Southampton followed up their 0-0 draw against Burnley in the Premier League with a 2-1 defeat to Everton in another result that would have left Saints supporters frustrated.
However, there were some positives to take away from the game, something which was rarely said last season.
Southampton’s threat up front, an aspect which can only be seen as promising given the team’s long struggles in front of goal, in particular, is worthy of mentioning.
With deadline-day signing Danny Ings close to full-match fitness, manager Mark Hughes opted to use a 4-4-2 formation and partner the 26-year-old up top with Charlie Austin.
Ings managed to get himself on the scoresheet but, of course, it was not enough for Southampton to gain any points from the fixture.
But, alongside Austin, the signs from Ings were promising and all of a sudden you can see where the goals at Southampton are going to come from.
Prior to the Everton game, Hughes had been using a five-man defensive system, which just reeked of negativity. Good chances were rarely created and, when they were, nothing came from them.
However, in a 4-4-2, the Saints look more capable of producing good opportunities while in Ings and Austin, they have two players on the pitch who can convert them
As well as up front, Hughes has good options in midfield to make his tactical shake up work. While Oriol Romeu sits deep and breaks up play, Mario Lemina has the ability to effectively complete Southampton’s transition from defence to attack.
The 24-year-old can either drive through midfield when in possession of the ball, or find one of his team-mates in a more dangerous area of the pitch thanks to his passing range.
New signing Stuart Armstrong — who seems perfect for a box-to-box role in a 4-4-2 — James Ward-Prowse and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg also provide Hughes with good depth and alternatives for the middle of the park, while out wide Mohamed Elyounoussi and Nathan Redmond will fancy their chances running at opposition full-backs.
Ultimately, with the personnel Hughes has at his disposal, 4-4-2 simply looks a better fit than some of the previous formations Southampton have been lining up in. And, for home games at least, it is something Hughes should persist with.
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