According to reports from Sky Sports Southampton could be without Danny Ings for up to six weeks, with the club’s star striker undergoing minor knee surgery.
The England international came second in last season’s Golden Boot race and has started 2020/21 in equally fine form, notching up seven goal involvements in as many Premier League games.
Clearly his absence will be felt with Southampton due to face Newcastle, Wolves, Brighton Manchester United and Sheffield United in the coming weeks, but how can Ralph Hasenhuttl try to fill Ings’ almighty void?
GIVEMESPORT have outlined three suggested solutions below…
Bring in Shane Long or Michael Obafemi
The most obvious solution to Ings’ injury is quite simply selecting another striker to take his spot in the starting XI.
That would allow Hasenhuttl to maintain the 4-2-2-2 setup he’s used exclusively so far this season, and there’s a clear logic to minimising any further changes to the mechanisms of the team considering Ings’ absence by itself will no doubt causes some disruptions to how Southampton usually play.
Shane Long and Michael Obafemi are the standout candidates.
Long partnered Ings for periods of last season and while the 33-year-old doesn’t score too many himself, he’s always been a hardworking forward who makes opportunities for others by running the channels.
Obafemi, meanwhile, is still very much a diamond in the rough but the 20-year-old clearly has potential – playing a bit-part role last season, he averaged one goal contribution per 133 minutes. Every youngster needs a chance to make a name for themselves and Ings’ injury could provide just that.
There’s also on-loan winger Theo Walcott who has plenty of experience playing up front, but none of these potential replacements are particularly potent in front of goal, so the onus of finding the net would fall firmly on Che Adams.
Switch to 3-4-3
Should Hasenhuttl follow this suggestion it would mark almost exactly a year to the day since Southampton last used a three-man defence in the Premier League. While three-at-the-back was a common theme during the first half of the Austrian’s St. Mary’s reign, it has been barely seen since that horror 9-0 loss to Leicester City.
Nonetheless, Saints need to be smart about how they make opportunities in Ings’ absence – only four Southampton players have laid on more key passes than him this season – and while it may seem counter-intuitive to essentially replace their top scorer with another centre-back, that extra body in defence will allow Southampton’s wide men to support Adams more closely.
In Walcott and Nathan Redmond, Southampton certainly have two wingers capable of acting more as part of the attack than the midfield, while Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand are suited to the wing-back roles as well.
The only issue is whether Hasenhuttl has enough centre-backs in good health to pull it off, with Jan Bednarek and Mohamed Salisu both currently doubts for Friday’s clash.
Move James Ward-Prowse to No.10
Sometimes football can be as simple as getting your most in-form player into a position that provides the natural freedom for their confidence to shine through.
James Ward-Prowse is a little too orthodox to be considered a proper No.10 but after scoring twice last weekend, getting him that bit closer to the goal might just make some magic happen.
Considering Newcastle traditionally set up with a deep defence, it’s not hard to imagine Adams knocking the ball down to an onrushing Ward-Prowse, who then blasts it into the top corner from the edge of the box in Frank Lampard fashion.
The only roadblock is Southampton’s lack of bodies in midfield. After Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu the squad’s pretty thin, so it could require giving a chance to 21-year-old Ibrahima Diallo – so far he’s clocked up just 18 minutes of Premier League action.
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