Pre-match stats: Blades vs Southampton

Under Ralph Hasenhüttl (German for ‘rabbit hutch’) the Saints have become known as an intense high pressing outfit. This season so far, they have mostly played three at the back in a 3-4-2-1 and 4-2-2-2, which was “The Alpine Klopp’s” trademark formation at RB Leipzig, but have also used 4-3-3 and 3-5-2.


They usually aim to press ‘inside’ or ‘outside’. They’re likely to press the Blades ‘inside’, ie to try and stop us playing up the flanks.

But, CW/AK will be very aware of their traits, and may have noticed Burnley did very well against them on the first day of the season by going very direct and by-passing the press.

For tactics chin-scratchers it’s a mouth-watering clash.

The head-to-head stats so far (yes, a very small sample, I know) show two teams fairly tightly-matched. Both managing to create a similar number and quality of chances (xG) and close in the chances they allow to opponents (xGA).


Looking at head-to-head numbers, style is evident in a few categories. The Blades have had more passes (with greater pass success) and more passes in opponents’ final 20m (deepCPG – deep completions per game) with a higher average line (avgLinePG) and more touches in the opposition final third (opp3rd).

Those all reflect the way the Blades play – high up the pitch with lots of final third passes. All the Saints possession, passing and directness numbers point to a team that’s not that bothered about having the ball but is very keen on making you give it away and then building quickly from that. Although, interestingly, the two teams are close in terms of how much opposition passing they allow for each defensive action against them (ppdaPG).

Here’s a closer look at the two teams’ ppda ([opponent] passes per defensive action) and ppdaA (A for against). ppdaA shows the number of passes a team makes compared to defensive actions against. The chart clearly shows the Blades and Southampton diverge significantly on this front.


Finally, here’s another view of the two teams in terms of construction and attempts at conversion. The Blades register a higher volume of final third entries, final third passes, crosses and corners. That’s not necessarily better, but can be reflective of style. When it comes to shots, Southampton have had more of everything so far, except goals, with the Blades having converted one more.

It’s early days and only a small sample of games to draw conclusions from, but it’s an enticing clash of styles on the cards.

  1. Head-to-head: Construction


2. Head-to-head: Conversion attempts



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