Southampton boss hints at system vs. Liverpool – but has problems without Danny Ings

4 April 2019

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is forced to find an alternative to Danny Ings if he is to field his expected 4-2-2-2 formation against Liverpool.


Ings will join the Saints in a permanent £20 million deal in the summer, but until then is still on loan, and therefore is ineligible to play on Friday night.

The 26-year-old has only just returned from injury, but started and played 67 minutes in last weekend’s 1-0 win at Brighton, producing an impressive display up front alongside Nathan Redmond.

That afternoon saw Hasenhuttl move from a 3-4-3 setup to a 4-2-2-2, and speaking in his pre-match press conference on Thursday he hinted he could stick with this to take on the Reds.

But if that is the case, the Austrian conceded he would have to find “a new guy” to take up duties as the high-pressing centre-forward, which may not suit his next best fully fit option, Charlie Austin.

“The flexibility of our game is rising and that means we can play different shapes now,” he told reporters.

“In the last game we switched to a 4-2-2-2 and surprised them a little bit; I must say I like this shape and it worked very well.

“This is the kind of development we need at this stage of the season, to have the ability to do something different.

“Ingsy is not allowed to play so we have to have a new guy in the offensive position.”

Hasenhuttl suggested Shane Long could take Ings’ place, though he has only just returned to training after a groin injury and has rarely been favoured by his new manager so far.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 19, 2016: Southampton's Charlie Austin arrives ahead of the FA Premier League match against Everton at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Long is not passed fit, and Hasenhuttl instead turns to Austin, it could be that the Saints revert to the 3-4-3, which allows Redmond and James Ward-Prowse to support the lone striker in advanced midfield roles.

Either way, in his own press conference Jurgen Klopp expressed his confidence that Liverpool could deal with a variety of systems, despite issues against Tottenham.

“We have to be 100 percent spot on. We have to respect their strength, we have to try to use the things they are maybe not that strong [with],” he explained.

“We didn’t find a lot, but there are a couple of [weaknesses] of course [that] we have to try to use.

“Put them under pressure, play our football. The first half at Tottenham, a lot of things were really good, we put them under pressure.

“Yes, we didn’t adapt quick enough to a system change—that will not happen again, I’m pretty sure, but it happened in that game.

“This time we will see, because we play against an opponent who obviously played with two systems as well—a five and four—in the last few weeks.

“But that’s not a problem any more. It will be a really, really interesting game on Friday night.”

Hasenhuttl also confirmed that hulking centre-back Jannik Vestergaard is back in training after a groin strain, but that Jack Stephens could be more likely to start if a three-man defence is fielded.

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