How Will Mauricio Pochettino Adjust His Tactics During Jay Rodriguez's Absence?
With Southampton's Jay Rodriguez out of action for the next six months with an ACL rupture, Mauricio Pochettino will have to make some adjustments to his lineup and tactics for the rest of the season. The 24-year-old had played in all 33 Premier League matches for the Saints, including 30 starts.
The loss of the club's leading goalscorer will be quite a loss. However, many Southampton players can play multiple positions, so Pochettino will have several options as to how to line up.
Here's a look at five different options.
Play James Ward-Prowse as a Winger
The first option available to Pochettino would be the option he elected to use when Rodriguez went out against Manchester City: play James Ward-Prowse as a wing player.
Ward-Prowse's crossing ability would be welcome from the wing. The 19-year-old is Southampton's best crosser of the ball, averaging 1.8 successful crosses per match, according to WhoScored.
However, Ward-Prowse isn't the most offensive option.
The Portsmouth native has yet to score a goal for the first team. Excluding Adam Lallana, the rest of the likely Southampton midfield—Steven Davis, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork—have just four goals between them.
Use Gaston Ramirez
Gaston Ramirez hasn't had much of a chance to showcase his skills this season.
Between being out of favor and injury, the Uruguayan has only started two Premier League matches, while making 15 substitute appearances.
Ramirez can play centrally and on the wing, which would allow Lallana to continue to play in his interchanging role which could see him at any of the three attacking midfield positions at any given point.
Ramirez brings a creative flair to the midfield that is lacking in other Southampton midfielders, so playing him against lesser opponents such as Cardiff City and Aston Villa makes sense. The opportunity to impress Pochettino or suitors such as AC Milan, who are rumored to be interested, according to Alex Crook of The Mirror exists.
Unfortunately, the 23-year-old is dealing with another injury. Once again to his ankle.
Put Sam Gallagher Up Top
Another Southampton academy graduate could see opportunities for playing time increase with Rodriguez's absence. Sam Gallagher could be inserted into the lineup.
To do this, Pochettino would probably have to switch from his favored 4-2-3-1 formation and play more of a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. Rickie Lambert, who has turned into quite the playmaker as his 10 assists suggest, would continue to play in a deeper role.
The midfield four would see Lallana and Steven Davis on the outside, with Schneiderlin and Cork in the middle.
With little left for Southampton to play for this season, the last five games would provide a great opportunity for Gallagher to pick up more first-team experience.
Move Calum Chambers into Midfield
Moving Chambers to midfield would allow Pochettino to bring Nathaniel Clyne into the lineup at right-back. Clyne is arguably Southampton's best player who has not maintained a regular first-team spot this season.
Despite his prior experience, Chambers is a bit limited offensively. The 19-year-old has yet to tally a goal or an assist and only passes at a 79.5 percent success rate, according to WhoScored. With four assists, it might make more sense to move Clyne into the midfield.
Either way, this seems like a long shot of an option. But not something to totally rule out.
Play the Sentimental Favorite
The final option Pochettino has at his disposal would be greeting warmly with many Saints fans and his teammates.
Guly do Prado has said he will be leaving the club at the end of the season, as he has not been offered a new contract. The 32-year-old was an important piece of the squad that helped earn Southampton back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League.
Guly has had trouble adapting to the Premier League, as has only played in seven matches this season. While some fans have gotten on his case, he remains popular with many. The Brazilian inspired a pitch invasion during a preseason match in Spain when he scored.
For a faithful servant of the club, it would be nice to see Guly get a few more appearances and finally score a Premier League goal.