This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
After an encouraging pre-season in which £15m summer signing Che Adams managed to score three goals, Southampton came crashing back down to earth on the opening day of the new Premier League campaign.
A trip to Turf Moor to face Burnley looked winnable, but instead, the Saints were on the receiving end of a 3-0 humbling from the Clarets – questions are there to be asked over Ralph Hasenhuttl’s set-up on the day.
One of those questions should be asking why the Austrian started with three centre-backs.
That specific department is arguably the weakest area of the Saints’ squad, with the likes of Jannik Vestergaard, Jack Stephens and Wesley Hoedt all not amazing performers on a consistent basis – Stephens in particular faced criticism for his performance against Burnley, with one fan labelling him as the weak link.
If an area of your squad is the weakest, why play as many arguably average players in it as possible?
Admittedly, Hasenhuttl probably wanted more protection at the back, which is fair enough.
However, after watching his side still get humbled despite that supposed ‘protection’, the former RB Leipzig man must switch it up.
His preferred system is a 4-2-2-2 formation, with plenty of bodies in midfield.
Against Burnley, he certainly didn’t have much midfield presence with only James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu in there, whilst Nathan Redmond, Danny Ings and Che Adams stayed forward – Ryan Bertrand and Yan Valery were used as wing-backs, but still couldn’t stop the two midfielders becoming isolated.
After watching the three-man centre-back idea fail so miserably on the opening day, it shouldn’t require a second thought for Hasenhuttl to drop one of them – probably Stephens – and bring captain Pierre-Emile Højbjerg back into the side to beef up the middle of the park following his illness.
If Hasenhuttl decides to stick with the system that he started with against Burnley, he could just be asking for trouble against Liverpool next week.