James Ward-Prowse has threatened to establish himself as a first-team regular at Southampton in recent years without ever managing to totally convince his manager or the supporters that he is worthy of a regular spot, but the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl could change everything for the 24-year-old.
Hasenhuttl has wasted no time in making his mark at St Mary’s Stadium. The smile etched on the face of Nathan Redmond both during and after Southampton’s victory over Everton was telling about the impact Hasenhuttl has made on the south coast, with his distinctive brand of football already beginning to bear fruit both individually and collectively.
Southampton are markedly tighter in defence and are beginning to establish an identity again, and individual improvements are at the heart of their promising transformation.
Nathan Redmond is beginning to play with the flair and charisma which fans had only seen in glimpses prior to the Austrian’s arrival and Jan Bednarek has been resurrected from obscurity.
But it is the improvement of James Ward-Prowse that has really caught the eye of Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp, who delivered a glowing verdict on the midfield technician in his team of the week column, as published by the Daily Mail.
‘I’m delighted that James Ward-Prowse is thriving under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
‘His excellent display against Everton highlighted all his best attributes.
‘He is a tireless worker, running 7.5 miles – the furthest of anyone on the pitch – has a good passing range and strikes the ball so sweetly.
‘He deserves a run of games in the Southampton side.’
Within Hasenhuttl’s set-up, Ward Prowse’s endeavour, work-rate and ability to spot a quick through ball could be priceless. The high-press philosophy demands immense physical stamina, which Ward-Prowse clearly has, and the willingness to be direct, decisive and penetrative after recovering possession.
Ward-Prowse’s dribble through the heart of Everton’s defensive unit which preceded his sensational strike from outside the box for Southampton’s opener was exactly the type of direct running Hasenhuttl will want to see from his midfield players, and the praise he has since earned from Redknapp is just reward for the impact he made on Saturday.
The set-piece specialist was found wanting under both Mark Hughes and Mauricio Pellegrino, but the fresh dynamic Hasenhuttl has brought to Southampton seem to have helped the 1-cap England international to turn a significant corner in recent weeks.
If Ward-Prowse continues to cover serious ground in midfield and influence the game in the final-third there is no doubt he will cement his place in the starting eleven in the coming months.
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