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Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse has been pivotal to recent turnaround

Ralph Hasenhuttl recently made a bold decision to switch to 4-4-2 and he has James Ward-Prowse to thank for its success.

On the chalkboard

Midfield was one of many areas where Southampton had struggled for much of the season. They have achieved an average of 47% possession and conceded 38 league goals, partly due to a lack of protection for the defence.

Despite those concerns, Hasenhuttl decided to sacrifice a midfielder and operate with Ward-Prowse and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the middle, but since then his side have picked up an impressive 17 points from nine games.

While Danny Ings’ goals have been vitally important, it is the former England U21 captain who has really come to the fore of late, and his strong showing against Tottenham on Wednesday really showed how much progress he has made this season.

He was crucial to his team keeping a clean sheet with nine tackles as he kept the likes of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen quiet, highlighting exactly how he has helped Southampton move away from the relegation zone in recent weeks.

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Key player

The 25-year-old isn’t renowned for the defensive side of his game but 2.4 tackles per game shows it has been an area he has improved on, having averaged just 1.4 tackles per game last term.

His tireless efforts have allowed the Saints to operate with two in the middle, giving license for the likes of Shane Long and Che Adams to feature alongside Danny Ings as a front two, which has brought the best out of the 27-year-old, who now has 15 goals for the season.

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It is not just defensively where Ward-Prowse has made his mark, however, as he has been a regular provider for Ings and his forward teammates.

He made two key passes against Spurs, slightly above his average of 1.6 per game, while his four goals – some coming from free-kicks – showcase his own threat at goal.

Would Southampton struggle without James Ward-Prowse?

Yes

Yes

No

No

If he can make more progress by improving on his lowly return of two assists then he will be a real handful for most opposition teams, and ensure Southampton’s relegation fears are eased over the coming weeks.

In other news, there could be good news on the horizon regarding Hojberg and the possibility of a new contract.

Article title: Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse has been pivotal to recent turnaround

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