Southampton’s pair of wonder goals weren’t enough to sink Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s resurgent Manchester United on Saturday but Ralph Hasenhuttl and co can feel aggrieved that they didn’t take all three points back to the south coast after two penalty shouts were waved away by Stuart Attwell.
The Austrian manager and his squad won’t have time to dwell on the result, though, with a visit from Spurs coming up this weekend. After the Saints came so close to upsetting the Red Devils, it would be difficult to pick them apart and argue that certain players don’t justify a start again Spurs.
However, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Here are the two changes Hasenhuttl should make to the starting XI this weekend.
Charlie Austin was a passenger in the United clash, taking just one shot and winning one aerial duel – the striker was in the starting XI to provide bustling physicality and a decent end product, but he failed to produce either against the Red Devils, as he has on many occasions this season.
The former Burnley and QPR man has yet to net in 2019 and has taken just two shots in his last three games – poor performances that forced Hasenhuttl to drag him off the pitch just after the hour against Fulham and then United.
Especially in the absence of Danny Ings through injury, Austin is currently the only recognised striker option up front and he hasn’t performed at all. Nathan Redmond should replace the number 9 up front, with Stuart Armstrong coming in as part of the midfield three.
The former Celtic man’s work-rate and creative abilities will be essential in both establishing more control in the midfield and providing service to Redmond, respectively.
Last time the 26-year-old was afforded an extended run in the starting XI, he hit a rich vein of goal scoring form and took his tally to 4 in all-competitions for the season, but he has amassed just 182 minutes of football in his last five appearances and has been unable to string starts together.
Hasenhuttl should throw him in against Spurs. He can do no worse than Austin did and his tracking back will undoubtedly be crucial.
While none of the Southampton back-three covered themselves in glory against the Red Devils, Maya Yoshida’s defensive performance was far removed from the dominant showings he produced in the stalemate with Chelsea and then the win over Fulham.
The 30-year-old failed to complete a tackle, while Jannik Vestergaard and Jan Bednarek completed 3 and 2, respectively. Bringing in Stephens also gives Hasenhuttl the option of playing out from the back where possible – the number 5 is adept at bringing the ball forward, despite being slightly error-prone on occasion.
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Prior to his horror showing in the loss against Arsenal, the 25-year-old had been a solid figure in the Saints defence and should be given a chance to redeem himself this weekend.
Having someone who can bring the ball out and fizz it into one of the midfielders will boost Southampton’s chances of catching their opponent on the counter – and that could be crucial against another top six opponent in Spurs.