Last season, Southampton endured a difficult time in front of goal with Charlie Austin struggling to stay fit while the rest of the team’s frontmen constantly misfired.
However, manager Mark Hughes looks to have come up with a solution for Southampton’s goal-scoring problems.
Thanks to the arrival of Danny Ings from Liverpool last month, Hughes has been able to start using a 4-4-2 at St. Mary’s, deploying his deadline day signing up front alongside Austin, and the club are starting to reap the benefits both in terms of individual performances and results.
Ings has already managed to find the back of the net on two occasions, scoring the opener in the Saints’ 2-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend, while Austin’s presence on the pitch always causes problems for defenders.
Overall, the early signs of the partnership that is being formed between the two looks promising.
That being said, given their injury history, Hughes will want to wrap the two in cotton wool when necessary, meaning there will be times where others will need to fill in for either player — if not both — and step up to the plate.
Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long are the logical substitutes and are probably the players who Hughes sees as being Ings and Austin’s deputies.
However, should the pair’s goal-scoring troubles continue, then Hughes must consider giving some of Southampton’s younger forwards more responsibility.
Sam Gallagher is currently among the Southampton senior squad and came off the bench in the club’s 1-0 victory over Brighton in the second round of the Carabao Cup.
But, as well as Gallagher, Hughes should also look at Marcus Barnes and Michael Obafemi.
Barnes and Obafemi fired the Saints to a 2-0 victory against Colchester United at the JobServe Community Stadium in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night, and could both be viable options for Hughes going forward — especially in the Carabao Cup or against significantly weaker teams in the FA Cup next year.
Ultimately, if Hughes needs alternatives to Ings and Austin, then on top of Gallagher, both Barnes and Obafemi should be strongly considered.