After being in an 11 game winless streak, the appointment of Ralph Hasenhuttl has certainly turned things around for the Saints as they now sit five points above the relegation zone.
Southampton have been in transition ever since Mauricio Pochettino took over from Nigel Adkins. During Pochettino’s reign, Southampton they had consistency with their style of play. As they moved onto the likes Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel and Mark Hughes there was not really a cogent style of play. Now under the Austrian, it looks like the Saints have got a coherent idea of what they are going to do and how they are going to play.
Hasenhuttl has use Southampton’s academy to its fullest which has produced the likes of Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana, Theo Walcott, and many other stars. He promoted the young talent to first team handing Premier League debuts to Callum Slattery and Angus Gunn. James Ward-Prowse, another academy product has prospered under Hasenhuttl. One such youngster who seems to be in the form of his life under the Austrian is Yan Valery. In this tactical analysis, we will be looking into how Yan Valery has come in from Southampton’s academy and gone on to become one of the pivotal players of the senior squad under Hasenhuttl.
Hasenhuttl came in with a set of relatively compact instructions. The back three system deployed by him allows Yan Valery to move forward as a wing-back and create the directness that Hasenhuttl demonstrated at RB Leipzig and Ingolstadt. Valery is now allowed to surge down the flanks more often, contrary to his positioning under Mark Hughes where was held back for compact defensive shape.
Although Valery played only one game under the former manager Mark Hughes, as we take a closer look at his heat map it is quite clear that the Frenchman wasn’t really allowed to overlap. On the other hand, Hasenhuttl has given a lot more freedom to the 20-year-old as most of the passing under the new manager is directed out to the flank. This means the wing-backs Valery and Ryan Bertrand get more freedom to move on the flanks.
The less aggressive wing-back
What really makes Southampton’s wing play quite unique is the fact that both the wing-backs Valery and Bertrand are quite different from each other. Valery is less aggressive and possesses less technical ability than his counterpart Bertrand. Hasenhuttl has used this trait of Valery being less aggressive in a positive way.
This trait of Valery’s allows Ward-Prowse to drift in and play in a number 10 role; a role in which he has been brilliant this season. In this way when Ward-Prowse gets the ball, he would find himself in a very dangerous position from where he can push forward and either get a strike on goal or play someone in to put the ball in the back of the net.
The width on the right flank
Valery is always offering the width on the right flank, offering himself for a switch or inviting to play him into a foot race with an opposing left-back who has been stretched out wide and isolated. What is interesting about him is he keeps getting to the byline effortlessly.
He is always trying to play a neat one-two with the right-sided forward and is constantly on the move. He is not that technically gifted but his agility and the change of pace allows him to wriggle away from his opponents and earn himself a yard of space. Here he can get his head up to ensure that he is well aware of the options before playing the final ball into the box.
The defensive traits of the modern wing-backs are equally as important as their offensive traits. Valery is good at going forward and contributing to the attacks in the final third of the pitch, but the defensive side of his game lacks the quality. The major reasons for this might be his apprehension and his positioning defensively.
On average, his numbers defensively are not really impressive, Valery is currently averaging 1.7 tackles, 1 interception and 2.9 clearances per match. There is no denying that he has room for improvement in this department of the game. What really is visible, however, is the commitment of Hastenhuttl to developing players, which gives us a sign that we are looking at a potentially great wing-back.
At the age of 20, Yan Valery has certainly got a lot of time to develop as a player. With age on his side, he is prone to make a mistake here and there. He has certainly impressed most of the fans and the performances that he has been putting in week in and week out have been quite encouraging, to say the least. Although he displays his lack of experience when on the ball sometimes, if he continues to develop this part of his game he will become a complete wing-back and will definitely be a great compliment to Bertrand on the other side of the pitch.
The fundamental role of Valery at Southampton under Hasenhuttl seems to be to stretch the space on the field and allow the more creative players in front of him to do what they do best which is to put in the goals. By getting his name on the score sheets, overlapping the creative players and constantly proving as support in the attack, Yan Valery as a wing-back has become important to this Southampton side offensively. His presence gives the dominance in the middle of the park. His flexibility and adaptability have allowed Southampton to breakdown one of the tougher sides of the Premier League like Tottenham.
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