Where do Southampton stand in the absence of Danny Ings?

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As we approach the quarter-way point in the season, Southampton sit 15th in the Premier League table, 4 points above the relegation zone with a record of 1 win, 4 draws and 3 losses from 8 matches.

Burnley – who will travel to face Saints this weekend – happen to be one of the sides in the relegation zone that Saints currently sit 4 points above. This matchup represents a huge opportunity for both sides in what could be dubbed a real six-pointer, even at this early stage of the season.

Southampton have been far from spectacular thus far, having scored only 6 goals in 8 matches – 2 of those being penalties. It seems glaringly obvious that they’re missing Danny Ings. Ings departed the south coast to join Aston Villa in the summer, and with his 3 goals and 2 assists for Villa so far this term, he alone has managed more goal contributions than Saints have goals from open-play.

The figures make for grim viewing for Saints fans. Ings’ replacement Adam Armstrong started the season well with a debut goal in a 3-1 loss at Goodison Park, but has yet to add to that tally. His strike partner Ché Adams, who last year enjoyed a decent season alongside Ings with 9 league goals and 5 assists to his name, has so far only managed to contribute a sole assist – for Armstrong’s goal against Everton.

In the interest of cutting Adams some slack, he did also force Fred’s own goal in what was a good point against Manchester United, but after seeing a glimpse of this partnership’s potential against Everton, their returns since the opening day of the season have simply not been good enough.

There is hope, however, that Chelsea loanee Armando Broja – scorer of the winner versus Leeds last week – can put some pressure on the misfiring strikers and help get Saints scoring again. Broja is enjoying a successful season on the international stage with Albania, and he’s making a strong case for displacing one of the club’s first choice strikers.

On paper at least, Armstrong is a striker in the same mould as Danny Ings. He is quick, powerful and instinctive and he won’t shy away from working for the team. He scored 28 goals in 40 matches for Blackburn in the Championship last season, and with age on their side I truly believe that he and Adams have the potential to be a formidable force together. What is truly letting Saints down in attack is their wingers.

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Saints have six first-team wingers: Nathan Redmond, Nathan Tella, Moussa Djenepo, Theo Walcott, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Stuart Armstrong. Between all of them they’ve so far managed to contribute just 1 goal and 1 assist in the league. How are Adams and Armstrong supposed to offer more when they are clearly feeding off scraps?

To pull no punches, Walcott is just simply not a Premier League-level footballer anymore. Redmond turns up once in ten matches, and whilst Djenepo clearly has some talent on the ball, his end product is abysmal. These three, as well as the enigmatic Elyounoussi (who has at least managed to offer a single goal), have been given significant opportunities thus far and completely failed to deliver.

Now, I have separated Nathan Tella and Stuart Armstrong from the rest of this pack for good reason. Tella gets a pass from me due to the youth factor and the fact that he’s only played 83 minutes so far, but it is Armstrong who happens to be the key individual in this discussion.

Ask any Saints fan about Stuart Armstrong and they’ll tell you he is integral to their strongest eleven. He just simply hasn’t been playing thus far. He did manage to get half an hour under his belt in their most recent fixture versus Leeds. Fittingly this was the club’s first league win of the season. In fact, Southampton haven’t won a Premier League game without Armstrong since 2019.

Armstrong’s return brings some promise to Saints fans in a season that despite being disappointing, hasn’t been all doom and gloom. They’ve racked up impressive points against both City and United and – barring a 1-0 home loss to Wolves – the games they’ve lost have been somewhat expected (3-1 away to Everton and Chelsea respectively).

The emergence of Valentino Livramento – signed in the summer from Chelsea – has been another cause for hope in the Saints fanbase. He has started the season superbly, and some pretty strong arguments could be made that he’s offering more creativity from full-back than any of the club’s wingers.

Livramento’s performances, alongside some key moments taken from the draw against Man United, lead me to the suggestion that for Saints to garner some success from this season, manager Ralph Hasenhüttl needs to sacrifice his principles to some extent.

Saints went 1-0 up against United, before the familiar experience of seeing Southampton throw away a lead occurred yet again. With United’s equaliser came a period of complete control from the Red Devils, until Saints made a change that saw them threaten to score a late winner.

This change was the removal of winger Moussa Djenepo for central midfielder Ibrahima Diallo in a substitution that saw Southampton employ a conventional 3-5-2 formation. After all, if your wingers are completely ineffectual, your midfield is losing key battles and your right-back is your most threatening outlet, why would you not try and react accordingly?

Saints wrestled back control of the midfield with this sub, it gave Livramento more freedom to get forward from wing-back and they really didn’t miss Djenepo. Based on this, why shouldn’t Hasenhüttl give this setup a chance from the off in some games?

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