The Chalkboard: How Hasenhuttl must arm his midfield for tough Cardiff test

Southampton take on newly-promoted Cardiff City at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday with both sides heading into the encounter looking to increase their chances of Premier League survival with a win.

The Welsh club are underdogs to avoid the drop this year, but as they proved with their 2-0 win over Bournemouth last time out, they’re capable of providing a stern test for the Saints.

On the chalkboard

Cardiff are an unashamedly physical outfit. Neil Warnock has embraced long-ball football and has built a side that are unafraid to put their bodies on the line and make life very uncomfortable for their opponents. 

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In the past, this is exactly the kind of approach that would regularly rattle Southampton. In order to prove that things really are different under Hasenhuttl, the Austrian coach must encourage his side to meet the challenge of Cardiff head on and make sure that they don’t give their opponents an inch.

A physical approach

Hasenhuttl should deploy a pairing of Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg at the base of his midfield, with Stuart Armstrong stationed just ahead of them and with the license to drop back to form a midfield three when needed.

This trio ought to be able to match Cardiff physically. If they can win that battle, then their superior technical quality can give the Saints a platform from which attacking pressure can be applied to the visitors’ defence.

Further up the pitch, the likes of Nathan Redmond, Danny Ings – if fit -, Shane Long and Charlie Austin cannot allow themselves to be bullied either, and must diligently track back to aid the midfield throughout the match, to ensure that Southampton aren’t overrun in the middle of the park.