It must be said that last season, apart from up front where there was a clear lack of goals, the defence was the biggest weakness for Southampton.
It was one of the areas rather slower to improve after the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl than others, with the Saints conceding 65 goals in the Premier League in 2018/2019.
But the problem wasn’t necessarily the defence as a unit, with Yan Valery at right-back and Ryan Bertrand at left-back largely performing well when they were on the pitch. Instead, it was the central defence.
A solid partnership between two or three players at centre-back was hard to come by with Jan Bednarek, Jan Vestergaard, Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida all interchanging and having their struggles at various points.
That is why it is particularly strange to see a lack of transfer rumours linking the south coast club with central defenders so far this summer transfer window.
Wonderkid William Saliba of Saint-Etienne has been the only real name from the position connected to a move to St Mary’s by rumours.
This may suggest that the 51-year-old is looking to mostly use the options already at his disposal in the centre-back ranks next season.
And one would very much feel that the better defenders last campaign were Bednarek and Vestergaard, so perhaps he’s planning to blood the pair for the long-term.
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The duo are relatively unproven together and it would be a huge risk to hardly recruit in central defence this summer with the view to making them the first-choice centre-half partnership.
However, Vestergaard was rated Southampton’s best player on average by WhoScored last season and weighed in with some excellent statistics in the process, partly achieved alongside Bednarek who enjoyed a wonderful breakthrough term in the Premier League.
With the 26-year-old in the starting Xl, the Saints won 34.8% of the time in 2018/19 compared to just 6.7% when he didn’t feature or only featured from the substitutes’ bench, per WhoScored. He clearly makes a huge difference.
From what we know of Hasenhuttl at previous clubs, he likes to play four at the back with two centre-backs despite often opting for three as he battled to keep the Saints afloat in the first few months of 2019.
That fact is yet more evidence he could be planning to pair up the Polish international with his Danish international colleague, and don’t be surprised if they’re fielded alongside one another come the first match in August.