Author Archives: Aidan Small

Souness reveals the truth about Southampton legend Ali Dia

After worming his way into the Southampton line-up through an alleged ‘George Weah’ recommendation, Ali Dia firmly cemented his name in Southampton history as a true cult hero; but according to Graeme Souness, the facts of the story aren’t quite what they’ve been made out to be…

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(or at least that’s what he says)

Once described by Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier as ‘f****** useless’, It’s safe to say that Dia remains a legend on the south coast for reasons different to that of Matt’s.

Dia’s one and only Premier League appearance for Southampton is one of the most bizarre moments in football history, but despite that, Souness remains adamant that he was never fooled.

‘This is the reality, not the stories you’ve seen,’ Souness told Sky Sports last Thursday. ‘The very first training session, we knew he wasn’t the best and wasn’t going to be any good to us.

‘But we had a lot of players out injured, so we kept him on and let him train with us because our numbers were low and we didn’t have a big squad.’

As the week goes on, others are dropping out,’ he added. ‘Terry Cooper says to me: “You know we are going to have to include that fool for the weekend.” I said: “No we can’t do that”.’

‘We had no strikers, so he’s on the bench for the weekend. (Matt) Le Tissier was off after 15 or 20 minutes. You’re looking down the bench, and we’ve got full backs and centre halves and you’re thinking get him (Dia) on, he can run around and be a nuisance.

‘So we put him on and he couldn’t even be a nuisance, so we took him off again.’

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Harry Redknapp claimed that he was also targeted by the same caller, saying: ‘I keep getting phone calls at the training ground from a guy: “Georgie Weah”.

“Lovely George, you wanna play for West Ham?” He said: “No, I have a player for you.”  I thought: “This is a wind-up”.’

Souness wasn’t the only one to receive a call from this mystical ‘George Weah’, however, he was certainly the only one to bite the bait.

‘The stories out there say we were conned or we were tricked,’ Souness concluded.

‘We weren’t tricked or conned. Within the first five minutes of the first training session we knew he was a dumpling.’

Sure you did Graham, sure you did.

Nathan Redmond pledges to give to charity for every goal or assist

It’s safe to say that Nathan Redmond hasn’t had the brightest start to the 2017/18 season, but after joining a charity scheme named Right To Play, the Southampton winger has the perfect incentive to once again get firing on all cylinders. 

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In recent weeks a number of Premier League footballers have hit the headlines for agreeing to donate 1% of their weekly salary toward charity; but rather than giving a weekly fixed percentage, Redmond has opted to become an ambassador for the Right To Play charity, meaning that for every goal or assist he registers in red and white, he’ll provide access to a years education for up to 33 deprived children.

Every week the lives of over one million children are being transformed through the charity, as they play Right To Play games and learn to bring about positive change. 14,400 specially-trained volunteer Coaches are currently delivering programmes focused on the most critical areas of child development: the quality of their education, their ability to stay healthy and their potential to help build peaceful communities. ​​

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It’s only early days working alongside the charity, but already Redmond’s felt great pride through being in the position to help those less fortunate.

“It’s something I felt was right to do and I was very happy to do” said Redmond.

“With every goal and every assist I make a donation which goes straight to them. One donation will help 33 children so that’s a massive difference from one goal or an assist.

“The more I do on the pitch I know subconsciously it’s helping out the kids. I’ve had two assists this season and no goals yet but I’m sure they’ll be coming. Afterwards when the game’s finished, instantly you think about that. I’ve had two assists this season and that’s over 60 kids helped. I’m delighted with that so far.”

An extra incentive to score for Southampton and you’re giving to charity? Now that’s an idea I can get behind, Nathan.

Preview: Southampton vs West Brom

After Southampton failed to take yet another opportunity to build momentum last weekend, Maurico Pellegrino will be desperate for all three points and an entertaining showing at St Mary’s tomorrow. 

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Alongside Pellegrino in the dugout, however, will be Tony Pulis – a man that gets his kicks through clean sheets and dogged defensive performances both home and away. But to find out more about what we can expect from The Baggies tomorrow, I spoke to Alex Newton – a West Brom fan and columnist for The Daily Mail.

How would you summarise your season so far?

It hasn’t been fantastic. From an outside view, you may look at Albion being mid-table and think they’re having a half decent season. The problem is we’ve already played five of the bottom seven sides in the league and have a tough run of fixtures coming up. We’ve thrown three leads away in the final 20 minutes of games already this season which could have seen us be 4th in the table as it stands.

Who do you expect to be your key man this year?

Jonny Evans. After all the transfer talk surrounding him, the skipper decided to stay, and he now has to get his head down and focus on his football. Not only is he a brilliant defender he can organise the entire back line. When Evans plays well we usually get a result.

What would make for a successful season?

Realistically we know top half would be an excellent achievement for the club. With us being in the Premier League for nearly a decade we shouldn’t have to worry about the threat of relegation. It would be great to have a decent run in the FA Cup if we find ourselves mid-table in the league come January.

How have the West Brom fans taken to former Saint, Jay Rodriguez?

Jay’s a model professional which will always go down well at The Hawthorns. He hit the ground running early but has found it difficult in the last few weeks. That being said the fans appreciate his effort upfront and you can see he will always try hard for the team.

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How do teams get the most joy out of your defence?

Pace and trickery on the wings always seem to cause us trouble. It’s clear to see that we’re a physical side so the majority of the time we’re good at defending set pieces. If you can stretch our defense out of position with pace, you’ll usually find success.

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Baggies player; who’s it going to be?

Great question! Despite the language barrier, I’d pick Claudio Yacob. He’s always in the background of player’s photos smiling or causing mischief. I reckon he’d make the time go quickly.

Which Southampton player would you take to join your side?

I’ve always liked Nathan Redmond. He’s quick direct, and I think he’d flourish in a team like West Brom on the opposite wing to Matt Phillips.

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As an outsider looking in, which Baggies player would help to improve Pellegrino’s Saints most?

This is a tricky question as you struggle to score goals like ourselves, but you also let in a fair few easy ones. Nacer Chadli playing in the ten behind your striker(s) could open a lot of opportunities for you I reckon. Failing that I’ve seen a lot of your fans moan about your goalkeeper so maybe Ben Foster too.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Saturday?

1-1. Rodriguez and Gabiadini the scorers.

Southampton keeping tabs on Barcelona’s Paco Alcacer

According to the latest reports from The Guardian, Southampton will look to bolster their frontline this January with the services of Paco Alcacer.

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It’s been stated that Alcacer’s dream move to the Camp Nou hasn’t gone to plan, with the 24-year-old growing increasingly frustrated at his lack of game-time.

Southampton aren’t the only club showing an interest in the Spanish International however, with both Celta Viga and Lille keeping a close watch on the forward too.

But whilst being on the books at Barca will most certainly tempt fans (on top of his fine goalscoring record at Valencia) is this the transfer that Southampton need to solve their troubles in front of goal?

To cut a long explanation short, I’m not entirely convinced this is the type of player that we should be hunting for.

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Alcacer’s stats and reputation would suggest that he can add the extra dimension in attack that Southampton so desperately need, but in my view, he would simply be another body in our crowded search for a solution.

Alcacer typically operates best as a lone forward in either one of a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, aiming largely to wreak havoc from inside the box, using his fine movement to unlock the oppositions defence.

To compensate for Alcacer, Gabbiadini would have to drop deeper or wider in the attack, and this is something that he’s openly spoken out against in his past at Napoli.

A two-pronged partnership is also ruled out in my eyes, as both players regularly look to take up the same areas inside the box. The whole objective of playing a partnership is to allow both players to compliment each other’s strengths, but in the case of Gabbiadini and Alcacer, the duo would be all too similar.

The largest issue regarding Southampton’s attack doesn’t lie with the frontman, it lies with those surrounding him. Blistering pace, unpredictability and direct runs at the defence are three qualities our attack has so sorely missed over the past 12 months. Coincidently this is around the same time that Southampton lost Sadio Mane; a player our club have clearly failed to replace since his departure.

With all things considered, I hope for our sake that Alcacer is an option that Southampton choose not to pursue; the Spaniard is a classy player who will prove to be a fantastic asset for the right side, but this is money that needs to be spent on solving the real issue in our frontline.

Preview: Southampton vs Newcastle United

Two dull weeks of uninspiring International football later, and Southampton are finally back in action.

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Mauricio Pellegrino’s side have had a far from inspiring start to the season, with their only wins of the campaign coming against a ten man West Ham side and Crystal Palace. We’ve choked at the opportunity to punish both Swansea City and Watford at home, so now it’s time to make ammends, as we welcome Newcastle United to St Mary’s tomorrow.

But rather than simply digging out stats and sharing my view on the Magpies, I decided to speak to Adam Keiller – a Newcastle fan and freelance sport journalist – to find out more.

How would you summarise your season so far?

So far I’d say we’re slightly exceeding expectations. Considering we made no marquee signings in the summer, the team is ignoring the pundits predictions of us to struggle. We’re playing for each other, the boss and picking up points where we should be. A draw against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool isn’t half bad either.

Just how adored is Rafa Benetiz?

Benitez is hugely adored up North. He’s brought stability to the team and hope to the fans. He’s leading the club in the right direction and for the first time in a long while, the fans are optimistic about the future thanks to him.

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Who do you expect to be your key man this year?

There’s three or four players I could name here, but it has to be Jamaal Lascelles for me. He is a born leader and recently his performance in games usually dictates the result. If he has a good game we are hard to beat, but when he has a poor performance we tend to struggle. We just hope he can stay fit throughout the season and seeing he has recently signed a new six-year-deal, it’s clear he wants to lead Newcastle to success in the near future.

What would make for a successful season?

Finishing anywhere above 15th would make the fans happy. However, a top half finish would be a huge achievement for us and if we play positively throughout the season, It’s certainly a possibility. Also I think the fans (myself included) would love to see a good domestic cup run. With the big PL teams having their attention elsewhere, I feel we should take the FA cup seriously this season, playing a strong squad every round. A day out at Wembley would be bliss for the Toon army.

How do teams get the most joy out of your defence?

In recent years we would crumble defensively after conceding, which usually lead to us letting in four or five. But now we have a defensive minded manager in Benitez, we seem to stay composed and well drilled. However, I would like to see a new left back at the club. We currently have a centre back playing there in Chancel Mbemba. He’s been putting in a shift but in terms of other options, I’m not confident in the replacements we have.

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Newcastle player; who’s it going to be?

I’m gonna say Mikel Merino. He is a creative player who can find his way out of a sticky situation. He seems like a good laugh too.

Which Southampton player would you take to join the Magpies?

The way the Saints are playing at the moment I wouldn’t take many, but I’d certainly fancy Virgil Van Dijk at Newcastle. A centre back partnership between him and Lascelles would be very hard to beat. Even the top PL strikers would have a difficult 90 minutes against them.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

We have struggled at St. Mary’s in recent years but seeing as Southampton cannot seem to score at home and after a positive result for us against Liverpool, I’m gonna go for a 0-2 win for the Toon.

Theo Walcott: a return to the South coast?

According to the latest reports from The Express, Southampton are willing to spend up to £15M to form a reunion with Theo Walcott this January.

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The article states that Arsenal are looking to reshape their squad over the next two transfer windows, and as a result, Walcott will be free to search for a new club.

But is this just a typical transfer rumour created by putting two and two together? Or could this deal be exactly what Southampton need at this moment in time?

As I stated (screamed) on numerous occasions prior to the 2017/18 season kicking off, Southampton desperately needed a quick goalscoring winger. The failure to replace Sadio Mane’s output from the season before was criminal – not only were the fans starved of entertaining football, but it could also be argued that Claude Puel lost his job as a result of the transfer too.

In the form of Theo Walcott however, numerous boxes that have been left unticked since Mane’s departure, could potentially be crossed through.

Regardless of all the stick that Walcott’s had thrown his way over the past two seasons, he continues to ask questions of the defence with his blistering pace, and he still has an eye for goal – two things our side have so sorely missed in recent times.

Even last season when many were writing him off, the 28-year-old managed to record 10 Premier League goals and find the back of the net four times in the Champions League. And a year prior to this whilst battling injury, he maintained an impressive strike rate whenever an opportunity was handed his way; scoring seven goals in just 18 Premier League and Champions League starts.

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Whilst that may not be good enough for some at a club of Arsenal’s stature, numbers like these would have been a very welcome addition to Southampton’s squad last season. Especially when you consider that we finished our League campaign with Nathan Redmond as top goalscorer (7).

A player that’s shown his value in the Champions League would no doubt be a valuable asset in our hunt for Europa League football.

However, there are of course some potential negatives to this deal, or at least some points to consider.

Whilst this signing would follow Southampton’s recent trend of signing out of favour players from “big clubs”, Walcott would surely hold very little sell-on value.

Going off the assumption that he signs a four year deal and decides to see three of those years out, we’d be flogging him on at the age of 31 years old; it’s safe to say that financial profit wouldn’t be the reason for chasing Walcott’s signature.

On top of this, Walcott’s overall game has often been criticised at Arsenal due to his over-reliance on his pace in the final third. He plays a very simple and often repetitive game of looking to get in behind, lacking the versatility to ask the defence different types of questions.

Despite this, there’s a saying that goes “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and I can’t help but feel this is applicable to Walcott’s style of play. The same attacking approach that Walcott frustratingly applies at Arsenal, could be the same approach that Southampton so desperately need in their frontline.

The bottom line however is that Southampton Football Club need goals, and at this moment in time I’m not convinced we’re in the position to roll the dice with another “could be” or “potentially” type signing.

We need someone that’s willing to charge at defences, get in behind, and above all else, take the chances that fall their way. With that considered, the acquisition of Walcott would be a welcome addition to the squad, and in terms of proven quality, would be as safe as we can possibly secure.

The latest twist in the Van Dijk tale

Just three days after making his much publicised return to the Southampton starting line-up, Virgil Van Dijk has once again managed to get his name plastered over all the largest news outlets.

The International break can be a painful and frustrating time as a football fan; not only because we’re often starved of entertainment, but also because of the endless stream of transfer focused news and gossip, that emanates from the various international camps.

Players back in their home country and away from their club’s press officer are often free to essentially speak with whoever they (or their agent) want, about whatever they (of their agent) want.

When asked about his future on the South Coast, Van Dijk responded “Halfway through the season, maybe we can see what’s possible” before going on to claim that he has “no regrets” about asking to leave the Saints.

In isolation, the quotes really aren’t that bad, and similar quotes have been made by plenty of players before whilst on International duty. However, add a little context and it’s understandable why these quotes have left so many Southampton fans angry with the Dutchman.

First and foremost, he’s continued to show almost no regard for our club. This behaviour is remarkably insensitive and some would say immature – almost playground like – as he comments on an issue that should now be put to bed or at least filed away, and untouched until further action can actually be taken.

Secondly, after wearing our colours for a mere 90 minutes in a single fixture, Virgil has entertained questions regarding his future. I’m sure that I’m not alone in hoping he’d focus primarily on helping us to put points on the board and keep clean sheets, before starting to vocalise dreaming about Champions League nights?

Let’s not forget that last weekend he got the nod over both Wesley Hoedt and Jack Stephens too, who had done nothing wrong to lose their place in the starting line-up.

We know that you want to leave Virgil. You’ve made it quite clear, and any possible suitors most certainly know that too, but at the moment (whilst employed by SFC) it would serve your cause better to use action on the pitch instead of words off of it.

So with that considered, what would have been wrong with simply deflecting the question?

Or even giving a generic “All I’m focused on is Southampton” PR answer?

I for one hate those dull as dishwater comments, but they are commonplace for a reason, and I can’t help but feel this situation is a prime example.

You want to leave? That’s fine. But at the very least respect the club that you signed a six year contract with, and show at least a drop of respect for the fans who backed you throughout your return from injury.

Luciano Vietto remains a target for Southampton this January

With little evidence suggesting that Southampton’s goalscoring woes will soon come to an end, reports of interest in Atletico Madrid’s, Luciano Vietto, have once again resurfaced.

According to numerous sources, Atletico Madrid are ready to cash in on Vietto this January, after his two-year spell with the club has failed to take either party forward.

The 23-year-old striker was considered to be a high priority transfer for Southampton last summer, but due to a situation outside of the club’s control, any hope of a potential move was soon ruled out.

The issue at hand was the complicated matter of resolving Diego Costa’s future, who had been banished from Antonio Conte’s Chelsea plans, and went AWOL to force a reunion with Diego Simeone.

When Southampton made their push for the Argentinian forward, it was late on in the window and a resolution to Costa’s situation seemed far from over – forcing Simeone to take no risks in waving goodbye to Vietto.

Since the window closed however, a deal has been struck between the two European giants, and Costa will now make his return to La Liga when the transfer window re-opens (January).

This is music to the ears of Les Reed and Mauricio Pellegrino, as the arrival of Costa will consequently make room for the departure of Vietto, who has since become surplus to requirements.

As for the qualities of the player himself, he seems to fit the Southampton transfer blueprint down to a T; he’s got time on his side, boasts serious technical ability, and is being poached from a European powerhouse (a common theme amongst recent Saints transfers).

During Vietto’s time in La Liga, he’s shown that he works best when playing just off another forward, using his close control, passing ability and illusive movement to ask questions of the oppositions defence.

In theory, I could imagine him deployed just behind Manolo Gabbiadini, being used to help battle the isolation our Italian forward is currently facing.

But whilst this looks like a tempting transfer and one that we would chase, I’m not sure if it’s exactly what we need. Whilst Vietto showed fine promise during his days at Villarreal, he’s since recorded just seven goals in his last 40 appearances for Atletico and Sevilla.

My only worry is that Southampton boast too many “maybe’s” and “what if’s” in their frontline at the minute, and they simply need a proven goalscorer – something Vietto can’t promise to be.

Preview: Stoke City vs Southampton

After a convincing victory over Roy Hodgson’s Palace, and an encouraging performance against Manchester United, it appears that we’re starting to see the foundations of Mauricio Pellegrino’s work. 

But whilst we know what we can come to expect from Southampton this weekend, just how much do we know about our upcoming opponents?

To find out more, I spoke to Stoke City’s very own club journalist, Jon Sidaway.

How would you summarise Stoke City’s season so far?

We’ve had a tough start, but we have picked up a satisfying four points from games against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea at the bet365 Stadium prior to tomorrow’s match as well as drawing at West Brom – who have become somewhat of a bogey team in recent seasons. We played ok on the opening day against Everton and were unfortunate to lose in my opinion, while our other defeat at Newcastle was a little disappointing. That said, I think a lot of people are happy with our return of five points from six games, particularly against quality and stubborn opposition who we failed to take many points off last season. Performances have genuinely been ok, although I feel we haven’t truly threatened or punished teams enough in the final third despite seeing much of the ball in most games. We’re a side that is perhaps still gelling after several summer signings, so I’ve no doubt that things will click and come to fruition when the season starts to pick up pace. Overall, I would say we have had a promising start whilst seeing some encouraging signs.

Who has been the brightest light from last summer’s transfer business?

We signed some top players in the summer including the experience of Darren Fletcher who has made a massive difference, while Maxim Choupo-Moting arrived as an unknown quantity on a free transfer but has impressed in the games he’s played. For me though, Kurt Zouma has been the brightest signing for us and it’s a massive shame we only have him on a season-long loan from Chelsea. His physical presence is outstanding and he has a surprising amount of pace for a big guy! He has certainly helped strengthen things at the back and he has quickly become a favourite amongst players, staff and supporters alike. He’s a bright young player who you just know will go on to have an impact at a bigger club. His reading of the game is very good, he’s not scared to put a foot in and he excels in confidence on the ball when looking to play out from the back.

Who do you think could be your star man this season?

It’s a big season for Xherdan Shaqiri, both on an individual and Club level. He will obviously want to have a good campaign and be in the best form possible heading into next summer’s World Cup while he has had to become the main marquee man for us following the departure of Marko Arnautovic to West Ham. That’s nothing new for him though because he’s the face of Swiss football and played for Bayern Munich and Inter Milan who are elite clubs, so he will thrive under that added bit of pressure like all top-class players do. He arrived back from pre-season in good shape and has certainly looked up for it ever since. The main objective for ‘Shaq’ is to stay fit and get a run of games under his belt because that was a burden for him last season and when he’s out of the team you really do miss his presence. If he can do that, then he will thrive and be our biggest threat in attacking areas. If you could pick any Southampton player to join The Potters, who would it be? Southampton

If you could pick any Southampton player to join The Potters, who would it be?

Southampton are notorious for having top quality players, as well as nurturing youngsters from their academy into the first team, so it’s quite difficult to choose just one player. I look at players like Virgil Van Dijk who is strong and composed alongside James Ward-Prowse who really is an exciting talent. Then there’s Shane Long, who I really rate, he’s a workhorse and is constantly looking to chase down defenders and cause a problem. If I were to assess our current situation, then I would have to choose someone like Ryan Bertrand. We’re crying out for an experienced wing-back, we currently have Mame Diouf playing that role who – to his credit – has performed admirably, but that’s not his natural position. Bertrand has pace and strength alongside vital top-flight and international experience. He’s exciting and is at the prime of his career and although I would class him as a fullback – with how popular the 3-5-2 wing-back formation is lately – he has all the attributes to be a success in that role.

What would make for a successful season?

The manager’s aim is to always better the previous season’s finish, so ending the 2016/17 campaign in 13th was a disappointment, especially after three successive 9th place finishes in the Premier League. The primary aim is to better that this season and cement ourselves in the top 10 at the very least. We’re ambitious and we want to do as well as possible, so if we can pick up positive results and remain consistent then there is no reason why we can’t push for 6th place and potentially bring European football back to the Potteries. To do that, we need to top our recent positive results against Arsenal and Manchester United by taking as many points off the likes of Southampton and other clubs who share the same ambition. There’s no reason why we can’t because, on our day, we can really punish teams. The biggest blow is that we’re out of the Carabao Cup, a competition we wanted to do well in. It’s been a long time since this football club won a major trophy so hopefully we can get the luck of the draw and perform well when we kick-off in the FA Cup in January.

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Potters player; who’s it going to be?

We have a quality dressing room and there are some good characters, but most importantly they’re all very good people. But if I were to choose just one it would have to be Crouchy! He’s a great guy to be around and has a very witty, yet chilled personality. He has time for everyone and I can’t imagine there are many people out there who dislike him. Plus, on a desert island, he would come in handy if ever there was a coconut too high on the tree!

And finally, what is your prediction for this Saturday?

As I said, it’s important we follow up our results against Arsenal and Manchester United by recording a positive scoreline in these types of games. It will certainly be a tricky contest and I think it will be a very close encounter. Either side has the potential to nick it, so it’s pivotal we look to control the game from the word go, especially at home. When the crowd are behind us, there’s no sound like it and you can see it really spurs the team on. I also think after the last week, we will be eager to get back on track so I’m going to go for a hard fought 2-1 Stoke City win.

Fight and a physical presence has returned to Southampton’s spine

Whilst goalscoring woes have been the go-to talking point surrounding Southampton Football Club in recent weeks, it appears that many are failing to see the remarkable work being completed down the other end of the pitch.

I’m of course talking about the addition of Mario Lemina, and Wesley Hoedt.

Last season Claude Puel was forced into fielding a makeshift defensive midfielder alongside Oriol Romeu, whilst having to fight the fires of Virgil Van Dijk’s injury and Jose Fonte’s mid-season departure.

And whilst individuals such as Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens were consequently able to develop themselves as top flight defenders, we were undeniably prone to conceding sloppy goals, crumbling late on, and being bullied in the air.

With thanks to Mauricio Pellegrino, the boards investment and the infamous black box, however, Southampton have once again been able to forge a strong, physical and dependable defensive spine – a common feature of the most successful Southampton sides in recent Premier League seasons.  

Each of those sides were composed of two defensive midfielders that can impose themselves on the opposition off the ball, whilst still holding the technical ability to cooly maintain possession and effectively break from back to front. Similarly the centre-backs must have an aerial presence and be able to work the opposition’s midfield out of shape, whilst also having the eye to execute an inch perfect diagonal ball (see Toby Alderweireld, Virgil Van Dijk, and now Hoedt).

With the signings of Lemina and Hoedt, Southampton have the potential to replicate that same spine.

Lemina has so far proven himself to be the athletic box to box that everyone was hoping for, and a whole lot more. He’s intelligent in possession, boasts quick feet, a fantastic defensive work rate, and upper body strength that’s incomparable to others his size. Over the past 12 months, Southampton have been rightfully criticized for lackluster play in their midfield, with players all too often turning toward the safe option. Lemina, however, is quite the opposite, with his style largely revolving around bringing a high intensity to the game both on and off the ball.

It seems that Romeu has finally found himself a midfielder partner that he can rely on week in, week out…

Then we come to Wesley Hoedt, who’s added the muscle and aerial presence that our backline severely lacked during Van Dijk’s absence. Yoshida and Stephens improved ten fold last season in terms of their defensive awareness and distribution of the ball, but despite this, they still held the tendency to miss out on those all-important aerial duels – an issue that no longer exists with Hoedt leading our backline.

At this moment in time, Southampton not only boast a supreme amount of quality both in front and at the heart of the defence, but also an abundance of options.

You have, Mario Lemina – the heartbeat of our midfield. Oriol Romeu – the anchor. Wesley Hoedt – the man mountain. Virgil Van Dijk – the complete defender. Maya Yoshida – the ideal backup. And even Jack Stephens – the clubs work in progress.

Here we have the personnel to effectively play numerous formations, apply great competition on fellow team-mates, and even approach fixtures in a number of different manners.

Southampton most certainly failed in their hunt for goals in the previous summer transfer window, but credit must be given for their seemingly impeccable defensive recruitment. If we’re going to continue struggling to score goals, we should at least be aiming to make the opposition do the same…