Southampton are winless in their last six fixtures and sit bottom of the Premier League in the waning moments of the season. During the winless run, they have managed just four goals. Extend the timeline out to the appointment of manager Rubén Sellés, and they have scored only six goals in nine games, which includes the FA Cup shock exit against League Two side Grimsby Town (sorry to bring this up Saints fans).
In the enforced injury absence of first-choice striker Che Adams, Sellés has opted to play without a traditional number nine, using a combination of Carlos Alcaraz, Kamaldeen Sulemana, Mohammed Elyounoussi, Theo Walcott, and Stuart Armstrong as the front four in a 4-2-2-2. The offensive ineffectiveness in this combination even prompted Sellés to recall little-used Joe Aribo for the last match against Crystal Palace.
The lack of goals has the Southampton fanbase at odds with Sellés. When asked in his pregame press conference on Thursday his thoughts on Saints fans wanting to see more of striker Paul Onuachu, this was his response:
"“I don’t make my lineup or my actions in terms of what anybody else thinks…it is not about having one nine who can score the goals, you need to create the situations you need to be competitive and be in the game until you can score that goal.”"
He went on to clarify:
"“I understand the concern that some players have been scoring goals in some different environments, as our boys did it in other teams, but this is a completely different challenge…the solution isn’t to put one, two, three, or four strikers, the solution is the situations we create playing as a team we need to score as a team. and this is not about one name.”"
Sellés seemed a calm figure during the conference, and did not seem to want to get embroiled in a decision-making controversy with fans and pundits. He is correct that Southampton have created good chances in their past few games, however, it has not translated into goals and results.
Southampton likely to stick with 4-2-2-2
While no one can know what the starting lineup will be against Arsenal on Friday, it looks as if Sellés will stick with the current, Ralph Hasenhüttl inspired tactic of a high pressing 4-2-2-2, and trust his players to discover the finishing touch that they have lacked all season.
With games rapidly running out, let us hope for the Saints’ sake that some moments of magic in front of goal can come and come fast. Sellés confirmed Southampton will remain without Che Adams and Mohammed Salisu against Arsenal. Mislav Orsic fully trained this week and is fit to play.
Sellés, when asked about the energy levels going into a desperate finish to the season, concluded his press availability with a quote from basketball legend Kobe Bryant: “We will rest at the end, not in the middle”.
Southampton face Arsenal on Friday at 8 pm BST.