3 key passes, 2 tackles: Struggling Southampton ace proved a point on Saturday – opinion

This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…

If a midfield player hits seven goals in one season, you could say that they had a fairly successful campaign.

And if those goals come from a young player you may expect them to develop even further and become pivotal for their side in the following campaign, but that is not true of Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse.

The academy graduate scored seven goals in 26 appearances in the 2018/19 campaign, where he looked a good bet to kick on and carry his impressive form into the 2019/20 season.

However, the 24-year-old has struggled in the early parts of the season, especially in his new right attacking-midfield role in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s 4-2-2-2 system.

The midfielder lacks pace, so he is unable to burn down the flank on the outside of defenders, whereas his chance creation and goalscoring instincts have recently been non-existent.

James Ward Prowse Wolves 1 1 Southampton via WhoScored 1 - 3 key passes, 2 tackles: Struggling Southampton ace proved a point on Saturday - opinion

He didn’t have a single shot or dribble in the games against Brighton and Manchester United – as we previously outlined when tipping him to be a causality of the 4-2-2-2 formation – while his only goal contribution so far this season has been from the penalty spot against Bournemouth.

Additionally, a lot of Southampton fans on Twitter took aim at him for his performance in the 4-1 defeat to Chelsea at St Mary’s recently.

In the 1-1 draw against Wolves last time out however, the England U21 international showed signs of promise.

Having previously struggled on the right, Ward-Prowse lined up in the same role, albeit this time in a 3-4-2-1 formation.

In this instance, the 5 foot 8 man was effective. He had two shots at goal, both of which were on target, whilst Ward-Prowse also made three key passes against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.

Having previously recorded a grand total of zero contributions in both of those departments against the Seagulls and the Red Devils – as aforesaid – his performance in the Midlands served to suggest that Ward-Prowse is slowly adapting to the role and can be an influential figure there.

Hasenhuttl has stuck by him, and he may be about to get his reward for doing so – if Ward-Prowse’s showing at Molineux was anything to go by, that is.

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