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6 Tactical Takeaways from Bournemouth 1-1 Southampton

 • by Adam Newson
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The South Coast derby is far from the fiercest in the Premier League, which is why at full time players from Bournemouth and Southampton walked off the field at the Vitality Stadium satisfied with their lot.

A 1-1 draw was the fair result. The Cherries were the stronger side in the opening period and went in front through Ryan Fraser. Saints were better in the second and duly equalised via Charlie Austin.

It was one of those rare occasions the pattern of the match was reflected in the final score.

The point is arguably worth more to Southampton, who have moved away from the bottom three over the past week. Bournemouth move up to 14th and are five points adrift of the drop zone.

Their form, too, has picked up after a slow start to the campaign. One that probably meant Eddie Howe wasn’t courted by several of the Premier League sides who have dispensed with their manager this term.

The man in the opposite dugout, Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino, is also starting to reap small rewards of the tactical blueprint he has put in place over the last three months.

However, it’s with Bournemouth that we start out tactical takeaways from the 1-1 draw at the Vitality.

Bournemouth’s first half press pays off

It was evident early into the contest how the Cherries would pressurise the Southampton defence.

Howe’s side would press the visitors’ backline in their defensive third, but would quickly drop off if Saints were able to play out to their midfield.

On several occasions – usually through the always composed Virgil van Dijk – Southampton were able to find a way around the Bournemouth’s press.

However, the home side, in particular, targeted Wesley Hoedt when he had the ball and eventually it paid off.

In the 41st minute, Hoedt tried to cut back onto his right foot just outside the penalty area but Josh King intercepted. The ball was moved to Andrew Surman, who found Fraser and he slotted home. The plan worked to perfection.

Bertrand energy crucial to Saints attack

He was linked with a summer switch to Manchester City and, based on his performance at the Vitality, you wouldn’t be surprised if the Premier League leaders made another enquiry for Bertrand in January.

Against Bournemouth he was by far the best player on the field. Defensively he was solid but it was going forward that he was most threatening.

Few full-backs can match Bertrand’s energy and he constantly overlapped when Sofiane Boufal dragged Cherries right-back Adam Smith infield.

Bertrand ended the game having played three key passes, the most of any player on the field, and he also attempted six crosses, one of which almost led to a goal for Austin.

He is key to how Saints attack. With the width he provides, Southampton would find it even harder to break down opposition defences.

Cédric Soares, who was absent against the Cherries, offers a similar threat on the right but isn’t as effective as the England international.

Southampton missed Lemina’s midfield dynamism

Since his arrival from Juventus in the summer, the Gabon international has been one, if not the, stand-out performer for Saints. But he was left out of the side for the 4-1 win over Everton last weekend, so you can understand why Pellegrino opted to do the same against Bournemouth.

However, Everton were devoid of confidence and a clear game plan, the Cherries were a very different proposition. And when Steven Davis and Oriol Romeu had possession, the hosts midfield dropped off and invited them forward.

The duo are technically sound players but they lack pace and rarely drive forward when in possession. It meant the Saints’ attacks became predictable. Lemina was required.

No Southampton player has averaged more dribbles per game than the 24-year-old, a surprising stat for a central midfielder. But his ability to move forward with the ball from deep and drift past opposing midfielders was missed until his introduction with 20 minutes remaining.

Defoe continues to struggle

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When Howe was able to convince Jermain Defoe to join the Cherries in the summer, many felt it was a coup. Despite his advancing years the striker was still a threat and proved that last term by scoring 15 goals for a desperately poor Sunderland side.

However, his return to the South Coast has, so far, been an unhappy one. Defoe has netted just the once, a winner against Brighton, and has found himself dropped to the bench in recent weeks.

Somewhat surprisingly, he was resorted to the starting XI against the Saints and, while he almost found the net in the opening period with an instinctive shot from inside the penalty area, he was largely on the periphery.

He failed to register another effort on target and attempted just ten passes, the lowest of any outfield player that started the game, before being taken off in the 69th minute for Callum Wilson, who completed five passes in 20 minutes.

At 35 years old, perhaps age is catching up with the striker. He may have lost that quickness in the penalty area that defined his game for countless years.

However, Defoe signed a three-year deal with the Cherries in the summer worth around £130,000-a-week, so Howe must find a way to get the best out of the veteran hitman.

Redmond introduction transformed the game

Perhaps Redmond took Pep Guardiola’s advice to heart? The winger was on the receiving end of a strange rant from the Manchester City boss on Wednesday night, where the Catalan criticised the winger for not making the most of his ability.

It is true Redmond can occasionally drift through games instead of making a telling impact, but his arrival from the substitutes’ bench in place of James Ward-Prowse at half time was crucial for Saints at the Vitality.

He offered a threat in-behind the Cherries defence that was lacking in the first half and that meant Bournemouth left-back Charlie Daniels was unable to push forward as easily.

With one change Pellegrino improved his side’s attacking prowess while restricting a key component of the Cherries side.

Redmond may have only been on field for 45 minutes but only Bertrand played more key passes for Saints – his second led to the equaliser for Austin.

Austin provides clinical edge Southampton have lacked

It’s no secret that for much of this season Southampton have struggled for goals from open play. While they’ve controlled games – only four teams have averaged more possession than Saints – they’ve often been blunt in the final third.

Manolo Gabbiadini has failed to reproduce the clinical form he displayed after joining the club in January, while Shane Long has yet to find the net this season.

So it’s surprising it’s taken so long for Pellegrino to trust Austin. But the 28-year-old has started twice in the last week and has scored three goals.

There is a lot Austin can’t do, he lacks pace and there are far more technically gifted strikers in the Premier League, but when given a chance in the penalty area he is clinical.

He displayed that against Everton last weekend and his near-post strike against the Cherries was one of a instinctive finisher.

If Saints are to continue their recent upturn in form, Austin has to be in the side. Give him the right service and he’ll score goals.

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