The start to the season has not been the best at St Mary’s Stadium with Southampton struggling for form heading into the visit of Watford, a tie the Saints could have won but were forced to settle for a point after losing two of their main goal-scoring threats.
Southampton went into the match having already lost Shane Long after the 82-cap Republic of Ireland international pulled up in training on Friday. Further examinations then revealed that surgery might be required.
Come matchday and things got worse for Mark Hughes and his side when Danny Ings overstretched during the warm-up and was forced off early on as the injury became too severe.
Speaking after the 90 minutes to the Daily Echo, the under-pressure Hughes focused on his striker’s injuries: “Danny unfortunately overstretched in the warm-up and we weren’t sure whether he was going to start the game and he wanted to see if he could have an impact for us.
“Clearly he was struggling and couldn’t get round the pitch and he needed to come off.
“That was on the back of losing Shane Long yesterday and it looks like he might need a small procedure on his ankle to address that problem he’s had for some time now.
“I thought the guys who came in were excellent.
“Gabbiadini on the left hand side notwithstanding the goal he got was outstanding. I think he’s a good option there and that’s his best position being able to come late into the box and at a different angle and pace.”
Remarkably, Hughes’ comments suggest the manager is incredibly relaxed despite losing the club’s top goalscorer – Ings has four goals in 11 Premier League games.
A lack of goals elsewhere left the Saints going into the weekend just a point outside the drop zone and now reside on the cusp simply on goal difference after scoring the second lowest total of the 20 sides.
Things could have been all so different had they not failed to get Saturday’s result over the line when Charlie Austin had a legal goal ruled out before Jose Holebas netted a late equaliser.
It is remarkable that Hughes can remain confident in his player’s turning things around when pressure is mounting over his future, as the Welshman continues to hold the club’s lowest win rate of any manager since 2010.
Southampton will have to hope that Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini can find the net more often if Ings and Long are both to be absent, just give the refs no reason to question their legitimacy.
With the Watford strike not counting, Austin remains goalless this season after nine appearances and Gabbiadini only opened his account on Saturday in his eighth game.
If neither can score again, which is not too far beyond belief, it is very plausible Ings would be rushed back into the line-up and risk another injury.