Saints can win without James Ward-Prowse
The Southampton captain has been an ever present for so long that it has been almost inconceivable that a side can exist without him. Although he has been a pivotal player over the last few seasons, it would be naive to suggest that Ward-Prowse has been anything other than disappointing this season.
For example, his famed set piece delivery has been average at best – there have been too many crosses which have failed to beat the first man. There has been no lack of industry or effort on behalf of Ward-Prowse but it was interesting to see Diallo perform in the former’s role against Leeds. It was noticeable how direct Diallo was with his passing and running, especially when looking to move the ball up to the pitch. He was unfussy, quick to the tackle and was mature, especially given he is just 22 years old.
If one was being critical, you could argue Ward-Prowse has played too safely this season, with too many sideways passes when there was a more risky option further forward. This is not to suggest Ward-Prowse should not return to the side but in some respects, his enforced absence could do him good. Diallo played quiet, efficient football but unlike Ward-Prowse, there was a drive which has been missing from the Saints skipper.
Ward-Prowse does have that in his locker but there have been times recently where he is too slow to distribute, thus failing to capitalise on counter attacks. Against Leeds, the pairing of Diallo and Romeu were excellent when it came to regaining possession and then quickly spreading the ball wide to the willing runners including Livramento, Perraud, Redmond and Djenepo.
The midfield pair also linked up well with the rejuvenated Elyounoussi, who held up and manoeuvred the ball effectively in tight areas. The Norwegian midfielder floated in a Tadic-esque manner, whilst also using his height and strength to great effect late on to preserve the slender lead. Stuart Armstrong will inevitably come back into this team but there was a lot of promise in the way Elyounoussi linked up with Diallo and Romeu.
As for Ward-Prowse, he now poses a dilemma for Ralph Hasenhuttl when he becomes available again. Does he insert his captain, the public heartbeat of the team straight back into the side? Or does he gamble on the Romeu and Diallo combination moving forwards? Food for thought.