Premier League

Solving problems: Hughes can guide Southampton to a top-10 finish if he makes this tactical change

Solving problems: Hughes can guide Southampton to a top-10 finish if he makes this tactical change

After a slow start to the season, Southampton went into the international break on a good note having earned their first three points of the campaign after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 at Selhurst Park. 

Danny Ings was the man to score the opener for the Saints on the day, and his arrival at St. Mary’s has given manager Mark Hughes a massive boost up front.

During the previous Premier League campaign, Southampton really struggled in front of goal with Guido Carrillo, Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long all misfiring while Charlie Austin had his ongoing battles with injuries.

But, with Austin now fit and Ings looking as sharp as ever, things should drastically improve in that area.

And the early signs suggest that is likely to be the case with Hughes having played the pair up front in the last couple of games to good effect.

That being said, Southampton’s attack as a whole does still not look entirely convincing. With Dusan Tadic departing for Ajax in the summer, Mohamed Elyounoussi was brought in, but has yet to make much of an impact while Nathan Redmond has not been able to impose himself on games for some time now.

Furthermore, Hughes should turn to a system without wingers and utilise the talented crop of midfielders he has instead.

The middle of the park is where Southampton are strongest with Mario Lemina, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Stuart Armstrong, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse and Steven Davis all options Hughes can call upon.

In a diamond formation, Hughes would have the opportunity to fit four out of the six into the team while being able to retain the strike partnership of Ings and Austin.

Meanwhile, Ryan Bertrand and Cedric Soares — who are one of the best full-back partnerships in the Premier League — will provide the width on the flanks in Elyounoussi and Redmond’s absence.

This Southampton squad has the potential to finish in the top 10 and it is up to Hughes to unlock that potential, which he can do by fully utilising his arsenal of midfielders.

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