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.


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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