Southampton host West Ham at St Mary’s on Saturday as they go in search of their first win of the 2021/22 Premier League season.
Mohamed Salisu and Jack Stephens have started every game at centre-back so far and Southampton are yet to keep a clean sheet. This means that Ralph Hasenhuttl could be open to a change to the starting XI in that area of the pitch, potentially opening the door for Jan Bednarek to return to the team.
Of the aforementioned pair, Salisu has the higher match rating on SofaScore. He has averaged an impressive score of 7.03, whilst winning 65% of his duels and making two tackles per game. Meanwhile, Stephens has averaged a score of just 6.40, winning 52% of his duels and making one interceptions per game.
This suggests that Stephens’ position in the team could be at risk, as he has not been able to perform to as high of a standard as Salisu so far. The clash with West Ham this weekend presents Hasenhuttl with the opportunity to give £50k-per-week Bednarek an opportunity to show that he can outshine Stephens at the back.
Earlier this year, Hasenhuttl lauded the Poland international as a ‘firefighter’ for the way he defends the Southampton goal on the pitch. The Austrian told the Daily Echo: “He is robust. He is one of the best defensive fighters, I say always he’s a firefighter who really does everything to protect his own goal.
“I think the biggest development he made with the ball, he’s getting better and better with better decision making. Still not always the right one, but it’s getting better and better.”
This shows that Hasenhuttl has faith in the defender to go out and do a job, which is another reason why he must be unleashed against West Ham. If he can improve Southampton’s defence alongside Salisu, he could change the game for the Saints, as it may give his side a better chance of picking up a first league win of the season.
Bednarek averaged a solid SofaScore rating of 6.81 in the Premier League last term. He helped the Saints keep nine clean sheets as he managed 2.3 interceptions per game, which shows that he is capable of making a difference at the back at this level. Therefore, his presence could help Southampton to keep the Irons at bay, and including him instead of Stephens could prove to be a game-changing decision by Hasenhuttl if he goes for it.