Mauricio Pochettino will give our playing style a shake-up and there will be a fair few changes to our tactics this season.
Yesterday I looked at his overall system, which you can read all about here if you missed it. Today I’m going to start breaking down each position, starting with the goalkeeper and the assets he is required to have.
The man between the sticks has not only to be a shot stopper with quick reactions, but also an excellent distributor.
Moving the ball to the right targets is key to maintaining possession and getting play moving vertically – one of the objectives of the new manager’s system we looked at yesterday. Therefore, Mauricio Pochettino requires a keeper who is comfortable with the ball at his feet.
There are four zones that the goalkeeper needs to reliably hit:
1. The centre backs who split very wide.
2. The defensive midfielder who drops between the two centre backs.
3. The full backs who are pushed up extremely high
4. The centre forward either through the air or with a lower driven ball to feet when he comes short.
We can see a good cross section of this distribution from Southampton’s Premier League match with Manchester City at St. Mary’s.
Split centre backs
In order to stretch and wear out the opposition’s front line, Mauricio Pochettino has his centre backs split extremely wide. This usually sees them moving to positions outside the widths of the penalty area when the goalkeeper has possession.
If we look further at the passes the Saints keeper plays to his centre backs, we can see how Dejan Lovren moves out very wide to the left.
Whilst Jose Fonte gets himself out to the right hand side of the penalty area to receive the ball.
This should be the easiest distribution method for the goalie to reliably find his centre halves.
At least one of them should be free against teams that only have one striker or don’t adopt a heavy press. Even if the opposition does bring pressure, there is a lot of ground to cover with the two centre backs being located so wide and the opposition should tire over a 90-minute match.
Defensive midfielder dropping in
The next player the goalkeeper needs to be able to find is the defensive midfielder dropping between the split centre backs.
We can see from the Manchester City game, how Paulo Gazzaniga finds Jack Cork fulfilling this role by the passes to number 2 in the diagram above.
This option is useful if the opposition are covering the centre halves split wide, but is also fraught with danger as the ball is being played straight out and often short.
In Southampton’s home match with Hull, we can see how Loren and Fonte are split wide. Victor Wanyama drops in as the defensive midfielder to receive the ball from the goalkeeper.
Hull were wise to this and with Wanyama looking to turn rather than play the ball to one of the centre backs to beat their press, he is dispossessed and they score.
This is often a high risk, high reward pass. If the player dropping in can turn, he can get the attack moving forward quickly. If he can’t and gets caught on the ball or his pass is intercepted, the centre halves are wildly out of position and the opposition are in on goal.
Finding the full backs
We looked yesterday at how high the full backs operate in our overview of the system of Mauricio Pochettino.
With the centre backs moving in to wider zones when the keeper has the ball, the full backs are required to get much higher up the park. Mauricio Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1 base formation goes from this.
To then almost having more of a 3-3-1-3 look about it when the attack is being built.
We can see how the goalkeeper has to be able to direct longer passes out to his full backs, as they are much higher up, almost at the halfway line. We can see this from Paulo Gazzaniga’s passes to Luke Shaw if we go back to the Manchester City game.
This pass is more difficult as it often has to go over opposition players. It requires a keeper who can put the ball accurately out to the full backs, also often when he is under pressure.
Hitting the centre forward
Mauricio Pochettino requires two types of passes from the goalkeeper to the centre forward.
The first is to hit him through the air with an accurate high ball. This pass can be as a release valve as the goalkeeper is under pressure and needs to clear his lines. It can also be to move the ball swiftly up-field as the centre forward has an aerial or size advantage on the defender. He can then hold play up for others to join in.
The second type of pass is a low-driven one over the ground to find the number nine as he comes short in to midfield.
We looked yesterday at how Mauricio Pochettino uses his centre forward to come short and make passes to the runners beyond him. This is one way of getting the ball quickly to this player, so that he can drag defenders out of position, allowing others in to good attacking zones.
Mauricio Pochettino lives with goalkeeper errors
With the goalkeeper being an important distributor to get the attack moving and required to be good on the ball, there is sometimes the occasional blunder. We saw above how Victor Wanyama was caught out against Hull after receiving a pass he shouldn’t really have got against three Hull pressers. However, there were other high-profile errors last season.
Artur Boruc’s hesitation on the ball and subsequent attempt to take on Olivier Giroud had disastrous repercussions at the Emirates.
Boruc did flounder on the ball, but Jos Hooiveld, who was standing in at centre back that day, was slow to got himself out wide to the left.
Another error was Paulo Gazzaniga’s miscue when he was looking to chip the ball out to full back Luke Shaw at St. James’s Park.
The ball was sliced up in the air as he attempted to go over Loic Remy. The Frenchman gathered up the gift, but could only fire against the post.
Overall, Southampton conceded 12 goals from errors last season, the third most in the Premier League.
There is often a risk-reward balance, but Mauricio Pochettino knows this and is dedicated to his system. After the Boruc blunder at the Emirates, he said:
“When it goes well we receive compliments, when it doesn’t – as today – we get negative comments. But that’s how we play and we want to continue because it brings us results.”
In Hugo Lloris he will have a goalkeeper that is not only good at distributing the ball, but also has a dimension that neither Artur Boruc nor Paulo Gazzaniga had at Southampton. The ability to race from his line and clean up anything played in-behind the defence.
This will be highly beneficial with Pochettino also playing a high line, something we will look at tomorrow when covering the defence. Be sure to check back then or look for the article link on Twitter or Facebook.