Southampton are building towards what could be an exciting 2020/21 season for the club under Ralph Hasenhuttl’s guidance.
The first-team players at the club returned to training at the beginning of last week and begin the new Premier League campaign away at Crystal Palace on 12th September.
A crucial part of preparations is the sorting of the playing squad and three deals involving Saints have been seen so far.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg departed for Spurs, whilst Kyle Walker-Peters moved the other way and was eventually joined by Mohammed Salisu as a defensive signing.
The key question is, how does Saints’ squad look now and what areas do they still need to add in ahead of the big kick-off?
In the goalkeeping department, Saints look pretty well stocked even if the situation is a little complicated. Alex McCarthy, Angus Gunn, Fraser Forster and Harry Lewis are all still at the club.
Gunn has been linked with a loan move away and this could potentially leave Alex McCarthy with competition from Fraser Forster, who appears set to stay at St Mary’s due to his transfer fee and wages being too much for Celtic to meet.
McCarthy certainly deserves to retain the number one jersey until it is time for someone else to be given a go, and Forster could well return to be the backup option with Lewis as third-choice.
A swap deal of sorts involving Gunn and Stoke’s Jack Butland was rumoured, although the tweet that revealed this from the Times’ Paul Joyce has now been deleted. A transfer like this would only go to complicate things further.
In the full-back areas, Saints look to be set perfectly. Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand will be first-choice, whilst Yan Valery and Jake Vokins will play backup roles whilst still trying to develop their own games.
Centre-back is a slightly different story. Things looked pretty precarious at times last season with only Jannik Vestergaard and Kevin Danso behind Jan Bednarek and Jack Stephens after Maya Yoshida left for Italy.
The signing of Mohammed Salisu looks to have added huge quality and potential in this area though, and it would be sensible for the club to pursue one more signing in this area with Danso’s loan finishing and Vestergaard’s future unclear.
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Alfie Jones spent a productive 2019/20 season on loan with Gillingham and would be a good younger option to have and give small tastes of first-team action to.
Central-midfield looks to be the area that Saints should now prioritise though. With Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg now gone, James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu remain for certain senior roles in 2020/21 – where Harrison Reed’s future lies is said to be undecided at this stage.
Links have been made to Schalke’s Weston McKennie and Celtic’s Olivier Ntcham and they both look like they could be very solid signings. Will Smallbone will continue his development as a bright prospect too of course.
For the two attacking-midfield places, Saints look well stocked. Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong held them for most of 2019/20 but Sofiane Boufal and Moussa Djenepo will push them for starting spots this time around.
At striker, Danny Ings will obviously be Saints’ key man once again but the squad looks well set behind him. Shane Long and a revitalised Che Adams will battle it out to starts alongside Ings, whilst Michael Obafemi provides another option.
Like centre-back and goalkeeper, the situation is not perfect in attack. Changes may be made in the longer term but we cannot expect everything to be sorted this summer with finances understandable tight. Unwanted players will need to be moved on to help bring in more signings and it may take two or three windows to resolve some of the failed transfers from the past fully.
The tighter 23-man squad that Ralph Hasenhuttl wants is closer than it was but will appear clearer in the next year or so.
Predicted Saints 23-man squadvfor 2020/21
Goalkeepers: Alex McCarthy, Fraser Forster, Harry Lewis
Full-Backs: Kyle Walker-Peters, Yan Valery, Ryan Bertrand, Jake Vokins (U21)
Centre-Backs: Jan Bednarek, Mohammed Salisu, Jack Stephens, Jannik Vestergaard/New signing
Central-Midfielders: James Ward-Prowse, Oriol Romeu, Weston McKennie/Olivier Ntcham/Harrison Reed, Will Smallbone (U21)
Attacking-Midfielders: Nathan Redmond, Stuart Armstrong, Sofiane Boufal, Moussa Djenepo, Josh Sims
Strikers: Danny Ings, Shane Long, Che Adams, Michael Obafemi (U21)
Under-21s to supplement squad
Alfie Jones (CB/DM), Callum Slattery (CM), Thomas O’Connor (DM, LB), Alex Jankewitz (CM), Nathan Tella (LW), Dan N’Lundulu (ST)