of his shots being on target.


If you’ve made it this far down the page then I must congratulate you on this incredible achievement!!!

Personally, I think this has been a successful season for Saints having gone back to back promotions in the last couple of seasons before finishing up in 14th place in the first season back in the Premier League.

For next season there are areas of Saints game that will need to be improved to take us onto the next level and push us up the league. Personally the four I have posted below I would like to see implemented next season.

Cut down on Goals Conceded before and after Half Time

Attempt more shots from outside the Penalty Area

Dealing with Direct Teams

Create more chances Away from Home

640swansea-hm-6148-479684_478x359 THANKS FOR READING!!


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Loss of Possession

saintsPossession is probably the most important aspect of any team’s play, by keeping hold of the ball you are in control of the game, if you control the game you score the goals and prevent the opposition from scoring themselves. As a result by keeping possession of the ball is not only a great offense but a strong form of defence. So any fans that panic when Saints pass across the backline or pass it forward then back – don’t worry. Despite holding onto the ball it’s the off the ball movement of the support players that creates openings in the oppositions backline that Saints can look to exploit, so by using the possession wisely can create goal scoring opportunities for the team.

This article is going to look at Saints Loss of Possession this season with a specific look at how much possession has been lost when Saints have Won, Lost or Drawn a game.

With 37 games notched up this season Southampton have lost possession (6495) times, within this figure the possession lost would’ve been through players giving the ball away through poor passes or crossing, unsuccessful touches, being dispossessed and letting the ball overrun.

Unsuccessful Touch: (469)

Dispossessed (462)

Ball Overrun (62)

So far this season Saints have won 9, lost 15 and drawn 13 games; within these games I believe you and I expect that Saints will lose more possession in the games we lost than the games we won. I have looked through each game this season and split them up into three categories; win, lose, draw. I have then averaged them out to see how much possession is lost when we have won, lost or drawn.

Possession Saints TeamWell…I was wrong! Saints have actually lost more possession when we’ve won than when we have lost or drawn. Incredibly Southampton actually lost possession of the ball 37 more times on average when we win than when we lose. So why do we lose more possession when we win? Well there are a number of different reasons I can look into, but I have decided to focus on the amount of touches Saints have on the ball and the percentage of passes played forward.


Touches 2As we can see Saints have averaged more touches of the ball than the opposition when they have won, lost or drawn, so in terms of possession they have kept the ball well and the general consensus is that the more touches they have of the ball the more likely they will win the game; however, it’s not how many touches you have that win’s the games, it’s how you use the ball when in possession. See Below.

Touches SFCHere we have two heatmaps showing where Saints have been playing their football against Arsenal (Away) and Newcastle (Home). These two maps show us how important it is to use possession of the ball effectively, against Arsenal Saints touched the ball 758 times (Arsenal touched it 778), yet they won 6-1. Whereas, the game against Newcastle Saints touched the ball 582 times (Newcastle touched it 596) and won 2-0. Now if we look at the areas of play, when Saints played Arsenal a lot of the play was in their own half with no real threat in the Final Third, especially in the Penalty Area. As a result they had a lot of touches of the ball with no end product. However, against Newcastle they had a lot less touches of the ball but the play was more in the opposition half compared to the Arsenal game, with a lot more action in the Penalty Area. As a result with play more up the field the chances of scoring will increase dramatically.

I realise that playing Arsenal away would always be a tricky tie, but if you manage to have that much possession of the ball you might as well do something with it. This leads us on nicely to percentage of passes played forward; the only way you can score goals is by playing forward, but will this have an overall effect on how much possession is lost for Saints and has it helped Saints win games?


Passes Played Forward %Overall, the games in which Saints have won have seen a higher percentage of passes played forward, which comes as no surprise. By playing the ball forward also increases the chances of losing possession of the ball due to the opposition most likely looking to anticipate and intercept any wayward pass.

If we compare the graph focusing on the amount of possession lost when we’ve won, lost or drawn it coincides with this graph. This is because a lot of possession has been lost when we’ve played the ball forward, but ended up winning the game; whereas possession that has been lost less frequently has been when Saints are reluctant to play the ball forward; as a result it ended up in a loss for Saints.

Why Saints have lost possession? 

There are many reasons why Saints have lost possession of the ball over the games played this season; for instance at times this season we have seen the front man Rickie Lambert get isolated with the ball due to lack of support from the midfield or attackers, which would explain why he has been dispossessed 50 times this season by the opposition. The Saints Centre Backs tried to force balls through to the Final Third due to the lack of movement from the attackers; this led to an easy regain in possession for the opposition.

Yoshida PassingMaya Yoshida unsuccessful passes against Sunderland; the map shows him trying to force it long into the Final Third.

Earlier on in the season Saints lacked confidence when moving the ball between teammates in crowded areas, this gave the opposition a chance to counter attack with numbers when they retrieved the ball.

However, as the season wore on and in particular when Mauricio Pochettino joined Southampton, we saw the confidence grow in the team and these particular patterns of play ironed out making it a lot more difficult for Saints to be broken down. For example, instead of passes being forced into the Final Third, the attacker would now drop in to give the Centre Backs an option to be played into.

MY PassingThe team were capable of playing the ball in tight areas, drawing opposition players out of position and exploiting the space in behind the defence.

Quick Passing MUFCIn the end this gave Saints the much needed boost to pick up points and wins against top opposition; this will now put them in good stead to work on and improve this area of their game over the summer ahead of next season. Hopefully I have shown in this article how important it is to keep possession of the ball against the opposition in this league, but not just keeping it, using it against the opposition by finding the gaps in the back line to play the ball forward into the Final Third; therefore creating the chances that will help take home the three points.

640swansea-hm-6148-479684_478x359Thanks for reading my articles over the season, here’s hoping we finish with a bang against Stoke City.

References: EPL Index (statistics), Squawka.com (pass and heat maps) and SaintsFC.co.uk (pictures)

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Opposition Analysis: Sunderland A.F.C. (Defensive)

SAFC-Crest-e1358336295966Ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against Sunderland, I have decided to look at the defensive side of Sunderland’s game which can give us a clear understanding of what areas of their play can be broken down and exploited. For starters here are some statistics that show when Sunderland concede their goals.

Sunderland Conceded GoalsSunderland have conceded a total of 52 goals this season, despite this number they have also managed to keep 11 clean sheets. The minutes when they concede graph shows a few interesting statistics that Saints should be aware of, firstly they concede throughout the first half with no specific time frame where they concede more than others. However, 21% of their goals conceded have come from the first 20 minutes of the game showing they start off sluggishly, so by getting them on the back foot early on can have a detrimental effect on how Saints can dictate the game. Other areas that stick out is the period of play just after half time, with 8 goals conceded between the 51-60th minute. A key stage of any game as this tends to be where the manager has set out his plans during the half time team talk where he expects them to be implemented, obviously this has not worked as often as they would’ve liked. However, they have seen a decrease in goals conceded in between 61-70 minutes. As well as starting sloppily they also finish badly with 25% of their goals conceded in the last 20 minutes, therefore if Saints are in a position to chase Sunderland they can put money on them getting a couple of big chances in the final stages of the game.

Next is a look at specific aspects of their defence over the Last Four Games, a period in which they have conceded 7 goals and picked up two clean sheets. First up…


Sunderland InterceptionsIntercepting the ball is a way in which to regain possession of the ball and start-up an attack against the opposition, as a player or a unit it’s about predicting when and where they will pass the ball so the players can move in to intercept the opposition. Saints like to press and intercept the ball high up the field as it increases the pressure on the opposition to deal with it. In Sunderland’s case they tend to sit back and get players behind the ball before intercepting and starting a counter attack. The interception maps show the majority of the interceptions made are within their defensive half, with a large portion of these interceptions won on the left hand side of the pitch. Interestingly, in the last game against Stoke it wasn’t Danny Rose intercepting the ball out wide, it was actually John O’Shea who looks to cover Rose when he get’s forward for Sunderland. However, in the other three games Rose picked up 18 interceptions more than any other Sunderland player in the Last Four Games, therefore any loose passes by Saints will most likely be intercepted by Rose. I would say an area where they seem to struggle to regain possession through intercepting the ball is down the right hand side, with the exception of the Everton game when Colback intercepted the ball 7 times. Notably against Aston Villa when Bardsley played down the right side he couldn’t anticipate and intercept the ball so if he starts in that position against Saints then maybe the team could look to get in and amongst Bardsley.


Sunderland Fouls CommittedOver the course of these four games Sunderland have notched up 8 yellow cards and 2 red cards, some say they show fight – I say stupidity. Despite picking up some important points it’s these cards that have cost this Sunderland team in recent games. The fouls committed map shows a few positive points for Sunderland, in this league fouling players around the Penalty Area usually leads to a big chance on goal. However, in their case they tend to ‘foul’ out wide or in the oppositions half, as a result halving the chance of conceding a goal as most of the Sunderland players can get behind the ball and cut out any deliveries. A lot of these fouls are down to Midfielder Alfred N’Diaye who floats across the pitch protecting the Sunderland backline and keeping the opposition out of danger, in total he has committed 11 fouls over the four games without picking up a single yellow card, even with 6 of these fouls against Aston Villa!


Sunderland Aerial DuelsOver the course of the season Sunderland have a Aerial Duel Win Percentage of 45%, a low figure for a Premier League team (Saints Aerial Win % 51%). In the last four games they have won 39% of their aerial duels which shows a decrease of 6% on their current average, so why are they struggling in this department?

Firstly, they have played four teams who all like to play direct football ,so will no doubt attempt a lot of duels in the air. The teams have also played particular Patterns of Play to exploit the weaknesses of the Sunderland backline. For example, the match against Stoke City they have lost an incredible amount of balls played into the left hand side of the pitch. This is because they have seen an opportunity to exploit John O’Shea who has an average of 58% Aerial Duel Win percentage compared to his partner Carlos Cueller who averages 64%. However, it’s not just about beating the player in the air (O’Shea won 4/11 Aerial Duels against Stoke), by bombarding that area of the field forces Danny Rose to retreat and help cover in defence as Stoke would look to outnumber Sunderland, therefore preventing Rose from having any effect in the Attacking Half (although he still managed to cause problems for Stoke). Aston Villa attempted a similar pattern of play but targeted the right hand side of the field; as we can see below these three have attempted the most duels over the last four games, with Cuella proving to be the rock in the air whilst Graham has stuggled with the aerial battles.

Sunderland AD 2However, despite Sunderland struggling with Aerial balls they don’t do to badly in and around the oppositions penalty area with 8/12 Aerial Duels (67%) won. As we all know and like to sing ‘We are Southampton we play on the floor’ it may be worthwhile to mix up are attacking play with more aerial balls played into Lambert. But, if this style of play is to be used then it’s fundamental he get’s the support from the midfield to help Saints regain possession of the ball and get in behind the Sunderland defence.


Sunderland TacklingThis season Sunderland have a tackle win percentage of 77%, but in their last four games, three of the games have seen them win a higher percentage of tackles showing them to be a bit of a tackling force in defence; no doubt contributing to the 7 points picked up from those games. Although they did struggle to keep Aston Villa under control winning only 64% of their tackles. Throughout the games Danny Rose attempted and won the most tackles (10/14), Colback has won all 6/6 tackles he has attempted and there have also been 6 other players who have won all their tackles (100%). Players that have ‘struggled’ to win tackles include Larsson (9/13) and McClean (6/8). Notable patterns from the tackling maps is the amount of tackles won out wide, in particular Stoke City Left Side and against Sunderland Right Side.

 Patterns of Play to breakdown the Sunderland defence

Due to Sunderland’s solid defensive line-up it proved to be tricky for Saints to breakdown the opposition when they played them earlier on in the season, so for Saints to create chances there is a few simple methods that have worked for other teams against Sunderland.

Exploit the Fullbacks

Sunderland like to get their fullbacks up in attacking positions, so with the fullback and winger doubling up on the opposition fullback it makes it tricky for the opposing team to deal with. However, with the fullback attacking the opposition, the area he has just left needs to be covered by the Sunderland players, should they lose possession of the ball it’s up to Saints to hit them at pace and get runners up in support. This is because the players covering are generally Centre Backs and what they don’t like is someone with pace running at them, having watched some footage of the last few games the Sunderland backline can deal with teams passing it around as they can maintain their compact shape and look to intercept the wayward pass. But, the players have struggled to deal with teams running at them as that has drawn the Sunderland players out of position leaving gaps in between the defence.

Sunderland Take OnsFor example, against Aston Villa the Sunderland players struggled to prevent the Villa dribblers (11/15 successful dribbles), with 14 of them inside the Sunderland half and 4 of them successfully got passed the Sunderland players in the Final Third. Further indicating that they struggle with players running at them.

When the Sunderland fullback supports the attackers can also lead copious amounts of space in behind the defence, Aston Villa used this to their advantage to take a 2-1 lead due to it.

Sunderland defending*apologies for poor image quality

As we can see Aston Villa have attacked with pace driving into the Sunderland half, with the fullback out of position (blue circle) Weimann has exploited the space in behind leaving him to receive and place the ball in the back of the net. Saints problem before was not releasing the ball early enough to put them on the backfoot, as a result the Sunderland players got back and snuffed out any potential shot/cross. For this return fixture I expect thing’s to be done a lot quicker when in possession of the ball, hopefully similar to how we played against Spurs…although the ball needs to hit the back of the net this time!


I’ve mentioned a few times how Sunderland like to stay compact and deep when in defence, but what that does is create a lot of room outside the box for an opporutnity to have a shot on goal. So far this season Saints have been poor from shooting long but against Sunderland this will be one of the best ways to get a shot on goal.

Sunderland Long ShotsAgainst Aston Villa the players sat too deep and couldn’t get out in time to stop Vlaar shot on goal, as well as shooting long the players MUST follow up the shots as a few times this season Sunderland have failed to deal with rebounds.


In the recent fixtures Sunderland have failed to deal with Set Plays, especially corner kicks having conceded goals against Stoke and Aston Villa. Stoke played some inswinging balls that Sunderland struggled to deal with; it was interesting how many Stoke players attacked the ball forcing the Sunderland players to lose their markers and get an effort on goal.

Sun Set PlaysAs we can see an inswinging delivery has found Walters who dealt with the ball with ease.

There’s no doubt that this is a big game for both teams, for Saints it’s important to forget about the last two results and look at the positives of how we played against Tottenham, even Andre Villas-Boas has come out and said ‘their football is absolutely outstanding’. Overall, Sunderland are no slouches and will also want to secure their safety with a win in front of their home fans, but if Saints stick to their game plan which Pochettino is no doubt drilling into them all week then who knows, it could be three points and safety for Saints – here’s hoping!

Thanks for reading!

640swansea-hm-6148-479684_478x359References: EPL Index (statistics/tactics board), Squawka.com, FourFourTwo (Opta)


Back Five Combinations

Saints LogoI came across an interesting statistic the other day looking at how many combinations one of the Premier League teams had used for their Back Five throughout this Premier League season, so I thought I would see how Saints looked in this department and what has been Saints most successful Back Five Combination.

Taking a look at the First 10 games of the season where Saints were up against some of the best sides in the league, Adkins stayed with the same Back Five of…

Kelvin Davis – Nathaniel Clyne – Jose Fonte – Jos Hooiveld – Danny Fox

…for the first four games of the season; however having conceded 14 goals and picking up 0 points in that time something needed to change, so Nigel Adkins made his first change to the Back Five with Paulo Gazzaniga making his debut in goal and Maya Yoshida filling in for Jos Hooiveld at Centre Back, this had an immediate effect on the Saints side with their first win of the season against Aston Villa. However, more changes came in for the game after with Frazer Richardson replacing Danny Fox and even the game after that Clyne got replaced by Fox (Richardson covered Clyne’s position). So as a Back Five in their first 7 games they have already seen 3 big changes to the Back Five, which clearly had an effect on the cohesion of the team; this is shown in the results with only 3 Points from 6 games whilst conceding 19 goals!

As a result this led to more changes to the starting line-up, with Boruc taking up the position in between the posts and Hooiveld joining the defence…but this still led to goals being conceded. The 9th game of the season saw Danny Fox return for Jos Hooiveld, but still no win; even going into the 10th game Gazzaniga found himself back in goal but this proved to be unsuccessful with another loss.

10 games – 28 Goals Conceded – 3 points

Now you’ve probably read those two paragraphs and thought what a mess, and to be perfectly honest that is exactly what it was – pure mayhem! Saints could never gather any consistency in the first part of the season as the players from the Back Five suffered from a number of things, such as injuries, inexperience and lack of match practice.

640villa-hm-134148-382831_478x359I can now tell you that so far this season Saints have had 13 different defensive combinations in the Back Five…37% of the games!! So let’s have a look at the Most and Least Successful Combinations in this Saints team.

Most Successful Combination

1)      Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw (Played: 8 Goals Conceded: 10 Points: 15)

2)      Gazzaniga, Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Shaw (Played: 5 Goals Conceded: 4 Points: 8)

3)      Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Fox (Played: 5 Goals Conceded: 7 Points: 5)

Least Successful Combination

1)      Davis, Clyne, Hooiveld, Fonte, Fox (Games: 4 Goals Conceded: 14 Points: 0)

2)      Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Fox (Played: 2 Goals Conceded: 4 Points: 0)

3)      Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Fonte (Played: 1 Goals Conceded: 4 Points: 0)

If you take in all the factors I have provided then the 2nd Most Successful Combination of Gazzaniga, Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte and Shaw would be top. However, I have looked at the Points per Game as the deciding factor that put’s the combination of Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld and Shaw as the most successful combination, with Saints averaging 1.9 points per game; whereas the 2nd Most Successful Combination average 1.6 points per game.

Notably, the Most Successful Combination has played the most Saints games as a combination, which comes as no surprise as you want to gather momentum and consistency; with the most effective way of picking up points by keeping the same successful side. Although I am surprised to see how successful the 2nd placed combination were, due to how young and inexperienced the back line was, as Gazzaniga, Shaw and Clyne are all under 21 years old; the best thing about their combination is the fact they’re one of two combinations who has conceded under a goal a game (average of 0.8 goals conceded per game). Hopefully, these 3 will be part of the Saints team for many years to come.

Having had a torrid start to the season it’s hardly surprising to see Davis and co at Top of the Least Successful Combination, whilst also trying to play 3 Centre Backs in one game proving to backfire with four goals being conceded with the 3rd Least Successful Combination.

Despite all the combinations starting the game together, on 18 occasions the Back Five would’ve been changed through substitutions, so with over half of the games involving substitutions to the Back Five it was important the Saints players could adapt to the players joining the action by maintaining or changing the style of play to help see Saints through with wins or clean sheets.

Goalkeeper Comparison

GK ComparisonThis chart is showing a comparison amongst the goalkeepers, ideally the closer the green box (goals conceded) is to the yellow box (games played) the better the defence/goalkeeper has been and their reluctance to concede a goal. Despite all three keepers conceding more than they play it’s Gazzaniga who has a better shot stopping defence. But in this day and age as much as it’s great to keep clean sheets it’s all about helping your team pick up points and with Boruc in goal he has helped Saints win 22 points this season.

Saints Most Successful Back Five Combination of Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw.

The first time these guys played together was against Aston Villa (Away) and I believe the only reason why they were brought together was the fact Jose Fonte went off injured in the FA Cup match against Chelsea a few days before, as a result this gave Hooiveld a chance to forget about the nightmare start and think about a positive future. The game ended in a 1-0 win for Saints, which gave Saints a lot of confidence and belief to get something against Chelsea (Away), and they did. Next came the managerial change with Adkins sacked and Pochettino arriving as the new man in charge. As the team were on a good run the players needed to keep up their own performances to impress the new boss and solidify their spot in the side.

Notably, their best spell came with three straight wins against Liverpool, Chelsea and Reading which really got the ball rolling in terms of momentum, the most impressive stat from these players is the fact the team only lost once in their 8 games as a Back Five, winning 4 and drawing 3.

This combination has also seen them pick up the most clean sheets with three, further indicating how well they have clicked together. A lot of praise must go to Mauricio Pochettino who has helped shore up the defence by getting the midfield and attackers to press high up the field putting pressure on the opposition, this has enabled the defence to maintain a high line and cut out any of the opposition’s threat through the Saints defence.

Defenders StatsThese statistics have been calculated together from when they have played the 8 games as a combination; the pleasing thing that we can see is the high winning percentage throughout their defensive actions. Interestingly every player has won more tackles playing as a unit than their overall average (3% to 11% improvement in total) this season.

1148-703704_478x359Sadly the Reading game was the last game where they played as a unit having seen Luke Shaw pick up injuries in the last few weeks.

Overall I believe the most important factor when picking the team and combinations in particular is the belief you show with the players, by believing in the players can help boost their confidence on the pitch which can help build momentum when the results start going your way. This doesn’t just apply to the defence but also to other areas of the team, for example, the Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork partnership. The more games they have played together the better the understanding of each other, letting them develop a bond that can be tough to breakdown when they gather momentum and confidence in their play. What Mauricio has done well in particular is get Saints to believe in themselves as a defensive unit, which has rubbed off on the players having seen the results become more positive and the goals conceded become less frequent. Hopefully, this consistency can be carried into the last remaining games of this Premier League season.

Thanks for reading!

References: EPL Index (statistics), SaintsFC.co.uk

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Player Analysis: Jay Rodriguez

640chelsea-hm-4148-743473_478x359Jay Rodriguez moved to Saints from Burnley last summer for a then record fee of £6m; having excelled in the Championship I personally put him at the top of my most wanted transfer for when we got promoted to the Premier League. Having had the full pre-season with the squad he was put straight into Premier League action with the opening game of the season against Manchester City, but it wasn’t until the Tottenham game when Rodriguez opened his goal scoring account for the club. Since then he became a bit part player under Nigel Adkins having come on as a substitute 8 times, more than anyone else. This forced Jay to become frustrated despite showing glimpses of what he can do, but on a limited basis. However, since the managerial change with Mauricio Pochettino calling the shots we have seen a young English player flourish in this league with consistent and ‘world class’ performances over the last few months; and this is where I begin with my analysis, Jay Rodriguez performances under Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino.

To begin with Rodriguez has played 19 times for Adkins and so far 12 times under Pochettino so this can help gauge how Jay has played under both managers.

Jay Rod Defence ComparisonDefensively we can see that Jay has a higher win percentage in tackling and aerial duels under Pochettino than when he played for Adkins; despite playing fewer games with Pochettino, Rodriguez has already surpassed the amount of Tackles and Ground Duels attempted when playing with Adkins. So far he has attempted 6 more tackles and 61 more ground duels, which might also explain why that is the only statistic lower than Adkins. Overall, we can see that Rodriguez is performing above his seasons average (tackling and aerial duels) whilst Mauricio in charge.

So why is he performing better defensively? Well I’ve mentioned in many of my articles the change in playing style when defending under Pochettino, with the high defensive line it’s the role of Rodriguez to hunt down the opposition further up the field and force pressure upon them; a very important role, should he decide not to press the opposition then it can leave Saints defence exposed with all the space left in behind. See Below.

Jay Rod TacklingFor example, against Wigan we can see that 4/5 tackles attempted are in the oppositions half with 2 of them in the Final Third of the field.

JR Pressing 2Rodriguez pressing the Chelsea player, forcing him to play it backwards and relieve the pressure on the Saints defensive unit.

JR AttackingN.B. The Shooting Accuracy is my interpretation of the statistics from the EPL Index.

Moving onto Jay Rodriguez attacking statistics, once again and no surprise we can see that Jay has improved his dribbling and shooting accuracy for Saints quite significantly under Pochettino; with an enormous increase in dribbles attempted, 11 with Nigel Adkins and 57 with Mauricio. However, even with the sharp rise in dribbles attempted Jay has maintained a high accuracy and is performing higher than his season’s average as a result.

One area of his play that needs to improve is his Crossing, with an overall accuracy of 8% isn’t good enough for a Premier League player when the overall accuracy of the team is 24%. Although he has produced some quality deliveries in the last few games, it’s important to maintain high standards to see him improve as a player in the Final Third of the pitch.

Notably and probably the most important stat to come from this is the rise in Shot’s attempted, with 45 shots in his last 12 games under Pochettino has seen him reap the rewards with 4 goals in that time, whilst 28 shots in 19 games under Adkins and scoring just the 1. See Below.

Jay Rod ShootingAs we can see from Rodriguez’s game against Liverpool he is not afraid to shoot, whether that be from distance or inside the Penalty Box.

So how does Jay Rodriguez get himself into a position to shoot on goal, firstly Jay makes intelligent runs through the opposition’s defence that can open up space for him to shoot; notably against Reading Away he was successful on a number of occasions.

JR MovementAs the picture shows Rodriguez makes that run in between the Left and Centre back, as a result it is incredibly difficult for the opposition to stop him if the ball is played through.

Secondly the timing of his runs are spot on (only caught 6 times offside under Pochettino), there is nothing more frustrating than a striker who is constantly offside. However with Rodriguez he may play on the last man at times, but he supports the other players incredibly well by making great angles and distance to receive the ball. As a result gains that second to beat the defender and open up some room to get a shot on goal. See Below.

JR RunsAgainst Chelsea he dropped into some space, before playing a one two with Davis, as soon as he played that pass he looked to exploit the space in behind by timing his run to a tee. The result ended up with Rodriguez giving Saints a 1-0 lead.

This can lead us onto the amount of touches Rodriguez has of the ball, a stat I haven’t really brought up before, but can help show specific parts of Jay’s play.

Jay Rod TouchesIt doesn’t take a genius to work out that Rodriguez has had more touches of the ball with Pochettino than Adkins, however, Rodriguez still started 11 games under Adkins and judging by the graph there is still a significant difference, with Game 21 Away at Manchester United he almost doubles the amount of touches than when he started some of the games for Adkins. So why the big difference?

When playing under Adkins he predominantly played as a winger, whereas with Pochettino he has been given the freedom to express himself in the Attacking Half by switching from side to side with his main role in recent weeks to link up and support Rickie Lambert. See Below.

JR Heatmap Comparison

NA= Spurs

MP= Man Utd

Looking at the two heatmaps we can see what areas Rodriguez has played in under both managers; viewing both we can see that against Man Utd Jay has got involved a lot more out wide and through the middle of the pitch in the attacking half, whereas against Tottenham he has been involved in areas across the left side and middle but nothing where he stands out like he did against Man Utd, which shows that he can become isolated if forced to stay out wide or play as a lone striker which has happened at times this season.

It seems the belief Pochettino has shown in him has let him enjoy being in possession of the ball, consequently improving him as a player. We are now witnessing Jay drop into the space between the lines and receive the ball under pressure, getting his body shape in a position to receive and protect the ball. See Below.

JR Receiving BallAs we can see against Chelsea he has picked up the ball and stopped the opposition player from nicking in and stealing the ball, this particular phase of play led to his goal against Chelsea.

Against Liverpool, Rodriguez got himself into a position to pick up the ball and run at the Liverpool defence. See Below.

JR Dribblingand he kept going…

JR Dribbling 2and going….

JR Dribbling 3Until he scored the goal to seal the three points for Saints!


This is the belief and confidence we have been waiting to see from him for a long time and it’s great to see him take on a key role in this second half of the season with the guidance of Pochettino. We have to thank Nigel Adkins and his staff for bringing him into the club but it’s been Mauricio Pochettino who has taken this young lad onto the next level of his game where he is showing flashes of brilliance; brilliance that the England team could probably do with in the coming games! Hopefully he can finish the season with a bang and help elevate Saints as far up the league as possible.

Thanks for reading!

References: EPL Index (stats), Squawka.com (maps), SaintsFC.co.uk (pictures).