Journalist Aaron Stokes has claimed that rival manager Nathan Jones may have tried to play some “mind games” with a fake tactical set-up pre-game against Newcastle United.
What’s the word?
Earlier this week, the Magpies managed to claim a huge win in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final clash against Southampton.
Indeed, playing away from home, Eddie Howe’s men were able to win the game 1-0 thanks to a single goal scored by Joelinton in the second half.
With a place in the final up for grabs, both managers would have been doing all they can to get every advantage and it seems as though Jones may have been trying to fool his opposite number ahead of kick-off.
Indeed, as noted in his article for ChronicleLive, Stokes revealed that Southampton warmed up with their defenders spaced out as if they were going to play a back three, only for Saints to actually use a back four when they game began.
He explained how this might have been some mind games, writing: “Southampton boss Nathan Jones may have been trying to play a bit of mind games with Newcastle before the semi-final had even started on Tuesday evening.
“During the warm-up, the Saints chief got defenders Lyanco, Mohamed Salisu and Duje Caleta-Car to take part in a passing drill, leading some to believe the trio were going to line-up alongside one another as part of a back three. That would have left Moussa Djenepo and Kyle Walker-Peters as the two full-backs in a back five.
“Should Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall have been keeping a close eye on the Southampton warm-up, that may have been what they had taken away from the pre-match exercise. However, Southampton went for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Salisu at full-back and Djenepo in attack.
“A sneaky smokescreen by Jones?”
Will Newcastle win the Carabao Cup?
Interestingly enough, Jones has now been in charge of Southampton for ten games and in three of those games he has used a formation with three at the back. However, going into that game, three of his last four matches had seen a back four in place.
So in fairness to the Southampton manager, he may well have been debating what formation to play right up until the last minute, while also being aware that he might want to switch to a back three midway through the game.
With that in mind, it may not have been mind games. Regardless, the likes of Howe and Tindall would hopefully have done their homework and would have prepared for either formation.
As it was, it certainly seems as though they were ready for the back four they had to face as they won the game with 56 per cent possession, while also having two more shots at goal than the Saints (via BBC Sport) – proving that they probably just about deserved the victory.
Of course, now a goal down, it will be interesting to see how Jones lines his team up in the second leg at St James’ Park.