Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points ahead of Matchweek 17.
Since switching from a back three to a classic 4-4-2 four matches ago, manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has witnessed greater energy, cohesion and attacking ambition from his side.
With a little more luck the resurgent Saints could have easily collected a maximum 12 points instead of the seven they amassed in those four matches.
Southampton may still be among the bottom three but performance levels have improved markedly.
A poor display at home to Everton in early November was the trigger for Hasenhuttl's tactical tweak.
Having already experimented with seven other formations this term, the Austrian dispensed with a lone striker for the trip to Arsenal; an encounter they approached in bold, confident style.
Stretching rival teams, Saints have managed to get into the opposing penalty area more frequently and provide greater penetration.
|Matchweek||Match||Touches in opp. box|
|6||SOU 1-3 BOU||38|
|13||ARS 2-2 SOU||35|
|15||SOU 2-1 NOR||35|
|16||NEW 2-1 SOU||32|
|1||BUR 3-0 SOU||29|
|14||SOU 2-1 WAT||26|
Southampton are not just playing with more enterprise, they are also making strides with set-piece situations.
During their last two matches Saints have created six chances from set-plays, with recalled frontman Long causing mayhem in the air.
So when James Ward-Prowse stands over dead balls this weekend, the Hammers will need to be fully concentrated.
According to Opta’s expected goals (xG) figures, Southampton should have beaten Arsenal, Watford, Norwich and Newcastle United.
Showing greater creativity than their opponents and fashioning better opportunities, the south-coast side have been unfortunate not to have collected more points.
|SOU||ARS (A)||WAT (H)||NOR (H)||NEW (A)||Total|
|Shots in the box||11-12||7-4||9-6||12-7||39-29|
*Southampton figures first
The Hammers must also make a plan to shackle the in-form Ings.
The former Liverpool striker has scored nine goals this season, including one in each of his last five appearances.
Operating alongside a hardworking partner who runs the channels has lightened Ings's load.
This tactical change has allowed the 27-year-old to conserve energy and to stay central for longer periods.
There is no doubt that if West Ham fail to defend better than they did in recent defeats by Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal, this will be another tricky examination for them.
Southampton may have defensive flaws of their own but in possession they are far more dangerous now than they have been at any other stage of the season.