Forget Ings: Southampton’s £6.3m-rated rock was integral to victory over Villa – opinion

It is hard to explain just how important a victory it was for Southampton away at Aston Villa on Saturday.

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Before the match, the Saints were in 18th place and behind the Villans on goal difference. Make no mistake about it, this was a proverbial six-pointer for both sides. In the end, though, Ralph Hasenhuttl will have been delighted with the performance his side put in at Villa Park as they prevailed 3-1.

Southampton@3x - Forget Ings: Southampton's £6.3m-rated rock was integral to victory over Villa - opinion

With his two goals, Danny Ings will receive many of the plaudits and rightly so. However, that is not too much different than the form he has already been in so far this term – he already had nine strikes before this match in the league. In this clash, it was perhaps Jack Stephens’ showing that made the difference.

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The centre-back was a rock at the heart of Southampton’s defence. During the 90 minutes, he managed a huge seven clearances, as well as four tackles and one blocked shot.

On the ground, he was almost unbeatable, winning six of the eight ground duels he took part in and, whilst that number was just two from five in the air, it was always going to be difficult in that respect against Wesley, who has won 3.2 such battles per match so far this term.

Impressively, he also contributed going forward as well. He scored his side’s second goal, whilst he also completed the one dribble he attempted and also managed one key pass. Unsurprisingly, he picked up a SofaScore rating of 7.6, which was only beaten for his side by Ings.

Defensively, the St. Mary’s Stadium outfit have been particularly poor this season. The 37 strikes they have conceded is the joint-worst record in the league along with Norwich City. Hasenhuttl, therefore, will be particularly pleased that his side shipped just once here away from home. £6.3m-valued Stephens – as per Transfermarkt – played a big part in that.

This is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go this term. However, if his players can match Stephens’ desire and commitment, then the former RB Leipzig man should have nothing to worry about come May.

In other news, Southampton are surely regretting the sale of a former attacker.

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