DESPITE finishing 0-0, the draw with West Ham – Saints’ third consecutive tie – actually taught us a lot about Ralph Hasenhuttl and his squad.

It results in Saints having picked up three points from a tough opening four games, but the problem is that the run of fixtures doesn’t yet relent with a visit to Manchester City in the pipeline this weekend.

Many would have thought Hammers’ frontline, led by Michail Antonio, would burst beyond what Saints could handle but instead Jack Stephens and Mohammed Salisu captured a first Premier League clean sheet, with the help of ‘keeper Alex McCarthy, since Sheffield United in March.

Here’s what we learned from the contest…

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Ralph is no longer fixated in shape

I was personally surprised when Hasenhuttl changed his formation at half-time of the Manchester United contest, going on to pick up a point against the star-studded side (1-1).

We were so used to seeing him stick with his 4-2-2-2 in wind, rain or shine, but the opening day collapse at Everton must have triggered something.

What is beyond the pale is a different formation from the outset – but that’s what we saw, with Hasenhuttl ditching his usual for a 4-1-4-1, and whether it worked or not it’s refreshing to see that there is indeed a Plan A, B and even C in that playbook.

At times, Saints looked completely disjointed, couldn’t put a pass together and the game appeared to be slipping away – it looked like the shape was failing.

But with some personnel changes, as previously mentioned, a rare clean sheet was kept – but the crucial factor is now fluidity. Saints’ shape cannot be 100% accurately predicted from kick-off as it had been for months, seasons before.

The supporters called for Hasenhuttl to make a change, and he has answered. It will be interesting to see how they line up at City’s Etihad Stadium this Saturday.

Daily Echo: Ralph Hasenhuttl has demonstrated that he's willing to experiment with his team's shape Ralph Hasenhuttl has demonstrated that he's willing to experiment with his team's shape

Adam Armstrong needs help

This is a difficult one to say as I’ve been mightily impressed by the arriving forward, but he was completely handled by two bigger men in Angelo Ogbonna and Craig Dawson against Hammers.

By the same token of celebrating change, the one-man strike force didn’t work for him and I can barely remember him having a sniff, but for one or two half-chances that were easily gathered.

Having scored on his first Saints start at Goodison Park and having probably should have added one or two at St Mary’s, before winning a penalty against Newcastle – he has contributed and will be a key signing for Hasenhuttl.

But the game flipped when the 24-year-old made way for the powerful Armando Broja. He took players on, hit ferocious shots at goal, looked the real deal.

For me, Armstrong didn’t work in the one-striker shape and I think he, alongside Broja, will have a much bigger impact – perhaps with Che Adams off the bench as an option, even.

The dog-work that the Newcastle-born striker does doesn’t have quite as much impact when it’s only him chasing defenders down, without a second man to apply pressure or pick up the loose balls that his running creates.

Daily Echo: Adam Armstrong lost this battle but has plenty to give SaintsAdam Armstrong lost this battle but has plenty to give Saints

Ralph has a major defensive headache

This is a great problem to have. Jan Bednarek played 36 out of 38 Premier League games last year and was one of the men Hasenhuttl would call to and depend on throughout.

This season, he’s barely had a sniff with just one substitute appearance. And now Stephens and Salisu have claimed their first shut-out with imperious performances, it’s going to be difficult for Hasenhuttl to shoe-horn Bednarek in.

That’s without the added complication of Lyanco, who is seriously keen and waiting in the wings.

The full-backs are the same issue – Kyle Walker-Peters, one of Saints’ top performers of the 2020-21 season, has been usurped by Tino Livramento and again didn’t make it onto the pitch on Saturday.

Livramento breathes such a remarkable confidence into the side that you almost can’t go without him now, even at the ridiculous age of 18-years-old.

Perhaps Walker-Peters could start left-back, as he did against Newcastle, but Frenchman Romain Perraud too performed admirably facing the battle of Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen.

Hasenhuttl will prefer this problem to the ones he faced last season – he’s genuinely got such an array of defenders to choose from.

Daily Echo: Ralph Hasenhuttl won't be used to having multiple options he can call upon, after an injury-stricken season last time outRalph Hasenhuttl won't be used to having multiple options he can call upon, after an injury-stricken season last time out

Moi Elyounoussi might be a key piece in Ralph’s mind

At the start of the season, I’d have thought nothing more of Moi Elyounoussi than being just a pawn in Hasenhuttl’s wider game of Saints chess.

You’ve got your key pieces, an unchanging midfield duo of James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu standing like a king and queen in the centre – I’ll let you decide which of the two is the king and therefore basically immobile.

Various other pieces offer danger in attack, Armstrong and Adams can cover immense ground, Moussa Djenepo is that famous chess piece which can, regardless of what you instruct it to do, end up absolutely anywhere on the board.

Alright, ok. This analogy has fallen down before it’s even started but what I’m getting at is that, in a brand-new shape, Elyounoussi, who had been away for the entire international break with Norway and therefore had little-to-no training, was the man trusted to play in a centre-midfield position.

He can play on either wing, he even played up-front for Celtic (although I don’t expect to see that again). Hasenhuttl has clearly found a new love for the returning Morocco-born 27-year-old.

It’s easy to see why with superb contributions this season for club and country. If he was fit, I think Stuart Armstrong would likely have played in that centre-midfield alongside Ward-Prowse, but Hasenhuttl has shown faith in Elyounoussi and I’m interested to see his contribution over the campaign.

Daily Echo: Moi Elyounoussi is like a new signing for Saints after returning from CelticMoi Elyounoussi is like a new signing for Saints after returning from Celtic