Tactics writer Sam Tighe assesses the impact of Saints' new striker...
The pre-season period is a strange one. The five or so games you play during this period have zero pressure attached to them.
Managers will tell you over and over it’s about fitness; players will insist it’s about cohesion; the words “preparation” and “experimental” will be uttered in response to good wins or bad losses.
Fans are conditioned not to get too excited by perfect performances in the soaking summer heat, or become too downcast by sodden showings in the heavy humidity.
But then a new signing comes along and absolutely smashes it in your team’s colours, encouraging us to abandon our presets, ignore all of the safeguards and caveats usually placed on friendlies and start to get really, really excited about what lies ahead.
That player this summer – for Saints fans at least – is Ché Adams.
sam tigheadams could prove to be a transformative player on the south coast.
on ché adams
Southampton’s new striker arrived on July 1st and could barely have started any more strongly. His impact has been felt in every pre-season game he’s played – usually within the first ten minutes, actually – and he looks a perfect fit not only for manager Ralph Hasenhüttl’s style, but when meshing with Saints’ existing stable of attackers.
Adams’s aggression off the ball and directness when making runs shone through during a magnificent 2018/19 season with Birmingham City, and it’s surely those traits – combined with his finishing ability – that enticed Southampton to strike a deal for him.
Feyenoord felt these qualities keenly, as he pressed Sven van Beek into submission and stabbed home a finish against an unsuspecting goalkeeper to get Saints off to a flier in their 3-1 win in De Kuip. FC Köln did too, as Adams’s penetrative runs into the box on the right-hand side won a penalty for Danny Ings and produced a tap-in finish for Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.
His style compliments Ings’s superbly; where the latter likes to drop into spaces between the lines, turn and either create or shoot, the former will attack space and stretch the pitch, forcing defenders onto their heels. Ings can do what he does best when Adams creates that space.
It’s a beautifully-balanced front pairing, one similar to the Yussuf Poulsen-Timo Werner duo Hasenhüttl utilised to devastating effect at RB Leipzig in 2016/17. It features legs and creativity, spatial awareness and aggression.
The addition of Adams will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the team, too. The channel-running he performs so voraciously was done by Nathan Redmond in patches last season, who was parachuted into a striker’s role at a time of need.
As fine a job as he did, though, Hasenhüttl knows Redmond is best utilised dipping in off the flank or floating between the lines, and the new addition can return the 25-year-old to that role on a more full-time basis.
Adams’s speed, strength, low centre of gravity and aggression all combine to make him dominant in duels, whether he’s holding players off or battling for possession while chasing a channel ball. He provides a potential relief point for a side who didn’t always have one last season, and that will change the way Saints’ defenders and midfielders escape pressure on the ball.
The signing of Adams changes plenty: Saints’ potency in front of goal, the diversity with which they can go forward, the degree with which they can press. If pre-season is a sign of things to come, he could prove to be a transformative player on the south coast.