February 25, 2024

If he can regain his form, the Saints’ center-forward has the potential to be “on fire.”
Southampton climbed to ninth place in the Championship table this week after defeating Alex Neil’s Stoke City 1-0 away from home on Tuesday night.

The Saints have already won back-to-back league matches for the second time this season, defeating Leeds United 3-1 at St. Mary’s last weekend, and will be aiming to continue this run.

 

Russell Martin’s side had lost four consecutive games prior to the triumph over Daniel Farke’s side, and they now have the chance to end the international break on a high with a win against Hull City on Saturday.

Southampton currently sits just outside the top six on goal differential and might head into the break in a play-off place if results go their way this weekend, putting some of the doom and gloom from early in the season to rest.

However, this does not mean that all of the club’s problems have been resolved, as there were several troubling signals throughout the triumph over Stoke.

How did Southampton do against Stoke City?

Southampton had 58% possession and won all three points thanks to a spectacular free kick from Scotland international Stuart Armstrong.

However, they only created 0.97 xG to Stoke’s 0.72 and had six fewer shots than the hosts, according to Sofascore, as they struggled to consistently score goals.

To put that into context, in their win over Leeds, they scored three goals on 1.48 xG, implying that they have greatly surpassed their predicted performance in front of goal over the last two games.

Martin may hope that his team can create more opportunities in the coming weeks and months, and getting the most out of Che Adams could be essential to that.

Charly Alcaraz played as a false nine against Leeds and Stoke, and the Saints’ lack of a true number nine was obvious as they were forced to check back and move infield after getting into promising positions only to glance up and find no one in the box.

The Argentine was dropping deep to gather the ball and create space in midfield, which opened up room for Adam Armstrong to exploit out wide, but the skipper had no target to strike within the penalty area and had to play backwards.

Alcaraz did make some behind-the-back runs to test the Stoke defense and found himself in advanced situations. On the other hand, Kamaldeen Sulemana on the left flank was not straining to get into a scoring position.

 

It took a while but I feel comfortable now': Southampton's Stuart Armstrong  on leaving the intensity of Glasgow for the Premier League

 

What position should Adams play for Southampton?

Martin has demonstrated his willingness to try players in different places in order to make the most of their skill set to suit the team’s tactics with Alcaraz and Armstrong, and he may use Adams in a left flank position.

The Argentine was dropping deep to gather the ball and create space in midfield, which opened up room for Adam Armstrong to exploit out wide, but the skipper had no target to strike within the penalty area and had to play backwards.

Alcaraz did make some behind-the-back runs to test the Stoke defense and found himself in advanced situations. On the other hand, Kamaldeen Sulemana on the left flank was not straining to get into a scoring position.

What position should Adams play for Southampton?
Martin has demonstrated his willingness to try players in different places in order to make the most of their skill set to suit the team’s tactics with Alcaraz and Armstrong, and he may use Adams in a left flank position.

The Scotland international, who is a centre-forward by trade, has played over 40 games as a winger in his career, with 21 on the left side, and might be used there against Hull on Saturday as part of a fluid attacking set-up.

He could use his work rate to track back and assist Ryan Manning when necessary, and then use his instincts to know when to invert into a central position to make runs into the space created by Alcaraz dropping deep to drag defenders out of the way.

This would therefore give the ex-River Plate player and Armstrong a consistent offensive outlet in the middle of the pitch in certain scenarios, rather than being forced to pass back.

Sulemana started on the left against Stoke on Tuesday, and the Ghana international lacks the goal threat to compensate for the lack of a true number nine.

The former Rennes forward has scored two goals in 23 games for the Saints in all competitions since joining in the January transfer window, indicating that he is not a consistent goalscorer.

How many goals has Adams scored in the Championship?

Adams, on the other hand, has scored 37 goals in 124 Championship games during his career, including 25 in his last 54 appearances.

The English-born striker, who scored 22 goals in 46 second-tier matches for Birmingham last season, has three goals and two assists in four league starts this season.

In his limited minutes on the pitch for Martin, he has demonstrated his skill in front of goal as a scorer and creator, and he should now be released from the start as part of the Scottish head coach’s new-look set-up.

Adams scores in the top 6% of his positional peers for Expected Assists per 90 (0.26) and the top 12% for shot-creating actions per 90 (2.59), according to FBref. This shows that the Saints’ centre-forwards are among the best in the Championship at creating chances for their teammates.

 

The 27-year-old ace, who was previously labelled “clever” by pundit and former Rangers striker Ally McCoist, is also among the top 6% of players in his position in terms of non-penalty goals per 90 minutes (0.60).

These statistics indicate that Adams has the ability to be an exceptional forward at this level, scoring and creating goals on a consistent basis, and this new system could bring out the best in him by utilizing Alcaraz’s movement to create space for him to run in behind.

The opportunities it creates for Armstrong out wide may also allow Adams to thrive off the service that can be created from the wing, or the 5 foot 9 jewel may use his inventiveness to create opportunities for his captain.

According to journalist Benjy Nurick, the ex-Birmingham striker was “on fire” in 2022, and Martin now has the opportunity to reignite that flame this season.

The former Swansea manager might get the most out of Adams by deploying him out wide with Alcaraz and Armstrong in attack against Hull, which is why the forward should start this weekend.

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