Southampton host West Ham United at St Mary's on Sunday in what could be a tight game between two closely-matched sides. Creating attacking space will be a key and captain Adam Lallana explains
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 09/05/14 8:29am
In a cagey fixture between two similar sides, chances to score can be limited. Creating and taking those opportunities when they come along is therefore vital.
Southampton will of course be aware of that importance ahead of Sunday, when - live on Sky Sports 1HD - they host a West Ham United side with whom they sit level on points after three matches in this campaign's Premier League.
Not only that but just five points separated the two clubs in last season's table, while the corresponding fixture in 2012/13 resulted in a hard-earned 1-1 draw. It suggests another even contest could develop this weekend. West Ham, who did comfortably win 4-1 in last season's game at Upton Park, will certainly not be an easy opponent for Southampton to break down.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has his team typically well organised and they have conceded just one league goal so far in 2013/14 although they have a poor away record and have won only one of their last 15 on the road. That conceded goal came in the defeat by Stoke City in their last outing before the international break but they have otherwise been proving very difficult to open up.
Centre-back pairing James Collins and Winston Reid have been an integral part of that successful defence in front of goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, who last season performed the most saves in the Premier League - 164.
It will subsequently be vital for Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton, who like to win possession in high areas of the pitch when they are at home, to push West Ham deep and disrupt Reid and Collins. Against Cardiff City on the opening day of the season, the latter was allowed a comfortable game and was hardly forced to drop back into his own penalty area.
If Southampton are more successful than Cardiff in pushing West Ham deep, it will then come down to that imperative element of creating the space in the box and forcing the room to shoot.
Adam Lallana will be a key part of that attacking strategy and the Southampton captain will be aiming to cause problems, as he explains: "The key for me as a striker/winger is to gain half a yard inside the box and then, preferably, face up my defender.
"To create the space, I look to lean on my defender and then come into the space. Once I am in the area, I shout to receive the ball. I want to take it on my back foot, drop the shoulder and then, hopefully, you lose the defender.
"Then I will spring inside off the back foot, create half a yard and bend the ball in the top corner."
Lallana demonstrated this technique perfectly when scoring Southampton's goal in their defeat at Upton Park last season. After receiving the ball from Jay Rodriguez with his back to goal, Lallana turned and powered a shot into the roof of the net.
Another example of Lallana's effectiveness also came in Southampton's 2-0 win over Newcastle United last November, when he scored and also showed plenty of intent to burst into the penalty area and threaten the goal.
Lallana's quick feet and clever movement will as a result be vital in trying to break down West Ham and upset the probable centre-back pairing of Collins and Reid. Whether Southampton can produce this strategy remains to be seen but it promises to be an intriguing game.
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