What Southampton’s XI should look like for Premier League opener
Southampton, 11/4 chances with Coral for a top six Premier League finish this season, have once again been one of the busier teams in the summer transfer window.
That and their latest acquisition of Jordy Clasie that took place late on Wednesday night got our football experts thinking, what will Ronald Koeman’s starting XI look like at St Mary’s? We got our heads together and came up with this line-up.
Fraser Forster will probably not play again in 2015 as he recovers from a serious knee injury, so it’s loan signing Stekelenburg that should be between the sticks. Still owned by Fulham, he was given his senior debut by Koeman when they worked together at Ajax.
Right back: Cedric Soares
Portugal defender Soares is one of two signings made to replace Nathaniel Clyne, who joined Liverpool. Other capture Cuco Martina will be covering this berth and others.
Centre back: Jose Fonte
Southampton skipper Fonte is a lock for inclusion and can help compatriot Soares settle into the Premier League. This late bloomer offers a bit more all-round defensive nous than Florin Gardos. This season comes around too quickly for youngsters like Jack Stephens and Jordan Turnbull, who both may be loaned out.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Koeman tries to take Celtic centre back Van Dijk to the south coast, especially as reported rivals for his signature Sunderland have turned their attentions to other targets. Free agent Ron Vlaar has also be linked with the Saints, while Japan’s Maya Yoshida may have to look elsewhere for first-team football.
Left back: Ryan Bertrand
Former Chelsea man Bertrand excelled in his first season at St Mary’s and should kick on, especially with European football to look forward to. He has a real chance to press his international claims by impressing at home and abroad. Matt Targett will act as backup.
Right wing: Dusan Tadic
Serbia star Tadic also impressed during a maiden Premier League campaign, but will also be looking to showcase his talents in the Europa League. He needs to ensure the performances continue, though, as Jay Rodriguez is returning to full fitness after a lengthy injury absence.
Much is made of Southampton’s academy and rightly so; the latest jewel in this crown is Ward-Prowse, who we fancy to establish himself in midfield over Steven Davis. Punters and England fans should watch his progress closely.
Central midfield: Jordy Clasie
Another Koeman acolyte brought from Feyenoord, Clasie offers what his name suggests; classy protection for the back four in the form of a deep-lying playmaker. If Koeman wants a more physical presence, then there’s still Victor Wanyama to bring into the engine room.
Left wing: Sadio Mane
Senegal attacker Mane will probably have to operate from the left once more to accommodate other signings, although the supporting cast behind the Saints’ main striker is looking pretty fluid now. Gaston Ramirez has returned from a loan spell at Hull City where he failed to make much impact, but could he still have a future on the south coast?
Spain cap Juanmi should be linking midfield and attack to bridge the gap between them. Southampton seemed to lack a natural option in this number 10 role at times last term, so it’s all about how he forms a partnership with our final pick that will determine their fortunes.
Centre forward: Graziano Pelle
Italy frontman Pelle has stiff competition from Shane Long, but we’re sticking with him to lead the line. Having two strikers that put themselves about and graft is a nice selection problem for Koeman to have. Odds of 8/5 say Saints will start their Premier League season with a win at St James’ Park as they travel to Newcastle United.