Southampton's flexibility gives Ronald Koeman added option

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Southampton's change of formation this weekend has given Ronald Koeman another option to keep the rest of the Premier League guessing.

The Saints boss reverted to a 3-5-2 formation on Saturday against Everton with Toby Alderweireld, Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida as a back three.

They were supported by Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne at fullback and Harrison Reed, James Ward-Prowse and Steven Davis in the centre of the park.

Southampton ran out 3-0 winners in an impressive performance to end a run of five straight defeats, and the flexibility will certainly please Koeman.

Increased flexibility

So far this season Koeman has set up with a familiar 4231 or 433 formation with Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama sitting in front of the back four. With the two holding midfielders missing through suspension against Everton, there were questions as to how the Saints would line up.

It was either going to be a back four with Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida at centre back and Toby Alderweireld and Harrison Reed in central midfield.

However, Koeman sprang a surprise by switching to a 352 formation which allowed the Saints to delpoy their best players in their favoured positions and it worked wonders from the outset.

Cover at the back

The three at the back that Koeman went for against Everton saw Maya Yoshida and Jose Fonte either side of Toby Alderweireld.

The Belgian was afforded the freedom to step out into a deep midfield position if he needed to, safe in the knowledge that he had adequate cover behind him.

It also allowed James Ward-Prowse and Steven Davis to roam forward and help Graziano Pelle and Shane Long in attack. With Harrison Reed sat deep and three defenders behind him it meant there was cover at the back should Everton look to break.

Forward partnership

Another positive from the change in formation was that Koeman deployed Pelle and Long as a pairing for the first time.

With Pelle's target man abilities and Long's high-energy game, the duo looked a real danger to an experienced Everton defence.

The pair also gave the Southampton midfield a number of options of playing as necessary.

With Pelle they can play in the air, or to his chest so that he can hold the ball up, whereas Long provided a willing runner in behind.

It paid dividends as well in the second half, with Long nodding down for his strike partner Pelle to help the ball home as the Saints scored their second of the afternoon.

Fullback support

Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand also benefitted from the switch in formation.

The English fullbacks were given the freedom to start higher up, giving them added emphasis on attack by manager Koeman.

That paid off as Clyne put in the cross that led to the second goal, whilst Bertrand's crossing saw Graziano Pelle go close in the first half.

Increased flexibility

Ronald Koeman will now know that his side can adopt another formation which can cause problems, after their accomplished performance against a strong Everton side.

Whether he reverts to 433 on Boxing day at Crystal Palace or sticks with his 352 of last weekend, it at least gives the 51-year-old an ace up his sleeve.

It will keep his opponents guessing until the team sheets are released, by which time it may already be too late to counter.

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