Southampton started the season with a 3-1 defeat to Everton, after a disappointing second half performance saw them lose their 1-0 first half lead. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl saw enough from the starting eleven he picked for the Premier League opener at Everton to keep faith in the team that started that game at home to Manchester United on Sunday, and was rewarded with a much improved display in the 1-1 draw at St Mary’s. In fact, Southampton were possibly unlucky not to take all three points, with new signing Adam Armstrong squandering a couple of big chances late on.
Southampton travel to Wales to face Newport County in the EFL Cup second round, and Hasenhuttl is expected to rotate his squad to allow players whose influence has been limited in the opening games of the season to have an opportunity to impress. Newport have enjoyed a decent start to the season, with two wins from three, and the League Two side will be looking to cause an upset. They may be hampered slightly by the absence of their manager, Michael Flynn, who tested positive for Covid-19 and missed their win over 1-0 win over Tranmere Rovers on Saturday. While Hasenhuttl is likely to make changes, these are unlikely to significantly weaken the side, as a lot of the fringe players were features of the team last season, and Southampton should still have enough to see off their lower league opposition. The below is how Southampton are likely to line up for the clash at Rodney Parade.
Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster
Alex McCarthy has started the season between the sticks, but Fraser Forster is likely to get a chance on Wednesday evening. Hasenhuttl himself has admitted that he thinks there is very little between the two goalkeepers and took the unorthodox approach of rotating his ‘keepers towards the end of last season. McCarthy could have done better with Mason Greenwood’s equaliser at the weekend, with the effort tame and central, despite a slight deflection, so Forster could stake a claim to start the next league game with a solid performance.
Right Back: Kyle Walker-Peters
The big surprise with Southampton’s starting line-ups so far this campaign has been the absence of Kyle Walker-Peters. Walker-Peters was one of Southampton’s most consistent performers last season and his work in both defence and attack were integral to the way the side played. However, new signing Valentino Livramento has got the nod ahead of the former Tottenham Hotspur man, and has really impressed, following the 18-year old’s summer move from Chelsea. Walker-Peters will be desperate to impress and the battle for the right back spot will be very interesting this season, with some suggesting they could play together, with Livramento playing higher up the pitch.
Centre Back: Jack Stephens
Another surprise at the start of this season has been that Stephens has been starting ahead of Poland international, Jan Bednarek, in the heart of the defence. However, this may be due to Bednarek’s involvement in the European Championships, as well as the birth of his daughter days before the opening game of the season. Stephens has shown that he is very valuable to Southampton though, a player that doesn’t cause issues when left out the team, his aggression high up the pitch in pinching the ball off of Bruno Fernandes was a vital contribution towards Che Adams’ deflected goal at the weekend.
Centre Back: Jan Bednarek
Despite not starting either game so far this season, Bednarek is expected to start against Newport on Wednesday. The Pole came on at half time against Manchester United, as Hasenhuttl tweaked his tactics to combat the threat of the Red Devils. Bednarek will enjoy the physical challenge that Newport will provide and will welcome his first start of the season as he looks to regain his place. It was thought that new signing Dynel Simeu may be given an opportunity after being promoted to train with the first-team last week, but his involvement in Monday night’s Southampton B team fixture means this is unlikely.
Left Back: Mohammed Salisu
Summer arrival Romain Perraud has started life in England very well and could soon be the reason Southampton fans forget about the departed Ryan Bertrand. Perraud picked up a knock at the weekend and was substituted for Walker-Peters in the 73rd minute. Therefore, he is expected to sit out the game on Wednesday. The game has likely come too soon for new signing Thierry Small, the highly-rated 17-year old left back only signing on Tuesday morning. This means that it is expected to be between two players to fill the void left by the absence of Perraud: Mohmmed Salisu or Moussa Djenepo. Djenepo filled in at left back in pre-season but is very rash in that role and is far more effective higher up the pitch. Salisu is left-footed and athletic for a central defender which has meant he has covered the position before in the league, so is more likely to get the nod. Alternatively, Livramento or Walker-Peters could play as a right-footed left back.
Centre Midfield: James Ward-Prowse
James Wad-Prowse struggled with a knee injury in pre-season and, as such, didn’t feature in the summer preparations. This added fuel to the Aston Villa transfer rumours, but Ward-Prowse quashed these by signing an improved fiver-year contract at the club he captains and has been at since the age of eight. Due to the knee problem that impacted his pre-season, the Southampton skipper has been wearing a bandage on his knee in the two fixtures so far this season, which may mean he is given a rest. However, Ward-Prowse wants to play every game and could well continue in the centre of Southampton’s midfield, having not missed a game for over two seasons.
Centre Midfield: Ibrahima Diallo
Of the two first-choice central midfielders for Southampton it is more likely that Oriol Romeu will be rotated. This provides an opportunity for 22-year old Frenchman, Ibrahima Diallo. Diallo impressed when given his opportunity in his maiden Premier League campaign last season. A tidy passer of the ball who likes to get stuck in, Diallo should be able to handle the physical nature of the fixture and drive the side forward with his runs from deep.
Right Attacking Midfield: Moi Elyounoussi
In Hasenhuttl’s favoured 4-2-2-2 formation the attacking midfielders are key. They start wide and drift inside, attacking the centre of the pitch and creating space for others to attack the final third, or the ‘red zone’ as Hasenhuttl labels it. Stuart Armstrong has made the position his own under Hasenhuttl and has been one of the club’s best performers during the Austrian’s tenure. However, Armstrong is yet to feature this season and has a slight calf injury so is unlikely to be risked. This paves the way for Moi Elyounoussi to make his first Southampton appearance in over two years. The Norwegian has been on loan at Celtic for the past two seasons, having failed to make an impression at Southampton after a £16 million move from Basel in 2018. Hasenhuttl has given Elyounoussi a clean slate and has stated that the winger should get opportunities to revive his Saints career this season.
Left Attacking Midfield: Nathan Redmond
Winger Nathan Redmond has flattered to deceive in his Southampton career. A player that always seemed to have so much potential but whose career seems to have stagnated, with his performances leaving Southampton fans wanting far more from the once-capped England international. Redmond has seen Moussa Djenepo and Theo Walcott occupy the attacking midfield roles ahead of him so far this season but a positive performance in south Wales could see him back in contention for the Premier League. At 27, it feels like it’s now or never for Redmond’s performances to start reflecting his early potential.
Centre Forward: Nathan Tella
After such a bright end to last season was followed up by being one of the standout performers in pre-season, it has come as something of a surprise that Nathan Tella has only played ten minutes so far this season. This may be down to the arrival of striker Adam Armstrong from Blackburn Rovers as the replacement for Danny Ings, as Tella was occupying one of the two centre forward roles in pre-season. Tella is likely to get his chance to start on Wednesday. The 22-year old is very talented, and his pre-season performances suggest he is maturing and improving in front of goal.
Centre Forward: Shane Long
Southampton fans will be desperate to see Chelsea-loanee Armando Broja in action for the first time on Wednesday night but they may have to wait a little longer, at least to see him start anyway. Broja comes with a glowing reputation at youth level and is expected to gain vital experience at Southampton this season, but has not yet made a matchday squad for the club and it remains to be seen if he is ready to be included in the squad for the EFL Cup. This means that it is likely that veteran striker Shane Long will partner Tella and provide vital experience. Long is in the last year of his contract, and spent the end of last season on loan at Bournemouth, but is expected to stay at the south coast club for this season to provide experience and mentorship to the less experienced players in his position. One thing Long guarantees, even at 34, is that he will be a pest to defenders and not give them a second on the ball. This high-pressing from Long and Tella will look to set the tempo of the game.