Southampton must ‘go for it now’ – Hughes wants more in attack after draw in Leicester

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Southampton must ‘go for it now’ – Hughes wants more in attack after draw in Leicester

Shane Long has only scored two goals for Southampton in the league this season

Southampton have to “take more risks” and “just go for it” says manager Mark Hughes, after the Saints were held to a goalless draw against Leicester at the King Power.

The Saints remain four points from safety and are winless in their last eight games as they head into Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley.

“We need to be on the front foot,” said Hughes. “We have to ask more questions than we did of Leicester.”

Southampton’s Shane Long was denied from close range in the second half after Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho went close before the break.

Saints keeper Alex McCarthy also tipped over Jamie Vardy’s prodded effort as Leicester searched for a winner.

“Defensively we were better but we have got to get the balance right,” added Hughes. “We need to defend properly and be a threat the other way.

“Only time will tell to see whether the point is enough for us. We are looking to get maximum points from every game now.

“The players are a little bit flat and we have got a big game at the weekend but we are not in the situation where we are downhearted.”

Southampton’s next Premier League match is on 28 April when they host Bournemouth – one of four remaining games of the season.

Saints miss chance to close the gap

Southampton looked short of ideas and low on confidence as they were forced to settle for a draw in a performance symptomatic of a team fighting to get out of the bottom three.

It took until the 18th minute for the visitors to have a tame shot on goal and they recorded just one touch in Leicester’s box before the half-hour mark.

And when Long fluffed his attempted cut-back just moments before the half-time whistle, manager Hughes thrust his arms into the air in frustration and turned back to the bench with a huff.

Southampton’s players looked dejected at full-time as they missed an opportunity to close the gap on their safety

There was a slight improvement towards the end of the first half – Ryan Bertrand and Cedric Soares had promising efforts on goal – but it was still a timid end to a fairly lacklustre opening 45 minutes.

Southampton showed more intensity in the second half and should have taken the lead when Long’s poke from close range was blocked by goalkeeper Ben Hamer.

But in the end they had to settle for a draw which is not the result Southampton would have hoped for in their quest to avoid relegation for the first time since 2012.

The Saints have recorded just one league victory in their last 21 games – against bottom club West Brom – and they missed a chance to pick up all three points against a comfortable Leicester side who had the freedom to experiment slightly.

Southampton can enjoy the prospect of an FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, which is a rare opportunity for fans to be optimistic, but their future in the Premier League looks to be coming to an end.

They have four games remaining to pick up as many points as possible but with champions Manchester City visiting on the final day, Southampton’s hopes look slim.

Puel experiments with personnel

Leicester’s performance epitomised that of a team comfortably in mid-table and with little to play for as the season reaches its conclusion.

Ex-Saints manager Claude Puel used the game as an opportunity to test out new formations and partnerships ahead of next season.

Marc Albrighton played on the right of a back four in a 4-4-1-1 formation but was still able to present a threat with his delivery – providing several chances for Vardy in the second half.

And Vardy also linked up well with Iheanacho – who made his fourth start of the season – creating chances during a bright spell when they dominated in the first half.

But aside from a few tweaks, it was a relatively forgettable performance from Leicester as they rarely peppered Southampton’s goal in a match which lacked quality.

Kelechi Iheanacho started his fourth league game for Leicester this season

Another goalless draw – the best of the stats

  • This was the 27th 0-0 draw in the Premier League this season, equalling the tally from 2016-17 (27) but with four matchdays remaining.
  • Southampton have been involved in five of these goalless draws in 2017-18; more than any other side.
  • The Saints didn’t attempt a single shot on target until the 57th minute of this match. They only attempted one more in the game, and that came in the 90th minute.
  • Leicester have collected 44 points this season, level with their points tally in the whole of 2016-17.
  • Southampton (29 points) need three points from their remaining four league games of the season to even match their worst-ever points tally in a Premier League season (32 in 2004-05, when they finished bottom).
  • After winning the 2015-16 Premier League title with 23 wins to their name, Leicester City have won the exact same number of matches (23) in 72 games since August 2016.
  • Wilfred Ndidi made six tackles in this match; double the number of any other player. Overall this season, he’s made the most tackles in the competition (135); 29 more than any other player.

‘Only time will tell’ – what the managers said

Leicester manager Claude Puel: “We are a little bit disappointed not to win but I’m happy with our performance. It was important to continue the momentum from the second half against Burnley and I think we did that.

“We showed a lot of quality and had two or three good chances to score in the first half and we played with a good tempo and intensity. If we can repeat this performance in the next game against Crystal Palace we will do well.

“Kasper (Schmeichel) will play the next game, it was not a big injury but I’m happy with Ben Hamer’s performance and he made a good save in the first half.”

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