Journalist Tom Barclay believes Southampton should be readying themselves for the prospect of being without defender Mohammed Salisu at the start of 2022.
The 22-year-old has started every top-flight game for the Saints so far this term, but he may not be available at the turn of the year.
Why might Salisu miss some matches for Southampton?
Salisu has taken his game to a new level this season, helping Southampton keep five clean sheets in their opening 11 matches, the latest of which came in a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.
According to WhoScored, the 6 foot 3 centre-back has been the side's best player in 2021/22, receiving an average match rating of 7.10.
However, his excellent form could count against Ralph Hasenhuttl's men shortly, as Salisu may be called up to represent Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in January and February.
What has Barclay said about Salisu potentially being unavailable for Southampton?
Salisu is currently uncapped at international level, but Barclay has acknowledged that it will be hard for Ghana to ignore him with a major tournament on the horizon. He believes Southampton will have to make plans to cope without him if he does go and play for his national team.
Speaking to GIVEMESPORT about Salisu, Barclay said: “It’s not a guarantee at all that he’s there. But the way he’s playing, the way he’s improving, it’s something Southampton should be preparing for.”
The Football Terrace: Emile Smith Rowe is CLASS! Top 4 back on for Arsenal...
Should Southampton sign a centre-back in January to cover for Salisu?
No side in the bottom half of the Premier League has conceded fewer goals than Southampton this season, illustrating how important the team's defence has been in recent months.
The back line has been held together well by Salisu, so he will be a big miss if he does depart for the AFCON.
Indeed, if he does go to play for Ghana, that will leave Southampton with just three central defenders in Jan Bednarek, Lyanco and Jack Stephens. The latter has not played since September due to a knee injury.
Therefore, Hasenhuttl will be very low on options, and it may be wise for Southampton to dip into the transfer market in January to bring someone in to cover for Salisu.
It doesn't need to be a big-name transfer where Southampton have to splash the cash, but getting a player in who can maintain that solidity at the back in Salisu's absence is crucial for the club to navigate their way through that period to ensure that they keep themselves comfortably above the bottom three.
Read More - January Transfer Window 2022: When does it open, when does it close and which players are going to move?News Now - Sport News