Southampton: 3 ways they could line up in the Premier League this season

Southampton spent £56 million this summer recruiting a crop of talented individuals but how will they fit into the team?


REUTERS/Peter Powell

Southampton are considered by many to be a team who will be in and around the mix at the wrong end of the table this season. However, Mark Hughes has a wealth of players at his disposal compromising of a strong balance of experience and youth. 

The Saints opened their new season with a 0-0 draw against Burnley and followed this up with a 2-1 defeat to at Goodison Park.

Hughes has tinkered with his system in the opening two games but will most likely revert back to a 3-4-2-1 for their home clash against Leicester at the weekend. With Leicester’s Jamie Vardy suspended, it would be surprising if a three-man defence does not reappear.

The major issue last season was that goals were hard to come by, only picking up a mere 37 Premier League goals in the course of their campaign. Hughes has brought in some attacking threats for the upcoming season so it will be interesting to see how they aid the side.

Here are three ways in which the Saints could line up this season:

  1. 1 3-4-2-1

    This season, the most likely formation that Mark Hughes will turn to is a 3-4-2-1.

    Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was ever-present between the sticks for Southampton much of last season and continued even after the arrival of Mark Hughes. He put on a stunning performance against Burnley which saw them open their season with a hard-fought point. 

    New signing Angus Gunn will provide stiff competition after a strong season for Norwich City but the ball looks to be lying in McCarthy's court at this point. 


    If Hughes reverts back to a three-man defence for the home match against Leicester the coming weekend, it is likely the trio of Jannik Vestergaard, Wesley Hoedt and Jack Stephens will be the chosen three. 

    Vestergaard, who is an empowering giant standing at 6ft 6ins, arrived from Borrusia Monchengladbach and could prove to be a resolute defender for Southampton.

    Hoedt and Stephens kept their places in the loss against Everton last weekend when Hughes opted to change to a four-man defence. 

    In the middle, Oriol Romeu provides the stability and physical presence in front of the defence and rarely ventures forward allowing Mario Lemina to advance and carry the ball. 

    REUTERS/Hannah McKaySince his arrival from Juventus, Lemina has shown glimpses of what he can offer albeit in a tough season for the side. The Gabon international is one of the most creative players in the league and he will be hoping he can push on from the previous campaign and show his true capabilities. 

    Charlie Austin or Danny Ings will start in the main central striking role. Ings, who has endured a torrid time with injuries, has been brought in an attempt to bolster their attacking options. 

    It is an astute signing by the Saints and the loan signing from Liverpool opened his account in his first start for the club. If Ings can remain fit, there is no doubt that the striker should comfortably reach double figures for the season.

  2. 2 4-2-3-1

    If a back four is preferred then the 4-2-3-1 formation offers a good structure for Mark Hughes.

    Vestergaard and Hoedt could form a strong partnership this season. The Danish international endured a physical debut against Burnley but made a strong 12 clearances. His height and presence from set pieces could see him a danger from set pieces which could be an avenue for goals in the side.

    The two full backs, Ryan Bertrand and Cedric Soares, seem certainties in the side. They can both play as wing backs in a 3-4-2-1 formation or the two full backs in the 4-2-3-1 set up. Bertrand who is a consistent performer enjoys getting forward, as does the Portuguese right back.

    When the two full backs go forward, it will see Romeu drop to provide the protection and stability. Romeu's tenacity and aggression will be an underlying factor if Southampton can avoid goals being conceded.

    Mohamed Elyounoussi and Nathan Redmond on the flanks provide plenty of pace and trickery to the side. Elyounoussi, who can play on either wing, arrived from FC Basel in the summer and the Norwegian will hope to show his great talent in England's top tier. 

    Redmond will need to recapture his form of previous seasons if he is to retain his starting spot on the right.

    Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

    Stuart Armstrong arrived from Celtic is a £7 million deal and was their first signing of the summer. The attacking midfield could take up the duty behind a lone striker, driving at defences and will look to chip in with his fair share of goals after scoring 17 times for Celtic last season.

    Manolo Gabbiadini arrived at St Mary's in a £14 million deal in 2017. The Italian striker was not trusted under former manager Mauricio Pellegrino and seems to be a striker short on confidence. 

    The striker has predominantly played as a lone striker at his previous clubs which has suited him. However, he will need to grasp his opportunity when it is given to him in order to nail down a claim in the squad — especially with four strikers at the club. 

  3. 3 4-4-2

    Finally, if he wants to utilise two strikers, Mark Hughes could adopt the 4-4-2. formation to offer a little more fire-power to an ailing Southampton attack. 

    Fraser Forster will have a tough job on his hands now to fight for the first team goalkeeping spot with the arrival of Angus Gunn.

    Gunn enjoyable a stunning season at the Norwich last season and recorded 15 clean sheets for the Canaries. Whether he can nudge McCarthy for the goalkeeping spot will be a tough ask but the 22-year-old is a promising young keeper who will provide good competition.

    The defence could pick itself, however, Jan Bednarek and Maya Yoshida will feel they deserve a place in the squad after being called up to their squads in the World Cup with Poland and Japan, respectively. 

    Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will push for a place in the XI after being voted their most improved player last campaign. 

    The Danish midfielder may provide the similar traits Romeu brings to the side, albeit the physicality of the Spaniard may work in his favour. However, the work-rate of the Dane will bring a new dimension to St Mary's. 

    James Ward-Prowse could play out wide on the right of midfield or centrally. The 23-year-old midfielder has one of the best deliveries in the league and whether he plays on the right or in the middle will depend on who Hughes has at his disposal. 

    Ward-Prowse may not possess the pace that the modern day winger does but his vision and delivery account for this and could see him start out wide. However, with Hughes' current system it is difficult to see where else Ward-Prowse could fit in.

    Action Images via Reuters/Craig BroughWith Ings and Austin a potential strike force, their link-up play could prove crucial in scoring goals. The latter was the club's top scorer last campaign, despite playing a large portion of his games from the bench. 

    Ings has already opened his account for the season and, with his fellow countryman playing next to him, time will tell if this partnership grabs the Saints the goals which they lacked last season.

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  1. POLL: How do you think Southampton will line up?

    1. 3-4-2-1
    2. 4-2-3-1
    3. 4-4-2
    43 votes
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