Southampton’s poor performance against West Brom on Monday showed that there is still work to be done to ensure a smooth end to the 2020/21 season.
Fitness has returned to provide Ralph Hasenhuttl with some quality options for the run-in that includes next weekend’s FA Cup Semi-Final against Leicester City, but his side’s showing yesterday will have left him with some food for thought.
It has brought about some selection headaches that the Saints boss will have to contend with. Players came in and showed some strong form prior to yesterday but the result has made things look a lot less settled.
Chances will surely be given to some to prove their worth ahead of next year and some will be sensing their opportunities now with a big week upcoming.
Hungry alternatives will prove worth to Southampton this week
At the moment, the goalkeeper and defenders look set. Fraser Forster is ahead of Alex McCarthy, and Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand have no competition right now.
Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard have been the first-choice centre-back pairing for much of this year but have Jack Stephens and Mohammed Salisu waiting in the wings behind them after a defensive display that lacked cohesion.
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Similar to the full-back positions, James Ward-Prowse and Ibrahima Diallo’s places look safe after decent showings and injuries meaning no competition. The attacking areas are where it starts to get more interesting though.
Danny Ings and Nathan Redmond linked brilliantly against Burnley but were largely anonymous at the Hawthorns on Monday. That is apart from Ings’ costly pass back towards his defence which sprung West Brom’s successful attack for the second goal.
Che Adams – fresh from strong displays for Scotland during the international break – and Nathan Tella came on as substitutes but had little time at all to influence proceedings. Both will be desperately trying to catch the eye of their manager this week and no one could really begrudge them a place in the team for next Sunday if chosen.
Stuart Armstrong was one of the better performers on Monday in his normal attacking-midfield role, but Theo Walcott went missing on the opposite flank and has looked very rusty since returning from injury.
Adams, Tella and Moussa Djenepo all deserve some significant minutes somewhen between now and the end of the season. Even Takumi Minamino needs a chance to prove his worth, although he will be cup-tied for next weekend.
It may well be that Hasenhuttl chooses to stick with the same team he has played in the last two games, but he will need a reaction. Hungry players pushing from the bench will have value this week in either focusing others on the job in hand or actually coming into the team to take the place of underperformers.