Transfers

Loan report: Olufela Olomola

A number of Southampton’s academy graduates have been sent out on loan this season in desperate need of vital first team experience, but one youngster in particular has made their mark at their new club quicker than anybody else.

Whilst many academy graduates initially struggle to handle the physicality and competitive nature of the Football League, Olufela Olomola has appeared unfazed, kicking off his loan move with Yeovil Town in the finest of fashions.

After five League Two appearances, Olomola has already found the back of the net on four separate occasions, averaging a goal for every 93 minutes that he’s played. What’s even more impressive about this however, is that he’s managed to do this with just six attempts at goal – missing the target with just one attempt in green and white colours so far.

But believe it or not, I haven’t spent my last few Saturday’s keeping a close eye over Olomola and Yeovil Town. So rather than sitting here and rambling away about his fine form whilst out on loan, I decided to speak to Stephen D’Albiac – a sports writer at the Western Gazette and the Somerset Live.

How have the Yeovil fans taken to Olufela Olomola so far?

SD: So far, very well. Fela has made a great start and provided a constant attacking threat. He’s clearly a determined young player and his attitude has certainly endeared him to the supporters, along with the goals that he has added.

What does he bring to the side that you didn’t have before?

SD: He has helped Yeovil become an attacking threat, which is something that was lacking last season. He’s strong, direct and not afraid to run at defenders, and his pace and the way in which he has linked up with fellow attackers Francois Zoko and Otis Khan has been a real threat to the opposition.

What strengths has he shown?

SD: As before, he’s strong and direct, able to run past defenders and his finishing has been very good. He never stops running either which is a quality that any supporter likes.

What areas of his game still need work?

SD: There have been a couple of times during games this season where he has decided to go it alone when he should have picked passes out, but that is only a very minor criticism given what he has brought to the team so far.

Olomola’s loan deal ends in January; do you think the club should look to extend his stay?

SD: Absolutely, and I would go so far as to say it should be the club’s number one priority between now and January. I’m sure the club will try to extend his deal. They were stung in the loan market last season when they lost Ryan Hedges – who was equally impressive – to Barnsley in January and they will want to do everything they can to avoid a repeat of that. As long as Fela keeps scoring goals and continuing his development, I don’t see any reason why Southampton would not be happy to agree an extension.

And finally, have the fans conjured up a song for him yet?

SD: Not yet, but there’s still plenty of time! If he keeps banging in the goals then I’m sure he’ll get one.

 

Review: The Ins and outs of Southampton’s summer transfer window

The 2017 summer transfer window has had all the drama and rumours of recent seasons, except there’s just one little difference; no key departures.

So, with that being said, there’s only one place to start as I begin my review of Southampton’s summer transfer window.

There’s been social media stalking, airplane tracking, and even hunts for a certain Mercedes people carrier, but with August now behind us, the future of Virgil Van Dijk has finally been decided.

The Dutchman will remain on the South Coast until at least the January transfer window, after not a single bid was filed for the center back throughout the entire summer.

Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Juventus and even Barcelona reportedly held an interest in Van Dijk, but with thanks to Les Reed and co, the club have been able to retain their finest asset.

Being able to have a player of Van Dijk’s quality in the side is obviously a huge boost for the club, but most importantly, we’ve now set a precedent for future transfer windows. The pressure that the club have been under with Van Dijk has been like no other saga before, so to stand strong against the players wishes will send a message to any players in the future who wish to follow in Virgil’s footsteps.  

Van Dijk now has to get his head down, apologise and give his all to Southampton Football Club. If he decides not to do this and therefore not play, then he misses the opportunity to play for his country in the World Cup (if Holland even qualify, of course).

Regardless of if they do however, he will still wish to be firing on all cylinders when the time of his inevitable transfer does come around. He simply has no other choice but to find any last professionalism he has left in him, and right his wrongs of the summer.

From here Van Dijk can get back to showing his incredible talent on the field, Southampton get an extra years service from a world class defender, and he gets his dream move at the end of it all. Everyone’s a winner.

Incomings

Jan Bednarek – signed from Lech Poznan for a reported £5M, the Polish U21 International appears to be one for the future. With Hoedt, Van Dijk, Stephens and Yoshida above him in the pecking order, it looks likely that the 21-year-old will spend his first season at the club working with the U23’s. I’ve seen little so far to leave me excited about this signing, but developing players is what Southampton do best, so give this one some time.

Mario Lemina – pinched from Juventus for a club record fee of £18.1M, this is yet another example of Southampton’s latest transfer strategy; snatching the fringe players from Europe’s elite. Lemina is an athletic, powerful, box to box midfielder, who boasts the defensive mindset to help Oriol in the middle of the park. Early showings suggest that he will be used as Southampton’s midfield outlet for turning defence into attack. He adds much needed energy into a Southampton midfield that was previously lacking legs.

Wesley Hoedt – The arrival of Hoedt for £15M is one that truly met the needs of the fans. Whilst Yoshida has stepped up massively and Stephens is an incredible prospect, the two have their weaknesses as a partnership; they are prone to being dragged out of position, have often crumbled under pressure and are painfully weak in the air. With the addition of Hoedt however, these issues have certainly been addressed (particularly the latter). Of those to contest 50+ aerial duels in Serie A this term, only Bruno Alves (79.3%) came close to Hoedt in the air, who recorded a staggering 84.1%. Standing at 6ft 4 it would be easy to label him as this battering ram of a defender, but in truth, he’s built up quite the reputation as a ball playing center back (watch out for some delightful 40-yard diagonals with his left foot). It’s brilliant to see that this signing is an addition to the squad, rather than a replacement.

Departures

Jay Rodriguez – Jay had a wonderful five years at the club and left us fans with nothing but good memories, but this transfer was best for all parties involved. The club had moved on and no longer saw a space for him in the side, whilst Rodriguez needed a new challenge to rediscover his love for the game – with that considered, accepting a £12 fee from West Brom is just common sense. Rodriguez is (was) a fantastic system based player, so given how organised a Tony Pulis side tends to be, this move could certainly work out. Back when Rodriguez was working under Pochettino, he would persistently make runs from the wide left into the edge of the box; this is a typical feature of a Pulis wide man, so I wouldn’t mind betting he can notch a fair few this season. All the best Jay, just don’t go scoring against us.

Jordy Clasie – once linked with a move to Manchester United to work under Louis Van Gaal, it’s fair to say that this transfer never quite worked out, and it’s all rather sad really. Having dropped behind Lemina, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Davis and even Hojbjerg in the pecking order, Clasie’s loan move to Club Brugge was needed simply for the players own development. He never really put a foot wrong when he stepped out onto the pitch, but at the same time, it never really clicked either. Whether it was the Premier League’s physicality, pace, or maybe just a lack of trust from managers, I know that Southampton fans will now be sure to keep a close eye on the Belgian First Division title race…

This brings about an end to my review for the summer transfer window, but I’ve got to admit, I find myself a tad frustrated that I’m not writing about an addition to our front line –  we’ve been crying out for a goal-scoring winger for over 12 months now.

All too often Southampton have worked so effectively in the first two-thirds of the pitch, only to lack that final touch of quality when it really matters. I can’t help but feel this is one hell of a gamble to take, and for that, I can’t particularly label this window a true success. We could easily be left looking red faced two months down the line when we continue to lack that missing piece in attack. 

From here on I can only pray that with the fine management of Mauricio Pellegrino, we can put an end to our misery in front of goal, and return to our fluid and free-scoring ways.

Les Reed himself stated at the end of the season that this summer would be a quiet one – in terms of both ins and outs – so for that Les, I take my hat off to you. He’d have been the first and main figure to take criticism and abuse if he wasn’t true to his word word, so when a job is well done, credit is certainly due. 

The same old story

Mauricio Pellegrino remains undefeated in the Premier League, yet the cracks of last season are still there to be seen.

After once again failing to deliver the thrilling and fluid attacking football that so many fans desire, some initial worries and fears appear to be settling in. My answer to this is that whilst they are indeed justified, it’s important to remember that Pellegrino is no magician.

We can see that the Argentine is looking to implement a controlled style of play coupled with a high intensity in pressing and defending. This has seen Southampton record two clean sheets from three Premier League fixtures without the services of both Virgil Van Dijk, and our new boy Wesley Hoedt.

This limited defence has shown fantastic maturity at times, displaying a fine understanding of Pellegrino’s defensive demands, whilst the midfield pairing of Mario Lemina and Oriol Romeu hold fantastic promise looking forward. Romeu offers defensive security and physicality, whilst Lemina is an outlet to turn defence into attack with his athleticism.

Unsurprisingly however, we’ve continued to crumble in the final third, with inexcusable mistakes letting both us (the fans) and the manager down. Poor touches, wayward passing and out-right embarrassing composure in front of goal; you name it and we’ve done it.

It’s clear to see just how well Pellegrino has already organised both his backline and those protecting it, so with that and our poor form in front of goal last season considered, I cannot help but conclude that this issue runs far deeper than the manager.

This is an issue within the personnel of our squad, and regardless of who we could ever possibly have in charge, the issue would still remain.

Southampton are a club famed for their tendency to coach and develop players rather than run to the cheque book, but in our current situation this is something that we simply can’t afford to do.

We’re crying out for a pacey and unpredictable goal threat from wide areas – someone that’s in the same mould of Sadio Mane, a player who I personally believe, sparked the beginning of Southampton’s poor form in front of goal.

No, I’m not slipping into meltdown, and no, I’m not even fearing relegation. I’ve seen plenty that’s left me positive for the season ahead, but we are a club that boasts ambitions to once again fly our flag in European competitions and challenge the status quo.

Such ambitions will be hard to obtain (and quite frankly ridiculous to expect) without investment before the window closes. So let’s act now in the market and as a club truly get behind our manager, Mauricio Pellegrino – something both the board and fans arguably failed to do last season.

Hoedt’s transfer to Southampton confirmed as imminent

The wishes of Southampton fans will soon come true, with Wesley Hoedt’s transfer from Lazio to Southampton all but complete.

For weeks now the rumours have been circulating regarding the future of the Dutch centre-back, but yesterdays quotes from Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi have brushed aside any remaining doubts.

“The boy wants to play with more continuity. He just doesn’t have the opportunity here. A dissatisfied player can not stay. By tomorrow he will go to Southampton. He and (Balde) Keita will have to be replaced.”

This follows on from comments made by Lazio’s sporting director Igili Tare, who stated that Hoedt “requested to be transferred.

“He wants to be a starter in England and will be transferred to Southampton in the near future.

“He has had a positive experience here in Rome. I wish him all the best.”

The original fee offered to Lazio was believed to be in the region of £15.5M, but Sky in Italy have since stated that the final deal is nearing £17M. This would mean that Southampton have now twice beaten their club-record transfer fee prior to this window – £16M paid for Sofiane Boufal last summer.

What appears to be most encouraging about this deal however, is the numerous reliable sources claiming that this transfer bears no implications on Virgil Van Dijk’s future. Hoedt is being signed to strengthen our defensive options and hopefully form a double Dutch partnership within our back line – only time will tell with the latter however.

Will Hoedt make an instant impact for the Saints this season? See for yourself as tickets for Southampton games this season are available from Footballticketpad.comWhilst the club may be looking for more goals this season, adding Hoedt’s quality to the defence can only help the teams performance.

With Hoedt’s arrival on the South coast imminent and Southampton standing strong over Van Dijk, it’s not long now until we can see a Mauricio Pellegrino team firing on all cylinders.

Southampton bid €17M for Lazio’s Wesley Hoedt

According to the latest reports by Sky Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, Southampton have made a €17M offer for Lazio’s Wesley Hoedt.

The report states that the bid was submitted last night, and whilst it’s still yet to be accepted, the €17M on the table does match Lazio’s initial valuation of the player at the start of this window.

To many looking in from the outside this will be considered an attempt to secure Virgil Van Dijk’s replacement, but given the clubs consistently strong stance on the situation, this could still be the Fonte funds being reimbursed.  Reports from the ever reliable Simon Peach have also reinforced that.

This report will no doubt be encouraging news for fans, who despite feeling optimistic about life under Mauricio Pellegrino, can see that our current defence doesn’t match up to that of previous seasons.

Whilst Maya Yoshida greatly improved last season and Jack Stephens is proving himself to be a promising talent, fans are hoping for a little more ambition as teams around us continue to strengthen in the transfer market.

As a pair the two have put in some fantastic performances, but they still hold the tendency to get bullied in the air, drawn out of position and left exposed. In a dream scenario Yoshida can act as reliable back-up, whilst we allow Stephens to progress alongside a player of Hoedt’s quality.

The Dutchman has proven himself to be a strong and dependable centre-back in the top flight of Italian football for the past two seasons, helping Lazio to finish eighth and fifth respectively.

Of those to contest 50+ aerial duels in Serie A this term, only Bruno Alves (79.3%) came close to Hoedt in the air, who recorded a staggering 84.1%. Given Southampton’s evident shortcomings in the air at the minute, this interest certainly doesn’t surprise me. Especially when his ability to build from the back has also been praised during his time at Lazio – something that’s to be expected if you wish to be a Southampton centre-back.

An insight into Mario Lemina

Whilst some were bemoaning Southampton’s lack of transfer activity this summer, the board decided to respond in the finest fashion; by securing the services of Juventus’s Mario Lemina for a club-record fee.

The midfielder has joined the club on a five-year contract for an initial £15.4m, that has the potential to rise to £18.1m. Lemina has been detailed as an athletic, powerful, box-to-box midfielder, who is capable of initiating counter attacks, whilst also boasting the defensive mindset to help out his midfield partner; good news for Oriol.

Lemina spent his youth career developing with FC Lorient in France, rising up the ranks to make his first team debut at just 18 years old. During his first and only season with the Ligue 1 outfit, he greatly impressed and soon after prompted Marseille to chase for his signature. He joined the club at the start of the 2013-14 season, and whilst he struggled to make his mark in the side during his first year, his talent was clear to see. It was with the appointment of Marco Biesla in May 2014 however, which brought about the Gabonese International’s finest form. Lemina played a vital role in helping Marseille finish fourth in the Ligue 1 table.

Throughout the summer of 2015, Lemina was the host of plenty of Premier League attention (by some accounts, this is when Southampton’s interest started) but on deadline day, it was Juventus who came out on top. They signed Lemina on a season long loan with a view to a permanent at the end of the season, and over the next year he faced the impossible challenge of fighting for a place amongst Juve’s midfield. Despite only starting seven Serie A fixtures, he did show glimpses of his talent, causing Juventus to activate the €9.5M release clause agreed in his loan deal. The following season however would follow the same story line as his first year with the Old Lady, and this brings us to today…

To gain further insight into just what type of player we’re acquiring, I spoke with Juventus fan, Marco Messina – the owner of ItalianFootballTV.

“Mario Lemina is a young player – 23 years old. He’s raw but you can see his talent shine through. Unfortunately I’ve never been a big fan of him to be honest; he’s a good dribbler but far too raw for a team like Juventus. Maximiliano Allegri actually liked him if you remember that he was subbed on many times in the Champions League. His time at Juventus wasn’t the best, as there were too many good players in front of him, and unfortunately he wasn’t good enough to ever break through. The general feeling is that Juventus fans are happy Lemina is leaving as he was holding up a spot for a better player in the squad. Maybe the Premier League could suit him better and at a club like Southampton, he’s actually going to get real time to play so it could be perfect for him.”

Could Southampton Move for Nicolai Muller This Summer?

Nicolai Muller isn’t a household name in European football but he could mature into a top talent should he move to the Premier League this summer. Southampton have been linked with the 29-year-old for well over a month now but those links have intensified now that Muller has rejected a contract extension with current club Hamburg. He has been on Southampton’s radar for some time and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Mauricio Pellegrino’s side make a concrete bid for the winger.

Back in 2015, he scored one of the most important goals in Hamburg’s 128-year history; a winner against Karlsruher that helped the club avoid relegation. Since then, Muller has blossomed into a fan favourite with the Hamburg faithful but he is out of contract next summer and the club may push to sell the wantaway winger in the next month.

With 14 goals in 49 appearances over the last two seasons, Muller has been a key figure for Hamburg but it is now time to move on. At 29 years old, Muller has to move now or he’ll never go. According to various reports, Saints and fellow Premier League outfit West Ham were interested in signing Muller back in July and a move to St Mary’s could materialise if Pellegrino is still interested.

At the time of writing, Hamburg are priced at 2/1 for relegation this season according to Bundesliga betting odds and Muller might want to get out now in order to preserve his reputation. According to various reports, Wolfsburg and Schalke, arguably better placed to avoid dropping down to Germany’s second tier, have shown interest in signing the winger and a move to a rival could be on the cards.

Hamburg want to keep the player but the club are in a difficult position. Should Saints come in with an offer that they can’t refuse, Hamburg will almost certainly accept. From there, it is a matter of convincing Muller to leave his native Germany for England and the Premier League. If Pellegrino can convince Muller that he will be a valuable member of his squad, he could push to join Saints before the end of August.

Saints could do with somebody like Muller to keep defenders on the back foot. Yes, he is a relatively unknown quantity but that could work in Pellegrino’s favour – signing the Hamburg man might be straightforward if Southampton can fend off West Bromwich Albion. His pace and tenacity out wide would certainly give Saints an edge and new dimension going forward and Shane Long could prosper from Muller’s blistering speed.

Hamburg have been flirting with relegation from the Bundesliga for a few years now and Muller knows that the club are on a downward slope. Muller was hampered by injury last season and he was sorely missed – they always tend to perform better with the 29-year-old in the side. With five goals and six assists in 22 Bundesliga appearances, Muller had a solid year statistically and Saints would benefit from his impact. Over to you, Mr Pellegrino…

Southampton F.C. – a plethora of attacking talent

Since the beginning of the summer transfer window, we as fans have been inundated with attacking talent in the Premier League – It’s truly a neutral’s dream-league of world-class strikers, wingers and attacking midfielders ranging from all areas of the table.

Teams like West Ham have brought in a proven goal-scorer in the form of Javier Hernández, Manchester United have purchased arguably the best striker in the league in Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea have bought a very promising Spaniard in Álvaro Morata, whilst other teams such as Man City and Tottenham have retained their star strikers Harry Kane and Sergio Agüero.

But whilst this has left many football fans up and down the country excited with their new signings, I’ve seen some Southampton fans lose sight of the talent that we have sitting before our very eyes.

I personally believe that at St. Mary’s, we too have a lot of attacking flair – arguably even more than in seasons gone by – and as I have already alluded to in a previous article, some of those players will have their first full pre-season at the club.

The Finisher

I have my reservations about Charlie Austin’s talent as a footballer on the whole; he is not very athletic, quick, or even entirely skilful. However, the man is a finisher. In the 2016/17 season, Austin scored six and assisted once in 11 premier league starts, and in the 2014/15 premier league campaign, he scored 18 times and assisted five times in 35 starts, for a QPR side that was relegated. Whilst I do not like to heavily rely on stats, no one can argue with Austin’s finishing ability and I am definitely of the opinion that he can score 15+ PL goals, should he play most games.

I do have a few worries with Austin, though. Primarily, I’m not sure he fits into Mauricio Pellegrino’s high-pressing style of play: he isn’t quick enough nor does he have the stamina to press a top-flight defence and latch on to loose balls. I hope that his lust for goals can sway Pellegrino onside, and to push us on in the hunt for more European football.

The Space Finder

His Italian heritage isn’t the only thing that makes many pundits connect him to Filippo Inzaghi; Manolo Gabbiadini’s sheer ability to find pockets of space and get beyond defenders despite his lack of natural pace is astonishing. With four goals in his first three premier league games, we thought he could set the league on fire before his injury at Tottenham, after which he struggled to find the net. However, considering he slotted straight into the side without having a chance to fully train with his teammates, and without any knowledge of the English language, he was an absolute hit. My hope for Manolo is that he uses the full pre-season under the new manager to fully comprehend the language and style of play, whilst also developing cohesive relationships on the pitch with the other players. Solely based on his first four games, including a stellar EFL cup final performance, we could see 15-20 Premier League goals from the Italian in the 2017/18 campaign.

One other point on Gabbiadini is his versatility: he can provide goals as a lone striker, he can cut inside from the right wing as more of an inside forward to compliment Austin, and I believe that with his abilities he could play just behind a striker in the “number 10” role, as more of a shadow striker. His capability to play a number of roles and positions will make him one of Pellegrino’s favourite players, and scare the life out of PL defences.

The Back-up Speedster

Whilst last season he was more the villain of the year rather than star of the season, Shane Long provides much needed cover for our main two strikers. In the 2015/16 season under Ronald Koeman, he played a crucial role in securing Europa League football for the Saints, by chasing down loose balls, pressing defenders and through some instinctive finishing, so his value must not be forgotten. I believe he will be an asset to the squad, playing mostly EFL and FA cup games, providing depth and competition for the aforementioned strikers.

As I have also mentioned, Long is ideal for systems that look to press defences in order to cause mistakes and create more chances. Pellegrino may find that Long is his perfect striker for this system, and I am hoping that under a new, more attack-minded manager, the Irishman can get back to his best form.

The Young Target Man

We also have a young, hungry, English academy graduate who plays a different role to the three above. Sam Gallagher can provide a completely different striker, and one that we were missing last season after Graziano Pellè’s departure: the target man. Last season, he scored 11 goals in 35 starts for the now relegated Blackburn Rovers in the Championship, and I am hoping that he manages to translate this potential into performances when given the opportunity at St. Mary’s next season. His aerial prowess and physicality gives us a different dimension to our attacking line, should he be given game time.

Although I would keep in mind that he lacks Premier League experience and is only 21 years of age; it is unlikely that he will play many games, but like Long, he adds competition and cover for our frontline, but he is also an academy graduate, something us Saints fans are hugely proud of.

The Midfielders

Most Southampton fans can be forgiven for being underwhelmed by our attacking performances under Claude Puel last season, but in spite of our lack of goals from strikers, I think that some of our midfielders need to step up and play more of a role in creating and scoring goals. Nathan Redmond was the standout, and I am hoping that he can provide more goals and assists from the wings, with his pace and determination. I also believe that Dušan Tadić must improve on last season, and create more clear-cut chances for our strikers, which is something the Serbian was lacking under Puel.

Finally, my diamond in the rough for the season is Sofiane Boufal. With a full pre-season under a new manager and the opportunity to form new attacking relationships with his teammates, I’m sure that Sofiane can only improve – especially when you consider that he joined us having missed pre-season whilst also nursing an injury. I hope that he can be the signing we all wanted him to be last summer, and that there is still a huge amount to come from him, including a new found sharpness in front of goal.

These are the many reason why we haven’t rushed to sign another forward, and why in my opinion, we probably don’t need one.

Would Andre Ayew Be A Good Signing For Southampton?

Southampton have struggled to add to their squad this summer, but an interesting option could be to add Ghanaian misfit Andre Ayew to their squad.

It is now looking increasingly likely that Virgil van Dijk will leave Southampton for a huge fee, after the player was left out of the clubs training camp in France. It looks as if the club are coming to the realization that they will have to let the wantaway defender move on. If that happens, the club will be armed with a sizeable transfer kitty.

Ayew arrived at West Ham just a year ago for a reported fee of £20million. I expect that Southampton would not have to pay any more than that amount to convince West Ham to part with their, not so successful signing.

Last season Southampton certainly lacked creativity and goals. Ayew can score and assist regularly and would be a bright spark in the final third for the club. The Saints top assister last season was Dusan Tadic with just 5 and their top scorer was Nathan Redmond with 7.

Despite his limited game time last season (16 starts, 9 sub apps), Ayew notched up 6 goals and 3 assists. His best form without a doubt though came at Swansea where he was given more regular game time. He managed 12 league goals in 34 appearances for the Welsh side, playing predominantly in a wide midfield role.

The 27-year-old has struggled to impose himself at West Ham and with the club recently signing Mauro Arnautovic, Ayew’s game time will again be restricted and the temptation of more regular football and a chance to reinvent himself at Southampton could be one he’d be interested in.

Betfred’s Review Page on BettingTop10 tells you the pros and cons about the bookies and where you’ll be able to find best value if you fancy a flutter on Ayew completing this reported move to Southampton.

We can see potential in this rumour and certainly feel like Ayew would be a decent addition to this Southampton squad. He’d provide some goals from wide areas, and there’s not many players in this squad that are capable of that. If a narrower formation is played then he is also capable of playing through the middle. His versatility is certainly attractive.

My centre-back choice for Southampton FC

Many Southampton fans have already highlighted their main objective from the current transfer window; to retain our assets rather than reform our squad. But whilst this is an opinion I certainly share, there’s one position in the side where Southampton Football Club can’t afford to stand still.

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Regardless of whether Virgil Van Dijk stays or goes, Mauricio Pellegrino needs another body at the heart of his defence; and in my eyes, Kevin Wimmer fits the billing.

At this point some may understandably have their doubts, due to the 24-year-old spending the past two seasons as back up at Tottenham Hotspur, but hear me out…

First and foremost, being second choice to Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen is certainly no insult; far from it in fact. Under Mauricio Pochettino’s management, the pair have arguably become the strongest centre-back partnership in the Premier League, and given that current Saints Ryan Bertrand and Oriol Romeu were forced out of Chelsea due to unassailable competition, it’s mindless to discount a player’s ability for these reasons.

The Austrian International has built up a reputation as a tough tackling centre-back, who isn’t afraid to put his body on the line and block efforts at all costs. He’s more than capable in the air, and despite his naturally strong physical nature, is accomplished on the ball too – a vital characteristic for being a Southampton centre-back.

However, there are of course some areas of his game that desperately need work.

Wimmer deputised well for Vertonghen over the 2015/16 season, and barely put a foot wrong; proving himself to be reliable back up should anyone be on the injury table. But over the 2016/17 season and so far in pre-season, Spurs fans have found that the lack of game time has taken a toll on his fitness. His reading of the game is also struggling at the minute too, with opportunities coming few and far between.  

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But when you consider Pochettino’s demands of a centre-back, it’s understandable as to why Wimmer has struggled over the past 12 months. Wimmer’s not a quick defender by any means, so when he plays in a defensive line as high and physically demanding as Tottenham’s, he’s naturally going to be exposed in these areas of his game. On top of this, he can’t evade pressure or carry the ball out of defence quite like Vertonghen or Alderweireld, meaning he’s forced to operate in a system that doesn’t play to his strengths.

What’s most encouraging about these current shortcomings however, is that all of them can be solved under the right management and set up; something Southampton Football Club have shown with a number of players in recent years.

Wimmer would be my personal choice, but of course I would back any other first-team signing given our track record. The bottom line however is that we simply have to get someone through the door; not only to potentially prepare for a Van Dijk exit this summer, but also to ensure that we have a mature defender who knows his demands if Van Dijk departs next year.

Aiming to form an entirely new defensive partnership in just one window is a risk that would be all too mindless to take.

I’m confident that if our club is keeping tabs on Wimmer – as some reports are suggesting – we’d be able to mould our system to his strengths, and he could get back to realising the joys of being a truly valued squad member. He only has to ask Romeu and Bertrand what it’s like…