3 Lineup Changes Mauricio Pochettino Should Make for QPR Match
Southampton certainly didn't play poorly in its 4-2 defeat at Newcastle last Sunday. A moment of brilliance from Papiss Cisse along with some unfortunate breaks were the difference in a fairly even contest.
With now just three points separating the Saints from the bottom three, Southampton are once again in need of a win to stay out of the relegation fray.
Thankfully, the chances for a win will never be greater, as Southampton host bottom-of-the-table Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. Mauricio Pochettino and his men will have to beware of overconfidence. QPR will be desperate to win, as a loss could doom Harry Redknapp's squad to relegation. The right mix of results could leave Rangers 10 points from safety with 10 matches to play.
Pochettino didn't put out what could be considered his strongest 11 on Sunday. Here are three changes the Saints manager should make to ensure his best 11 are on the pitch for the key match.
Jose Fonte for Jos Hooiveld
Jose Fonte was a fixture in the starting lineup until he picked up a knee injury in the third-round FA Cup match against Chelsea sidelined the Portuguese defender for over six weeks. Fonte finally seems to have recovered, as he earned a spot on the bench against Newcastle.
Prior to the injury, Fonte had started all 20 Premier League matches. Jos Hooiveld has deputized fairly well for Fonte, earning a plus-seven rating in four of the seven matches he has started over the span of Fonte's injury, according to WhoScored.com. That span included a Man of the Match performance against Manchester City, largely due to the 14 aerial duels Hooiveld won over the course of the match.
But Hooiveld is a lightning rod for bad luck. The Dutch defender has conceded three own goals, tied for the most in history for one Premier League season. No one can really fault Hooiveld for having Danny Fox blast a clearance off his chest, as happened in the Newcastle match, but the 29-year-old does seem to suffer from concentration lapses that put him in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It's time to re-establish the Fonte-Maya Yoshida partnership that was faring well in December.
Gaston Ramirez for Steven Davis
Since Maurcio Pochettino has taken charge, Gaston Ramirez has yet to play a full 90 minutes. In fact, only once has he played more than 45.
Ramirez isn't the most ferocious tackler in the world, which is why Pochettino has given Steven Davis the nod the last couple of matches. The new Saints manager prefers his teams pressure all over the pitch, which Davis seems more willing to do.
But an examination of the stats suggests that may not be the case. According to WhoScored.com, both Ramirez and Davis average 1.7 tackles per match, so Davis isn't as superior a tackler as it may seem. Ramirez is also a slightly better interceptor of the ball, with 1.4 interceptions per match as opposed to Davis' 1.3.
When you factor in Ramirez's superior offensive skills and flair, it should be obvious that the Uruguayan should get the nod over Davis.
Jason Puncheon for Jay Rodriguez
When Adam Lallana returned to the starting lineup against Newcastle, it was a mystery why Mauricio Pochettino chose to sit Jason Puncheon instead of Jay Rodriguez.
Puncheon was an absolute force in the game against Manchester City, scoring the first goal, taking four shots and making three key passes before being substituted. Rodriguez only took two shots and made no key passes in a full 90 minutes.
The pacer winger has been more of a factor over the entire season as well. Puncheon has five goals, second on the team only to Rickie Lambert's 12. Rodriguez only has three goals to his credit, is a poorer passer of the ball, as judged by pass completion rates (75.1 percent to Puncheon's 79.5 percent), and is less likely to get involved in a tackle (1.0 per game to Puncheon's 1.8).
Puncheon is out of contract at the end of the season, but Pochettino is keen on trying to keep the 26-year-old. Keeping Puncheon in the Saints lineup instead of on the bench would be a good way to convince him to stay.