The Chalkboard: Hasenhuttl needs to make big changes vs Fulham, Sims starts

Southampton’s woes continued as two defensive lapses cost them in their 2-0 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, and big changes are needed when Saints host fellow relegation battlers Fulham at St Mary’s on Wednesday night.

On the chalkboard

Ralph Hasenhuttl chose to stick with the five-at-the-back system for the trip to north London, but within 17 minutes the visitors had a mountain to climb as they found themselves 2-0 behind, with a misunderstanding between Jack Stephens and goalkeeper Angus Gunn leading to the second.

The result left the south coast outfit in 18th position and one point from safety, and realistically they will know that they need to beat the struggling Cottagers in midweek – especially with fixtures against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur to follow.

With Danny Ings already out and Michael Obafemi seemingly suffering another hamstring issue on his comeback against the Gunners, Hasenhuttl doesn’t exactly have a plethora of attacking options ahead of the crucial clash.

What needs to happen?

Firstly, the Austrian manager needs to stick with what he did at the start of the second-half at the Emirates, by ditching Stephens and playing with a back four.

Southampton don’t need to play five in defence against a team they need to take the game to from the very first minute on Wednesday, and in truth the Saints boss should go with the his preferred 4-2-2-2 formation he has used at previous clubs.

One man who should be included in the starting line-up from the start is Josh Sims, even if he has only been named in the 18-man squad in the Premier League on two occasions this term following a less than successful loan spell with Reading.

With the 21-year-old scoring twice and assisting two more for the U23s in their 6-2 Premier League Cup win against Notts County on Friday, he deserves a chance to put a leaky Fulham defence under pressure from kick-off.

That would allow Nathan Redmond and Sims to play in the advanced positions out wide, with Shane Long, Charlie Austin and Sam Gallagher fighting it out for the two centre-forward spots.