The Big Match Tactical View: Bournemouth v Southampton

Eddie Howe must decide whether to continue with two centre-forwards
Eddie Howe must decide whether to continue with two centre-forwards
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Southampton won 2-0 in the first-ever top-flight meeting between these sides back in November - can Bournemouth gain revenge here? Michael Cox inspects the tactics, while Alan Thompson assesses the betting...


"The key area of the game is down the flanks, where Bournemouth love to push their full-backs forward."

Bournemouth v Southampton
Tuesday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 1

Match Odds: Bournemouth 3.02/1, Southampton 2.77/4, The Draw 3.412/5.


Tuesday night's televised game is a south coast derby that promises to be an intriguing tactical battle. Both Eddie Howe and Ronald Koeman have changed their formation in recent weeks, and the team selections here could play a big part in the shape of the game.

Eddie Howe named a 4-2-3-1 system for Saturday's goalless draw at Watford, a shape that saw him effectively use two strikers, with Benik Afobe positioned just behind Joshua King. This is unusual for Howe, who has generally fielded a 4-1-4-1 system this season, and it remains to be seen whether he continues with two upfront, or reverts to a more cautious system that will help Bournemouth compete in midfield.

It feels like the 4-1-4-1 would be more useful here. Howe will know Ronald Koeman has generally deployed a three-man defence in recent weeks, especially in situations when the opposition are playing two upfront, which is when a back three is at its most comfortable. It might play into Southampton's hands to use two strikers, and Bournemouth would be better off in their usual system, with two wingers attacking into the channels either side Southampton's three centre-backs.

That would probably mean King dropping out, Afobe leading the line, and Dan Gosling returning to the central midfield zone, where he has a fine relationship with Harry Arter and Andrew Surman. Bournemouth are capable of dominating possession with three in the centre of the pitch, especially against a Southampton side who have become more passive without possession, dropping back into a deep shape rather than pressing high up.

The only other major team news from Bournemouth concerns their left-wing slot. Junior Stanislas limped off with a hamstring injury against Watford, with Max Gradel replacing him for his first start since August, having recovered from a serious knee injury. The Ivorian is likely to start here, and might enjoy attacking Southampton's right-wing-back Cedric Soares, who can be defensively suspect, especially against quick wingers.

Koeman has generally used a three-man defence recently, although switched to a back four for the 0-0 away at Arsenal. However, it seems unlikely he'll do the same here, which means Ryan Bertrand continuing to tuck inside on the left of three centre-backs, with Matt Targett ahead of him as the left-wing-back. If Targett is dropped, that indicates a return to a four-man defence.

Koeman's real dilemma should be in midfield, however. Against Chelsea he fielded three players in that zone - Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu and Steven Davis, which meant Southampton battled well in the centre, but struggled to involve Shane Long and Charlie Austin regularly - they had to feed off scraps.

Long is out injured, while Koeman will have been concerned at the 'broken' nature of the side on Saturday, and is therefore likely to recall at least one of Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic to play the link role. Davis could make way, perhaps turning Southampton into a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-1-2, rather than the slightly flat 3-5-2 we saw at the weekend. Graziano Pelle might also be hoping for a recall because of Long's absence, although a creative player seems a better bet to come into the side.

The key area of the game is down the flanks, where Bournemouth love to push their full-backs forward. There's every chance they could overload Southampton's wing-backs here, with Charlie Daniels and Adam Smith overlapping and helping the home side get the ball into the box regularly.

Southampton might sit back for long periods here, before hitting Bournemouth on the break, which is why Mane's probable return should be crucial.

Local pride is at stake, but tactically this will be a really interesting game.

The Betfair Traders View - Alan Thompson

Bournemouth are now without a win in their last three Premier League starts and are starting to get dragged into this relegation battle. Just five points above Newcastle in 18th position and with a trip to Newcastle then a home game against Swansea after this, Eddie Howe will be desperate to get a win on the board and start to put some distance between themselves and third bottom.

The Saints were beaten for only the second time in 2016 by a rejuvenated Chelsea side, after a run of six league matches unbeaten and six consecutive clean sheets. Chelsea ran out 2-1 winners at St Mary’s at the weekend, thanks to a last minute winner and left Southampton sitting seventh on 40 pts. Unbeaten in their last three road trips, Ronald Koeman will be looking to get back to winning ways here to put pressure on the sides above them.

These two haven’t met many times in competitive matches but when they do Southampton have won on all four occasions since 1988. The Cherries though have certainly produced some good performances this season, but their recent lack of goals (just one goal in last four games in all competitions) is a worry against the defensive quality of Southampton.

I think there is value in the Southampton price in the Match Odds market at 2.77/4 (I had them at 2.35/4) so for me that is the bet. However, I also think that Southampton to Win to Nil could be interesting but wouldn’t take anything less than 4.57/2.

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