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How do you concede three goals in three minutes? - Southampton 6 - Aston Villa 1 Tactics

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

As Tim Sherwood was probably thinking, there's not a lot to say tactically after conceding three goals in three minutes - it's a question of damage limitation unless the chasing side wants to risk a real humiliation. But it's worth taking a look at what went quite so disastrously wrong in that period.

Tactical set-ups - what changed?

I'll take a quick look at the tactical set-ups because it does relate to the catastrophe that unfolded. Aston Villa stuck with the 4-3-2-1 which had dispatched Everton and West Ham with one change - Alan Hutton came in at left-back for the injured Kieran Richardson.

Meanwhile Southampton played a 4-2-3-1, just like we had faced in the previous two matches. And this presents a mystery - how could the same formation match-up produce such a different result from the previous games?

The key is in the aggressiveness with which the Southampton attack played, especially Sadio Mané. They lined up in the faces of the Villa back four, fighting for the ball in the air and making runs behind the high Villa line that was looking to compress the space to the midfield. With support from Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand as full-backs, they completely bypassed the centre midfield for long balls and attacks down the wing. The Villa defence was exposed in power, pace and positioning.

Anatomy of a three minute hat-trick

The three goals came from a simple long-ball down the middle, an attack down the Villa left and an attack down the Villa right. However there were some shared tactical factors - a lack of pressure high up the pitch on the wings, full-backs who were sucked out of position up the field and complete failure of the centre-backs to clear the ball in the air or deal with runs in behind.

Act 1. The centre collapses to a long ball

As straightforward a goal as you could hope not to concede. Southampton play three attackers directly against  the Villa defence for the goal-kick and Jores Okore goes up for the challenge but loses out - the first question being why him instead of Ron Vlaar who is better in the air? Ashley Westwood is also there, a good defensive midfielder on the ground but not so strong in the air - the responsibility should be clear.

Meanwhile Mané has drifted to the right-channel where Alan Hutton seems to be tracking him but at the crucial moment he slows down and ends up on the wrong side  of his man- charitably, perhaps he was confused by being on the unfamiliar left. Ron Vlaar then makes something that is a habitual error from him - he sees the opportunity to make a tackle and lunges in rather than pressuring Mané on his shoulder and perhaps making him lose composure.

The shot unluckily bounces back off Given and against Mané's leg, setting him up to score. A series of errors and Villa were a step behind.

Act 2. The left wing panics

Ron Vlaar's final pass is the eyecatching moment of awfulness but his panic was caused by failures further up the pitch. Villa conceded the throw-in and Fabian Delph recklessly charges Mané who receives the ball and chases the pass, leaving Mané free to receive the chip. Alan Hutton is sucked out of position to cover him but is hesitant to challenge.

The one-two is played and Hutton gives up covering Mané when he sees Vlaar with the ball - who plays a blind pass straight to the Southampton player who tangles with Given, allowing Mané to run on and score.

Vlaar is clearly most at fault, but Delph and Hutton's choices to press and their failures to do so effectively also led to the chance - losing their heads after the first goal.

Act 3. The right wing is exposed

At least this goal required some nice play from Southampton, exposing a series of poor decisions up the pitch.

Villa's 4-3-2-1 has some problems with covering width, as Delph and Tom Cleverley are forced to cover a large amount of ground when Charles N'Zogbia and Jack Grealish press in the middle. In this case Southampton quickly work the ball to the wing, past N´Zogbia.

Cleverley looks to pressure and Leandro Bacuna pushes up behind him but they chase too hard - Cleverley and Bacuna go chasing the ball and lose both men after a one-two. Westwood is also sucked in to the wing - at one moment there are three Villa players on Bertrand but they can´t stop him passing the ball, leaving no cover in the middle.

In the middle, Hutton is guilty of ball-watching rather than checking over his shoulder, where Mané has pulled up behind him and finds space on the edge of the box to steer the ball home. Game over.

Conclusions - Sherwood needs to rethink, quickly

This game should not overshadow the fact that Villa are now safe from relegation and their excellent series of results beforehand. With a makeshift defensive unit, Tim Sherwood secured a great series of results and it took a team who play slick, passing football to expose some of the issues, at full-back and the central defensive paring.

The problem is that Villa have lost by 5 goals while playing a high line against a side who play great, passing counter-attacking football once already, this season. It was Arsenal.

Ineffective pressing against rapid passes, the high line that can't deal with pace and the reckless challenges that we saw in this match could leave us more than beaten at Wembley - we could be humiliated.

In that respect it might be better it happened now, in an ultimately meaningless match, no matter how embarrassing it was. We cannot afford to go the FA Cup Final playing such a high line, with a left-full back who is utterly out of position or pressing so recklessly. Whether that entails a change of formation so late in the day or just a change of attitude is an open question, but there´s not much time to get it right.