Lallana over Ramirez and other Norwich-Southampton thoughts

At what point does Mauricio Pochettino realise subbing Gaston Ramirez on for Adam Lallana every match might eventually cost him his job?

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Revs add “Beckham” on free transfer

At least that’s what one Jamaican sportswriter took to calling Jamaican international fullback O’Brian Woodbine thanks to his spot kick prowess with Reno FC.

That’s Reno FC of the Western Confederation Super League, the second tier of Jamaica’s soccer pyramid, mind you. Although Woodbine was the Jamaican national team’s starting left back over their last three Hexagonal matches so he’s got that going for him.  And from the highlight reel above of his stint with VPS in the Finnish Veikkausliiga he looks like a decent tackler blessed with a bit of pace and up to the physical rigors of playing on some atrocious pitches; although to be fair VPS is a mid-table club in a league ranked 33rd on UEFA Coefficient (32nd? You guessed it, the Azerbaijan Premier League!)

Let’s call this a depth move that’s zero risk thanks to the free transfer with some upside considering Woodbine’s national team experience.

Morgan Schneiderlin, football’s Patrice Bergeron and the 2-4-1-3

Mid-week lull before Revs at Toronto FC Friday night and Saints at Norwich City Saturday afternoon gives me a chance to highlight a piece I enjoyed and give praise to an underrated presence in the Saints midfield.

TPIMBW over at EPLindex has a great analysis of Marcelo Bielsa’s influence on Mauricio Pochettino’s attacking philosophy. It’s definitely worth your time to check out the full piece, particularly if Chile’s aggressively beautiful play at the 2010 World Cup made them your second rooting interest in that tournament.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the piece was this illustration of the Saints unique (to the EPL at least) depth and versatility in the attacking third.

It’s something I noticed watching the match as well, Southampton were able to generate tremendous pressure thanks to playing with what was essentially a four man front. Also key to that pressure is that 3 of the 4 forwards/attacking mids (and this includes Lallana, Osvaldo being the outlier) are as capable of creating chances for teammates as they are at capitalizing on chances.

What I’m particularly interested in is seeing how effective Southampton can be utilizing and how sustainable this formation is outside of desperation mode to pull back an equalizer. High pressing play was crucial to Saints success last season and they certainly have the personnel for Pochettino’s tactics, in addition to their depth at forward there’s an embarrassment of riches in midfield thanks to the Wanyama transfer and development of Ward-Prowse.

Pochettino can play such a high risk/reward system thanks to an ironclad midfield that allows Southampton’s full-backs to jump high into attack and leave just two wide CBs back to pick up the crumbs that make it through the midfield’s wide net. The undoubted rock of that Saints midfield is Morgan Schneiderlin, statistically one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world. In 2012-13 Schneiderlin led the PL in tackles, interceptions, had 5 goals and completed 84% of his passes. Seriously, look at Schneiderlin’s statistical peers in this FourFourTwo piece, Xavi, Fellani, Gerrard, Arteta and Yaya Toure; that’s the class of player he’s in. If there’s anyone who deserves a call-up to their national team, Schneiderlin’s earned it playing on a relegation threatened team in the strongest top to bottom league in Europe. Although with the offseason additions and youth development Southampton’s looking more like a top 10 side.

Rowe Rampant in Revs Demolition Job

Two disallowed Union goals had the Revs reeling when Coach Jay Heaps subbed on Dimitry Imbongo in the 57th minute of a 1-1 draw with a playoff spot slipping away. The new blood paid off immediately with Imbongo joining speedsters Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagundez in storming the Union backline, forcing an OG in the 58th. From there the 3 forwards dissected the Union’s usually stingy defense, who came into the match with shutouts in 4 of their last 5, Fagundez in particular making slashing runs the Union had little answer for short of fouling the Revs leading scorer.

VIDEO: Kelyn Rowe’s brace puts the Revs up by two

Kelyn Rowe added to his first half tally in the 65th minute with the goal of the match to give the Revs a 3-1 lead. A curved dagger from 30 out, Rowe’s strike effectively made the rest of the match a formality as the Union’s frustration took over and Fagundez and Agudelo added to their accojnts in the 71st and 72nd minutes.

Positives to take away from tonight’s victory; the Revs attack was absolutely lethal against a strong defense, and having Saër Sène back from suspension only adds to their attacking play (Jerry Bengtson, still MIA). Playoff lives on the line the Revs played a strong possession game in the first half, dictating play and should have gone into the tunnel up 2-0 but for Agudelo missing a wide open net in extra time.

However, the Revs were extremely lucky to escape the opening 10 of the 2nd half tied 1 all. Laconic play led to the Union’s equaliser through Daniel Cruz and the Revs continued to sleepwalk, giving up two disallowed goals (the second of which was a blown call and should have made it 1-2 Union). As it’s been for the past several fixtures, every game is a playoff for the Revs from here out and they can ill afford another ten minutes as poor as the 1st ten of the 2nd if they hope to make the postseason.

With the victory the Revs moved into the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, edging Houston Dynamo on goal difference.

MOTM: Diego Fagundez
Kelyn Rowe potted a brace on two excellent goals from outside the box but Fagundez created much of the Revs offense through his creativity and speed. At one point in the second half it seemed the only solution the Union defenders had for the Revs homegrown player was to throw a hipcheck and hope they didn’t get booked.

Late Fonte equalizer steals Saints draw from Sunderland

Saints teammates congratulate CB José Fonte after his late equalizer against Sunderland

Before his 88th minute equalizer the most memorable image of José Fonte was his overzealous attempt to draw a penalty in the first half. It was emblematic of the Saints troubles for much of the afternoon, falling on the wrong side of many calls and a run of bad luck in converting chances in the penalty area. Netting the equalizer allayed some of my concerns about his play but he still seems the weak link in a solidifying backline. Fonte was an excellent defender in League One and the Championship, but he’s consistently been out of his depth in the Premier League and it’s especially apparent now that he’s paired with Dejan Lovren. Right place, right time and he stole a result for the Saints today, but going forward and especially once Southampton starts playing the bigger clubs I’d prefer to see Lovren paired with Maya Yoshida.

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