Shaun Maloney’s last minute equaliser salvaged a point for lowly Wigan in Saturday’s Premier League tie against fellow strugglers Southampton.
Roberto Martinez’s side had taken the lead through Gary Caldwell’s first-half header only to see the Saints deservedly strike back through Rickie Lambert and Morgan Schneiderlin.
Southampton’s new boss Mauricio Pochettino looked to be on his way to recording his first victory until Maloney’s late intervention.
The FA’s Peter Glynn analyses the talent at Pochettino’s disposal and the continued influence of Saints’ forward Rickie Lambert.
The journey that individuals follow to reach the top level is often varied. Southampton’s Rickie Lambert is no exception. The Saints’ talisman, who recorded his 11th goal of the season against Wigan on Saturday, has bided his time in the lower leagues before getting his chance to shine on the Premier League stage.
Blackpool, Macclesfield, Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers all welcomed Lambert before he landed at St.Mary’s. Regardless of location the frontman has always recorded goals. Saturday’s close-range finish took his goal haul for the south coast club to 99.
Given his route to the top some may have a perception of Lambert as the old fashioned, robust target-man, which was once a must in the lower leagues.
Although the 30 year-old is no soft touch, any such suggestion would be a disservice to the intelligence, movement and technical attributes which make him an elusive presence across the Saints’ frontline.
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game guide on developing attacking movement:
At the DW Stadium Lambert contributed much of his effective work from wide areas. Slipping away into the channels of space down the side of the Latics’ back line, the Saints’ forward demonstrated both his danger cutting inside to shoot across goal and his ability to bring others into the game.
Lambert’s first significant involvement saw him curl a deft cross from the left-hand channel into the path of Gaston Ramirez. Although the Uruguayan wasted the chance, the construction of the opportunity marked Lambert’s potency from withdrawn and wide positions.
Moments later the former Bristol Rovers man unleashed a curling right-footed effort from a similar position, stinging the hands of Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
With Lambert dropping off into effective positions, space was created for willing runners from the Saints’ midfield. Jack Cork, Jason Puncheon and Jay Rodriguez all recognised the opportunity to exploit space created by Lambert.
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game guide on developing forward runs from deep positions:
Another midfielder, Schneiderlin, reaped the rewards of the approach late in the game. The Frenchman’s 85th minute burst from midfield was rewarded with what appeared to be a deserved winner after Rodriquez’s slippery run down Southampton’s left.
Pochettino’s side had played with a dedication to short passing and a willingness to build play through the three thirds of the pitch using combination play. The composed performance of 17 year-old left-back Luke Shaw, recently called into Stuart Pearce’s England U21 squad, was worthy of note.
However, in the final-third the visitors weren’t afraid of producing clever and measured flicked crosses to utilise the aerial ability in their ranks.
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game guide on developing crossing opportunities in the attacking phase:
The approach highlighted another aspect of Lambert’s influential game. When not fulfilling the role of provider, the forward’s movement was almost always towards the back post, hovering in the shadows of the full-back.
It was from such a position that Lambert plundered his goal. Sensing the outcome of Rodriguez’s header, Lambert bravely beat Al-Habsi to the ball at the back post giving the Saints an equaliser after Caldwell’s opener.
Martinez’s side must be afforded the credit for salvaging a point from the contest, while Pochettino should be concerned with the ease with which Wigan registered goals from set-pieces.
On the evidence of the talent and enthusiasm displayed in this tie the Argentine has the resources to keep the Saints away from danger. To do so, more defensive stubbornness will be necessary, as will be the continued influence of Lambert.
Advice for grassroots coaches:
- Forward players should be encouraged to develop their all-round game, focusing on both finishing and providing for others. Importantly, attacking practices should put young players into a variety of positions across the frontline including wide and withdrawn positions.
- Late forward runs from midfield are difficult for defenders to track. Practices which work on the transition between defence and attack can help players develop these skills.
- Time must be made for the fundamental skills of defending, including set-pieces.
Peter Glynn is the Editorial Manager at St. George's Park and editor of The Boot Room, The FA's Coaching Magazine. Peter is a journalist and has been with The Football Association for five years and holds the UEFA B Licence and The FA Youth Awards 1 and 2.
The Future Game Tactics Column takes a weekly look at the evolution of the modern game, linking to practices from The FA's Future Game philosophy and providing advice and tips for grassroots coaches.
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