The way Southampton set up against Manchester City at the weekend prepared their fans for the result before the game had even kicked off. Maya Yoshida was selected at right back ahead of Cedric, whilst Ronald Koeman also elected to start with two defensive midfielders. Although a change in style would have been expected due to Graziano Pelle’s suspension, the performance offered little inspiration. The resulting defeat leaves the question there, do Southampton have an inferiority complex when it comes to playing against the ‘top 6’ that will prevent them from ever reaching that level?
Yoshida’s continual selection at right back perplexes Saints fans and pundits alike. Koeman’s logic, supposedly, is that playing the versatile centre-half at full-back gives the team more defensive stability. But despite his tenacity and high work rate, Yoshida has proven time and time again that he simply isn’t good enough to play as a Premier League right back, arguably not even as a centre back either. His lack of composure on the ball gifted Manchester City their first goal on Saturday, and he has made a similar mistake earlier in the season against Manchester United.
In fact, the defensive stability that Yoshida ensures has seen six goals shipped in three games, with the only clean sheet that he has performed in being away at struggling Sunderland. Obviously, not every goal that Saints have conceded can be attributed to Yoshida, and the alternatives are not infallible; Cedric was completely embarrassed in the humiliation against Everton; but the set up seems so much more negative than playing a natural right back.
The only game against the traditional top 6 that Yoshida didn’t start was the Chelsea game, a 3-1 win. But even in this game, Saints started slowly due to the defensive set up. With the scores level at half time, the introduction of James Ward-Prowse for Romeu offered Saints the creativity going forward to win the game.
With upcoming fixtures against Liverpool in the League cup, and Tottenham and Arsenal in the league, it is time for Ronald Koeman to abandon the cautious approach which clearly isn’t working. Southampton, when playing to their strengths, have an abundance of talent going forward and really should be looking to show why they have receive so much praise over the last couple of seasons.