So it’s come to the first home game of the season, and you might be wondering which players you should or shouldn’t have on the back of your shirt for Pellegrino’s first game at St Mary’s.
“What do you think the line-up is going to be, James?”
Well, I’m glad you asked. I decided to study the team-sheets from last season’s friendlies against Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao and beside some injuries/holiday issues, it was essentially the full-strength team of that season.
With that in mind, this is my predicted line-up for the game against FC Augsburg:
Fraser Forster– The clubs number 1, I don’t think there’s any question in that. However, where on earth is Alex McCarthy?!
Jeremy Pied– It’s widely expected that the game will come too soon for Cedric, which allows Pied to have a run out on the turf of St Mary’s.
Jack Stephens– With no van Dijk in the squad and with the presumption that no other CB’s will be joining the club unless another leaves, it really is up to Stephens to claim the CB birth as his own.
Maya Yoshida– Surprisingly one of the fastest recorded players in the league last season; Maya has dramatically improved in the past year and is in a battle against Stephens to become second choice CB.
Ryan Bertrand– It was hard to leave Targett out after his brace of assists in 2 minutes against AS Saint Etienne, but Bertrand is without a doubt our number 1 LB and arguably the best English LB. Wouldn’t be surprised if Targett came on at the 50 minute mark though.
Oriol Romeu– Double player of the year award winner Oriol. Ah. What a player, I’m thankful his presence has been hidden from the big clubs so far… truly a gem. Potential captain IF van Dijk leaves.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg- It’s a tough pick to choose between him and Steven Davis, however there’s been a lot of emphasis on him from the #saintsfc camp so far which begs to wonder if he’s being heralded for a starting position this season instead of Mr Consistent. Hojbjerg and Romeu started against Etienne together and I believe they will be paired together once more.
James Ward-Prowse- A toss-up between him, Austin and Redmond for the last position in the squad; I feel that his goal, assist and general performance against ASSE will have just edged JWP into the starting XI. His set-pieces have been lauded upon by almost everyone and it’s to no surprise; a true bonus and asset to the team.
Dusan Tadic- I think that the fans give Tadic a bit too much stick sometimes. Sure, he’s not consistent, yes he can be frustrating at times… and we all remember the penalty debacle with Austin… but Tadic on his day can be unstoppable, and he IS one of the highest assisters in the entirety of Europe.
Sofiane Boufal- The skilful Moroccan has vastly improved upon last season so far and seems truly settled at Saints. Showed glimpses of brilliance but seems to do one trick too many instead of just moving the ball on. Interchanging LW and CAM with Tadic could be great.
Manolo Gabbiadini- Tough call between him and Austin, but after his goal against ASSE I think he will just edge the Englishman. Shane Long isn’t even up for discussion for a starting spot in my opinion…
Other noticeable names:
Cedric– Came back to training this week, could potentially make a 20-minute cameo but it’s likely he will be rested for the Sevilla match.
Davis- It’s a competition with Hojbjerg to partner Romeu this season and although he’s reliable as always, it would be beneficial to try and push Pierre-Emile to another level this season otherwise we’re wasting his obvious potential.
Austin- Don’t be surprised if Charlie came on at half-time, think the competition between him and Manolo will be brilliant this season.
Redmond- The forgotten man; somewhat surprisingly our league top goal-scorer last season but evades everyone’s armchair manager team sheets including my own. Was one of a few good players in the second half of the season with a lot of potential and age on his side. Perfect impact sub.
FC Augsburg team in their previous game, away to Middlesborough:
1 Luthe (GK), 3 Stafylidis, 4 Opare, 7 Heller, 8 Khedira, 14 Moravik, 18(C) Callsen-Bracker, 20 Kacar, 21 Cordova, 22 Dong-Won Ji, 25 Bobadilla.
Subs: 13 (GK) Giefer, 19 Koo, 23 Richter, 28 Teigl, 31 Max, 32 Framberger, 38 Danso, 39 Usami.