With preseason in full swing and the new season now under a fortnight away, managers will be looking to finalise their squads and…
With preseason in full swing and the new season now under a fortnight away, managers will be looking to finalise their squads and make sure they are ready for the big kick-off on the weekend of August 13th.
Claude Puel has come out and said he is ‘happy’ with his current squad but will not rule out further signings.
In the goalkeeping department, Southampton are sorted now. Fraser Forster will undoubtably be first choice with Alex McCarthy having been brought in from Crystal Palace in order to supply backup to the England international. With Kelvin Davis retiring, Maarten Stekelenburg`s loan expiring before his subsequent move to Everton and Paulo Gazzaniga joining Rayo Vallecano on a season-long loan, a new goalkeeper was needed and McCarthy fills that void. Harry Lewis who joined from Shrewsbury last summer will now be promoted to third choice and will most likely receive some game time in the new EFL Trophy in which Southampton will face Charlton Athletic, Colchester United and Crawley Town in the new format of what was previously the Johnstone`s Paint Trophy.
The full-back positions are also sorted ahead of the new season. Following on from his European Championship heroics, Cedric looks certain to cement his place in the starting eleven. Puel has signed Jeremy Pied who played for him at both Lyon and Nice as backup. The signing of Pied means questions remain over the future of Cuco Martina although with a Europa League campaign to come, squad depth will be needed to allow for rotation. At left-back Ryan Bertrand will surely remain first choice with Matt Targett an adequate replacement should he be required.
Centre-back is a position many Saints fans will need strengthening. Beyond the brilliant pairing of Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk, options seem limited. Maya Yoshida has become a scapegoat among some sections of the Saints support due to a number of errors in games he has played which have sometimes led to goals being conceded and points being dropped. Florin Gardos has barely featured during his two seasons at the club due mainly to injury. Young Jack Stephens and Jordan Turnbull have only played a single game between them above League One level and will not be seen as ready for the Premier League.
In the holding midfield role Southampton have preferred to play a tough-tackling physical midfielder such as Victor Wanyama or Oriol Romeu alongside more of a ball player which has been either Morgan Schneiderlin or Jordy Clasie in recent years. Therefore new signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is not so much a direct Wanyama replacement as a Clasie replacement in the starting eleven. The Dane has had a promising preseason and will most likely start alongside Romeu in front of the back four. Puel has a reputation for bringing through young players with Eden Hazard, Alexandre Lacazette and Yohan Cabaye among those to be given their chance by the Frenchman, perhaps this will prove to be good news for Harrison Reed who appears to be the most promising of the current crop of youngsters looking to break through.
The attacking midfield position will surely be taken by one of two players. Steven Davis had consistently played well in this position and James Ward-Prowse is very capable backup with the added bonus of his set piece specialism. Puel will surely not look to strengthen here.
A new winger is one priority that may be on the Frenchman`s shopping list however. With Sadio Mane leaving, Nathan Redmond has been brought in and having impressed in preseason will most likely play alongside Dusan Tadic. Jay Rodriguez has struggled since his ACL injury two years ago and Lloyd Isgrove is unlikely to get much game time having spent the majority of last season playing for Barnsley in League One. Barcelona`s Cristian Tello and Sofiane Boufal of Lille have been linked.
With the departures of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane who sometimes played alongside the Italian or Shane Long in the forward line, options look light in the attacking department. Whilst Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin are very capable of filling this gap, both have been hampered by major fitness concerns although Austin has had a promising preseason so far. Long will look to lead the line again after an impressive 2015/16 season, however he will struggle as the sole striking option with a reliable fitness and injury record during an extended campaign next year. Despite scoring against Twente last week, doubts exist over Sam Gallagher who failed to score during a poor loan spell at MK Dons last season.
Perhaps the Watford game will come too early for Euro heroes Cedric and Fonte who have only just returned to training. Both Gardos and Rodriguez have struggled with injuries in preseason with the former yet to play a part. Other than that though, the squad is shaping up nicely ahead of the game against the Hornets at St. Marys.