Football

Alan Pardew’s Saints will be among the League One front runners

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With one pre-season friendly to go and the squad numbers announced, the forthcoming season really is just around the corner now. So, with just over a week to go, where is the strength and where is strengthening still required?

Assuming that Bartosz Bialkowski’s elongated contract negotiations will result in him being handed the No 13 shirt, Alan Pardew has sufficient options between the sticks. Kelvin Davis of course will be the number one choice and Tommy Forecast completes the trio.

In defence, again, things look strong with plenty of competition for places and a huge amount of experience. With the starting central two appearing to be Radhi Jaidi and Jose Fonte, both Danny Seaborne and Aaron Martin will be pushing hard for appearances.

Who will be first choice for the left back position out of Dan Harding and Ryan Dickson will be a very interesting decision. At right back you would have thought the original plan would be for Danny Butterfield to have been Frazer Richardson’s understudy but with Richardson’s injury, Butterfield now has the opportunity to change that around.

Midfield is where things become interesting. Morgan Schneiderlin and Dean Hammond will have secured two central positions and Adam Lallana should feature on the right. Pre-season would indicate that Pardew's preference is still a 4-5-1 formation and that extra central midfielder could be either Jason Puncheon or Ryan Dickson. The choice for the left hand side is from Puncheon, Dickson or even Dan Harding.

As far as midfield back-up is concerned there appears to be just Paul Wotton as cover for the central areas as, whilst Anthony Pulis plays in that position, a total of 28 full career appearances for eight different clubs (and none in his two years to date with Southampton) at age 26 would suggest that he is not likely to feature a great deal.

There are other central midfielders in the squad in Oscar Gobern, Callum McNish and Ryan Doble so if there are to be no further signings in this area, one of these three could have a big opportunity come their way at some point.

The cover for the wide midfield positions shows a very left footed bias with Lee Holmes and Alex Chamberlain probably competing for a regular place on the bench. This would suggest that there is still a right midfielder on Mr Pardew’s shopping list.

To me, up front is where Saints have both their biggest strength and potentially their biggest weakness.

There are no other League One teams with the quality, strength and intelligence that Ricky Lambert, Lee Barnard and David Connolly collectively possess. The issue is not only the lack of cover but where do they look for additional options.

Persuading an experienced goalscorer to sign with no guarantee of a regular starting place will be difficult and young forwards that will guarantee you goals when required are rare and therefore difficult to find.

*Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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Topics:
Football
League One
Southampton

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