The Southampton fans are riddled with nerves in the Transfer Tavern ahead of a potentially season-defining fixture against West Ham United at The London Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Mark Hughes will feel he has something to prove to the Premier League when he makes his first league appearance as Southampton manager on the sideline of West Ham’s home stadium. Hughes won his debut match in charge of the club against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup last time out to secure a semi-final tie against Chelsea in three weeks time, but his focus will purely be on securing Southampton’s survival before then.
Southampton have won just one of their last 17 matches in the top-flight, and they have fallen into 18th place as a consequence of their barren run of form. However, a victory over The Hammers today would see them move above their opponents and out of the bottom-three with 7 fixtures still to play.
The stakes simply couldn’t be higher, especially considering The Saints have Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all still to play this season. With that being said, Hughes has to be ambitious with his line-up tomorrow afternoon, and that means he simply has to start two strikers up front.
Considering Guido Carrillo has been an ever-present in Southampton’s starting line-up since moving to the south-coast from Monaco in January, it seems safe to assume he will once again lead the line, but Hughes must partner him with Manolo Gabbiadini (valued at £13.5 million by Transfermarkt) to give his side the best possible chance of recording victory against West Ham.
Gabbiadini has struggled to replicate the lethal goal-scoring form he showed during the early stages of his Southampton spell during the season so far, but there’s no doubt that he has a predatory instinct which is unrivalled in The Saints’ squad at this moment in time. West Ham have shown plenty of defensive vulnerability in recent weeks by conceding 14 goals from their last 5 league matches, so Hughes must exploit that by playing Gabbiadini from the outset.
If Southampton are going to survive this season, they need to kick-start their season with a vital win tomorrow afternoon, and Gabbiadini’s presence could prove to be the difference between victory and defeat against a leaky West Ham side.
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