Tag Archives: EPL

Manolo Gabbiadini: a victim of Pellegrino’s centre forward demands?

Manolo Gabbiadini’s start to life on the South Coast couldn’t have gone any better when he cemented his place as a fan favourite at Wembley on just his third appearance for the club. But these past few months have been quite the turn of fate for the Italian.

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Despite maintaining a professional attitude throughout, training hard and gracefully accepting his place on the bench, Mauricio Pellegrino’s continued to starve the forward of first-team opportunities, initially in favour of the in-form Charlie Austin, and since then, Shane (three lungs) Long.

The reasons behind this decision have been quite the topic of discussion amongst the Southampton fan-base, but with the clubs acquisition of Guido Carrillo, a 6ft 2 Argentinian centre forward, we’ve been offered our best explanation yet…

Since taking over as Saints manager, It’s safe to say that Pellegrino’s failed at forming an effective and coherent front-line, often turning to rotation in the hope that one of these days, something will just click into place. But one player that appeared unfazed throughout all of this apparent unrest is Charlie Austin, who simply went about business as usual under the Argentinian.

The Englishman’s recorded an xG of 5.53 in just 587 minutes – the highest of any Southampton player this season. Meanwhile, Manolo Gabbiadini’s xG stands at 1.76 in 921 minutes of game-time. That’s over three times more than the Italian in almost half the amount of minutes.

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Just a matter of hours before Carrillo’s arrival had been officially announced, Pellegrino claimed that Carrillo has the qualities to replace the profile of Austin, and that the front-man “Has a big body, can hold the ball and is good in the air.”

Through looking at these comments and statistics, it’s clear as day for anyone to see that Austin’s fine form encouraged Pellegrino to chase Carrillo – a player who clearly boasts similar qualities to the former QPR man.

And this is where we find our possible explanation for Gabbiadini’s lack of game-time…

The Italian’s at his best operating between the lines, making smart illusive movements or spinning off the shoulder of his man. He typically aims to lose his marker in the box rather than physically challenge them, and consequently this means that his teammates must constantly be aware of his movement – something we’ve failed to do consistently since his remarkable start in red and white. He’s not fast, nor particularly strong, but he gains his edge over his opponent through his intelligent movement.

Pellegrino, however, clearly has very different demands of how he wants his forward to play. As mentioned in his presser on the morning that Carrillo signed, the Argentinian wants his front-man to boast a big frame, be capable of playing with his back to goal and physically challenge defenders in the box.

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These qualities aren’t in Gabbiadini’s natural skill set, and perhaps this goes some way to explaining how Long has so often been given the nod over him. Despite having a disastrous goal scoring record over the past 12 months, it seems that Pellegrino believes Long meets more of his physical demands of a centre forward, and even if you don’t agree with him (which for the record, I don’t) it’s worth trying to understand his logic at the very least.

Austin’s never been the most technical player and playing his part in build up play isn’t exactly his forte, but regardless of this, he still acted as a focal point for Pellegrino’s side. He was someone that the squad were able to turn to at any stage in the game to work around, and was guaranteed to put his body on the line if a chance came his way. I think Pellegrino’s seen shades of this in Carrillo.

The Argentinian boss clearly liked the options that Austin – our most dangerous forward this season – provided for the team, and as a result, he’s selected a forward of a similar profile and style to be the man that steers us clear of safety.

Every part of me wants Gabbiadini to once again start firing on all cylinders – any sane Southampton fan would no doubt want the same – but ultimately, this is about our future as a Premier League club. This is about survival, and in my mind, that translates to giving the manager at this moment in time the best tools possible for the job. If Pellegrino perceives that to be playing Carrillo over our mismanaged gem from Italy, then so be it.

Player profile: Jan Bednarek

It’s now been confirmed that Southampton Football Club have made their first acquisition of the summer, with the purchase of Lech Poznan’s Jan Bednarek. 

The 21-year-old joins the club on a five-year-deal, for a fee that’s believed to be in the region of €6m, rising to €8M. But rather than sitting here and rambling away as if I know about our latest signing, I spoke to a man who does; Christopher Lash.

First and foremost, what can we look forward to in Bednarek? 

Well, he’s probably the best young defender in his position in Poland.  He’s relatively quick, decent on the ball, pretty good in the air, quite strong, and in general a pretty aware central defender. He only really broke through into the Lech first team this season, and he became a key defensive player as the club rose up the league after a poor start.

Are there any defenders that you would compare him to? 

He’s better on the ball than your average central defender, so in that respects you could compare him more to the John Stones/Rio Ferdinand model. But he’s also good in the air and strong, so he has the kind of capabilities required for more typical central defensive work as well.

What weaknesses has he shown? 

Lots, unfortunately. He’s been a key defender in the Polish league for Lech this season, making a lot of pundits’ team of the year and it’s clear that he has a lot of potential, but there are a lot of areas in which he needs to improve. His anticipation can go missing at key times in games and his positional play is a bit haphazard.  For a big guy, he can sometimes be bullied off the ball by opposing strikers. All of this can be coached out of him and he’s only 21, so Southampton are buying mostly based on what he could turn into, rather than what he is now. But don’t be surprised to see him make quite a large number of mistakes if he’s thrown into the deep end.

How has Bednarek performed at International level? 

He’s not made his debut for the full international side yet, although there have been strong rumours that he will make the Poland squad in the autumn as the Polish team moves inexorably towards the World Cup Finals in Russia.  He has played a lot at youth levels though and was a key member of the u-21 side in the recent European championships hosted in Poland.  He didn’t have a particularly good tournament (but then neither did the rest of Poland’s squad), getting sent off in one match and making a number of mistakes that led to goals (the non-squeamish can look up his mistake which led to Slovakia’s winning goal in Poland’s opening match).  The most important thing is Poland’s NT coach Adam Nawałka firmly has his eye on him and he should have a fine international career.

Has he had to face any challenges or great pressure in his short career so far?

Well I’d say he’s done very well to win a starting place in Lech’s first team after not being considered a key player even last summer, so that’s definitely a challenge he’s overcome.  The recent u-21 championships were a big challenge for him, but one that he didn’t really pass with flying colours. All good experience though.

What do you make of the reported €6M fee rising to €8M?

It’s a massive fee to be honest and will break the transfer record for a player transferred out of the Polish league.  In that respect there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him, especially from the Polish media who will be checking on his progress pretty intensely.  I’d say in some ways the media hype of the move from the Polish side might be just as difficult as the jump in class that he’s going to experience in the English league.  I suppose we’ll see if he has a mature head on his shoulders because he’s going to need to be level-headed to succeed with all the pressure he will be under.

Finally, what do you think of Southampton as a destination for Bednarek’s development?

Hopefully it will be a perfect match.  As you know Southampton are renowned for being a club that brings through young talent and so, in that respect, Bednarek couldn’t be headed to a better club.  The big worry in Poland is that Bednarek will go the way of Kapustka who couldn’t break through whatsoever at Leicester and looked a shadow of his former self at the U-21 championships recently. I wouldn’t expect Bednarek break through straightaway but hopefully Southampton will be able to provide him with the know-how and coaching to advance the level of his play appropriately.

Southampton must get midfield pairing right against Manchester City

Oriol Romeu has been tenacious all season-long, providing exceptionally timed tackles and interceptions in front of Southampton’s back four. But when we take on Manchester City, Romeu will be serving the second of a two-match ban. Can our midfield contain the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva?

Should Pierre-Emile Højbjerg replace Steven Davis? Højbjerg is certainly a gifted and intelligent footballer, coming to Southampton by way of Bayern Munich. He has an all-around game, and he is capable of making timely interceptions as well as spraying long balls to surging wingers. Højbjerg was superb against West Brom, reaching an 88 percent pass completion, winning two aerial duels and two tackles.

Steven Davis, while not perhaps possessing the technical ability of PEH, may be be able to provide senior leadership and stability in a game against one of the strongest sides in the Premier League. It should also be noted that Davis performed very well in Southampton’s victory against a dangerous Crystal Palace, providing an assist for Nathan Redmond.

Ultimately, Claude Puel may decide to give the nod to Højbjerg in order for him to gain experience in relatively low-stakes contest versus a top-quality side. But if the Dane is to find success on the pitch come Saturday, he will need assistance from Jordy Clasie.

Clasie, like Højbjerg, had an outstanding match against the Baggies, scoring a fantastic goal from outside the box. He managed an 84 percent pass completion and made three tackles. In this particular match, though, Southampton had the majority of possession, taking pressure off of the midfield pair of Clasie and Højbjerg. This will surely not be the case against Pep Guardiola’s Man City.

Expect Guardiola’s men to play with their usual, possession-based style, with David Silva pulling the strings in between the lines. City’s players, especially their attackers, play with fluidity and intricacy. Southampton’s defensive midfielders will need to display a strong sense of positional awareness to contain their movement.

City will almost certainly have their chances against our defence, but their own defence has had issues all season long. There will be opportunities for Southampton to penetrate and create chances on the counter, and if Gabbiadini is to return, his exceptional movement will pose many problems for a young John Stones and returning Vincent Kompany.

If Southampton are to come away from this contest with more than a draw, our midfield pairing must be at their very best. The recent form of Højbjerg and Clasie suggests they should start this Saturday at Saint Mary’s–these lads are more than up for the challenge.