Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl praised Shane Long ahead of his side’s Premier League clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend.
The Austrian sat down with the media to discuss the Saints’ upcoming fixture against Nuno Espirito Santo’s men and fielded questions about his attacking options.
Danny Ings is set to come back into contention for the match against Wolves after he missed the 3-1 defeat against Liverpool because of ineligibility.
In the striker’s absence, Hasenhuttl opted to hand Long a start following his return from injury, and the Republic of Ireland international scored the opening goal against the Reds in the first half.
According to a report from The Daily Echo, the manager is toying with the idea of starting both forwards against Wolves on Saturday as Southampton bid to pull further clear of the relegation zone.
Hasenhuttl was quick to praise Long ahead of the outing at St Mary’s Stadium and revealed that he believes the experienced striker could operate in a deeper-lying role in the front-line. He said:
Longy showed in the last games when he’s coming in or starting the games that he’s a good package for me. He works hard, he has deep runs and a different style to Ingsy.
Ings is more in the red zone with good turns in the box. You have to know what you need in this game [against Wolves]. Maybe both.
I didn’t say that we have these two strikers in this position as the only chance we need – I also see Longy also in other positions. He can play as a number ten or with Reddy [Nathan Redmond] at the very front. It’s possible like this against Brighton and was very good.
Why starting Long and Ings against Wolves could be a clever move
Starting Ings and Long could provide Southampton with a blend of technical quality and athleticism. It’s a partnership that could cause defences problems.
Wolves tend to leave space in behind their wing-backs as they push incredibly high up the pitch. This would leave space for Long, mainly, to exploit with runs into channels, pulling central defenders out of their positions.
Watford showed that Wolves are by no means solid at the back, and caused havoc with Andre Gray, Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney at different times during their 3-2 FA Cup semi-final win last weekend.
Their defenders struggle to cope with intelligent movement and powerful runs in behind; Ings and Long could take advantage of this.
Long is the only striker who has scored for Southampton in 2019. By affording both him and Ings a golden chance to fire at St Mary’s against Wolves, Hasenhuttl could help to remedy the pair’s goalscoring struggles at a vital stage of the season.