Predicting Maurico Pochettino's Southampton Plan to Topple Liverpool

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2013

Southampton and Liverpool have had near-opposite starts to this Premier League season. The former have not scored in two games. Brendan Rodgers’ side have scored in every fixture.

That said, the Saints looked impressive in certain aspects of their early campaign, with Mauricio Pochettino evidently intent on transforming the fashion in which the club operate.

So far, the Argentine has already made Southampton a more expansive outfit in terms of playing personnel and what fans might expect from their side.

Foes that give Saints fans any additional hope as they head to Anfield to take on the Premier League leaders this weekend?

Read on for a look at how Pochettino could counter what’s been working so well for the Reds over the last month as they seek their second win of the season.

All statistics are courtesy of Squawka.


Maintain The Midfield Anchor

Luckily for Southampton, this weekend’s hosts have had the displeasure of learning that Philippe Coutinho, per BBC Sport, would be out until late October after shoulder surgery.

Though he has not had the same as in his first six months as a Red, the Brazilian is a creative force for Rodgers’ side, crafting six scoring opportunities so far this season.

Against Southampton, Liverpool are sure to replace Coutinho’s significant presence with another central playmaker to fulfill the crucial needs of their 4-2-3-1 formation, with the likes of Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto and Jordan Henderson perhaps frontrunners to fill the void.

Therefore, it’s essential that Southampton keep standards high in one of their most impressive areas this season—central midfield.

Last season, Morgan Schneiderlin was undoubtedly among the Saints’ best players, pulling off a Premier League-high 108 successful tackles.

Add to that midfield concoction the talents of Victor Wanyama and you have the potential for one of the division’s most physical engine room pairings.

Although Liverpool have considerable strength on the wings, too, the Reds have created 60 percent of their scoring chances through the middle and will need to be restricted in that section if the visitors are to have a chance of pulling away with points in hand.


Possession Play

In terms of possession, Liverpool have actually been one of the more average sides so far this season, with 49 percent in their four opening matches and a pass completion rate of 82 percent.

Statistically speaking, Southampton aren’t inferior with a pass completion of 79 percent and one of the best possession statistics in the entire division with 56 percent, bested only by Manchester City.

While it may be a tall order playing at Anfield, it’s vital that Pochettino’s men manage to keep up this aspect of their play in order to prevent the Merseysiders from gaining the momentum they desire.

The aforementioned duo of Schneiderlin and Wanyama will be a significant part of such a feat, while passing the ball around the back line and effectively playing the hosts at their own game could prove key.


Predicted Line-Up

With no major injury concerns to worry about, Pochettino could well field an unchanged line-up from the one that drew against West Ham last time out.

The most contentious part of the Southampton squad right now is the wide areas, where Adam Lallana, James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez will all duel for a starting spot.

Rodriguez, although a forward by nature, could be a more useful asset than Ward-Prowse on the right flank simply due to experience held and the fact that a more assured presence will be needed to counter Jose Enrique’s influence on the game.

Adam Lallana brings a well-rounded approach to matters, picking up some of the defensive slack when needed as well as offering a considerable benefit going forward.


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