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Southampton's trip to Leeds was always going to be an interesting tactical match-up. Both teams like to press high up the pitch, throw bodies forward and play with a freedom that sometimes borders on recklessness.

Momentum favoured the hosts who had been enjoying a resurgence under new manager Jesse Marsch while Saints went into the international break on the back of four straight defeats.

Jack Harrison's 28th-minute goal gave Leeds a 1-0 advantage at the break but James Ward-Prowse's latest free-kick special shortly after half-time saw the game end level. Snapping the losing streak, Ward-Prowse deemed it a "good point".

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Here are three tactical notes from Saturday's draw at Elland Road...

Half-Time Tweaks

In a rather frenetic back-and-forth game, the first 20 minutes were far from fun for Southampton

In the opening 30 minutes, Leeds mustered eight shots to Saints' three while holding more than 57% of the ball. Mohamed Salisu was needed at his best to deny Dan James in the 2nd minute before Mateusz Klich fired narrowly wide. James then saw another effort parried away by Fraser Forster before Jack Harrison prodded the ball into the net from a corner - only for the referee to blow up for a foul on Jan Bednarek.

The reprieve didn’t last long though with Harrison getting his goal in the 29th minute after Raphinha’s cross was pushed back into the danger-zone by Forster.

It was the kind of overwhelming period against this Leeds team that can end with the game totally out of reach. That wasn’t the case on Saturday as Saints went into the break just the goal behind. The second half adopted a different tone with Saints attempting to keep it much it tighter.

Explaining afterwards, Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “The good thing is at half-time we adapted a little bit to the few issues we had. We didn’t have a lot but the few issues we had, especially with our six sometimes a little bit too high opening up counter-attacks for them. Second half was much much better and in the end we had bigger chances, we should win this game.”

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Starting in a relatively experimental shape and system, Hasenhuttl opted for a diamond midfield with Oriol Romeu at the base, Ward-Prowse on the right, Ibrahima Diallo on the left and Moi Elyounoussi floating behind the two strikers.

Here’s one example of that diamond shape from the eighth minute…

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And another from the 22nd minute…

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With the responsibility of almost single-handedly stopping numerous waves of Leeds counters, Romeu over overrun at times. He also found himself too high up the pitch on occasion - the problems with the six that Hasenhuttl pointed to.

Here is one example of a Leeds break in the 11th minute. Romeu - after initially carrying the ball forward - has remained high and with neither of the other two central midfielders fully dropping back a massive gap between them and defence opens up for Leeds to exploit.

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Below is another example from the 17th minute - just look at how high the entire Saints midfield is.

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It's not new for this Saints midfield to press high up the pitch, but against an even more front-foot approach from Leeds, gaps were starting to form on the counter. With one pass, Leeds are beyond the entire midfield and able to run at Saints’ defence. In this instance, Rodrigo’s attempted ball in behind is cut out but the threat was there nonetheless.

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By half-time the issue had been minimised with Leeds finding less and less joy as Saints got to grips with the game, but as Hasenhuttl explained they made some slight adjustments to employ a more solid base in midfield going out after the break.

Initially, this saw Ward-Prowse drop deeper alongside Romeu to create more of a lopsided 4-2-2-2 with Diallo remaining on the left and Elyounoussi behind the strikers. 

Below is one example of this tweak in action early in the second half…

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And here is another…

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When Romeu went off for Stuart Armstrong, it was Diallo who took his place in the new double-pivot alongside Ward-Prowse - as seen below.

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50% of Ward-Prowse’s first-half passes came in Saints’ attacking half compared to 33% in the second half further displaying the deeper role he took up as Hasenhuttl sought to make his team more solid in the middle of the park and quell the oft-overwhelming Leeds breaks.

Which brings us nicely to our second point…

Security over Salivation

Sometimes when you’ve been in a rut, the only thing you can focus on - or even the only thing you should focus on - is getting out of it. Saints have most certainly been in a rut in recent weeks. Four straight defeats going into the clash at Elland Road saw them on their worst run of the season and it was clearly a priority from Hasenhuttl and his side just to get past the losing streak.

After riding their luck slightly in the opening half an hour, Southampton settled and started to take control of the game following Harrison's goal.

By half-time, Leeds had the advantage but Southampton were fully in the game. Four minutes later, Ward-Prowse restored parity. For ten minutes after the goal, Saints seemed to be taking control of the game. Armando Broja couldn't quite turn in Timo Livramento's 51st-minute, but there still seemed a potential winner in the game for Southampton.

But they pulled back a bit, determined to get at least a point and end this losing run rather than risk the kind of open back-and-forth encounter that Leeds thrive in.

Below is a collection of ‘momentum graphs’ showcasing how the two sides performed in various categories over the course of the 90 minutes. Saints are the red lines.

As the first chart, 'attacks per minute' shows, Southampton grew into the game after a slow start but after about the hour-mark, their attacking play plummeted as they opted to hold firm and not throw caution to the wind.

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Similarly, the possession chart below supports the same idea - that Southampton chose to drop deeper and soak up pressure rather than be the aggressors at 1-1. 
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Perhaps nothing supports this claim more than the below chart - cataloguing Saints’ long ball rate throughout the match. Ralph Hasenhuttl explained after the draw that Saints intentionally chose to play long more than usual in order to combat Leeds’ high press, but it’s notable that when chasing the game at 1-0 they kept it on the ground more before reverting to more long stuff after making it 1-1.

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Of course, just because Southampton stood off a bit more than they had at 1-0 doesn’t mean they couldn’t have won the game in the final minutes. Twice they went relatively close, Tino Livramento slicing an effort wide at the back post before Shane Long couldn’t quite direct a late corner towards goal.

In the end, Hasenhuttl felt his side should have taken all three points: “We had a few good chances," he said. "Tino had a big one at the second post where he must score. This is a position where he must take his opportunity to score and in the end, you need a sensational free-kick from Prowsey to score but we had other chances also.”

Sometimes the only way to break out of a slump is go back to basics and make things slightly uglier. Ward-Prowse felt the defensive display in the second half was a sign of this team’s growing maturity, citing last season’s crumbling 3-0 defeat at Elland Road.

“That’s the maturity that we’ve gained this season,” the Saints captain said. “Coming here last season we lost 3-0 and we didn’t really manage the game well. And to come away to a tough place and be a goal down, get back in it and not give any more points away I think was really important. I think it will be a good point when we look back at the end of the season and a good foundation now to go into the next few games.”

“It wasn’t always nice to watch,” Hasenhuttl admitted. And while some Saints fans would maybe prefer to see their side throw everything forward in an attempt to win rather than take the draw, a healthy pragmatism isn’t the worst thing. As Ward-Prowse says, it's a positive sign of this team’s maturity that they are now in a place to alter their game, commit to something slightly uglier and have it actually succeed.

Ibrahima Diallo - From Lost to Boss

Alright, alright, that title might be a bit over the top (it does have a nice ring to it) but Ibrahima Diallo did improve significantly after early struggles at Leeds.

It’s important to highlight Diallo's steps and even if he still has a ways to go, Saturday saw real steps.

The last time Diallo started in the Premier League he was hooked at half-time in the 3-1 mid-January defeat to Wolves. On that day, Diallo was relatively ineffective and just didn’t fully look up to the speed of the Premier League.

After the first 20 minutes of a frantic half at Elland Road, it looked as if it might be another one of those days for Diallo. After those 20 minutes, his seven touches of the ball was the lowest of all 22 players on the pitch and it appeared it might just be another short afternoon for a player that’s struggled to establish himself this season.

It’s not as if one moment saw the switch flipped, but by half-time, there was no reason to withdraw Diallo and as the game wore on in the second half he improved and improved. He touched the ball 22 times in the second half, more than six of his teammates and he started to show the game-changing abilities at both ends of the pitch that earned him his impressive reputation in France.

As he got more involved, the hesitation of the earlier moments began to dissipate and it seemed that Diallo was starting to enjoy himself. A lovely piece of skill in the 53rd minute saw the midfielder make Luke Ayling look silly before spreading the play for Che Adams out wide on the left.

Defensively he also had an impact, making two perfectly timed interceptions as Leeds players were preparing to shoot. The second of the two - in the 88th minute - looked a touch clumsy and while Leeds fans were baying for a penalty, nothing was given. While it could have been disastrous, it was also incredibly crucial as Joe Gelhardt picked up the ball deep inside Saints' box.

It wasn’t the easiest conditions for Diallo, starting on the left side of a midfield diamond in a frantic game but he did end up getting to grips with it before moving deeper alongside Ward-Prowse after Romeu was withdrawn.

Speaking after the game, Ward-Prowse offered his verdict on Diallo’s performance.

“Really good,” he said. “I think to come into the team having maybe not played as much as he would have liked to is difficult. It was a difficult game to come into but I think he showed his qualities and his physical ability to win balls and break forward was evident today. We’ve got real depth in the squad and I was pleased for Ibra to do well today.”

There were two important and hopefully lasting positives from Diallo’s display at Elland Road. The first, and crucial one, was that he was actually a positive for the team. He played the whole game and deserved to do so. The second positive, potentially even more important going forward, is that he turned his own personal afternoon around after a really sluggish start. That’s something he wasn’t able to do against Wolves and should fill him with a touch more belief going forward.