Southampton were dealt a huge blow earlier this month as central defender Jack Stephens was ruled out for a number of months.
The Saints centre-back injured his knee in the 0-0 draw with Manchester City and is now set to spend the next few months on the sidelines.
Stephens started the first five Premier League matches and averaged a solid, albeit unimpressive, SofaScore rating of 6.66. He made 3.4 tackles and interceptions per game, whilst also making zero errors leading to shots or goals – highlighting his defensive strength.
Brazilian defender Lyanco was added to the squad in the summer to bolster the defensive ranks, but endured a horrific debut against Sheffield United in the League Cup. He made an error directly leading to a goal and made zero tackles, whilst being dribbled past once, and was substituted in the 70th minute.
Jan Bednarek took Stephens’ starting place next to Mo Salisu against Wolves at the weekend. The Poland international was caught sleeping from a long ball and allowed Raul Jimenez to beat him twice before the Mexican slotted the winner past Alex McCarthy.
Instead of using one of the senior heads to replace Stephens, Ralph Hasenhuttl could unearth his replacement in 19-year-old defender Dynel Simeu – who joined from Chelsea in the summer.
Southampton’s B team manager David Horseman praised the defender’s determination and stated that the other players could learn from him. He said:
“There was loads of good bits, people like Dynel have come in from a good academy which win.
“You can see today he had determination, speed, and intensity about him, which suggests he comes from a team that wins. I think our lads can learn from that.”
This suggests that he is already making an impact in the youth set-up. His performance against Leyton Orient’s senior side also shows that he is capable of producing at senior level, with nine clearances, five tackles, three interceptions and 17 duels won on the night – per SofaScore. He was able to put in a strong defensive display against experienced Orient professionals, hinting at his potential for Southampton in the first-team.
Upon arriving at St. Mary’s, Simeu claimed that there is no limit to what he can achieve at the club. He said:
“I hope to hit the ground running, get fit and comfortable with the boys and then hopefully push towards the first-team. There’s no limit for me really, so I want to keep going.”
These comments show that he has the drive and ambition to make it at first-team level, which could mean that he will be prepared to take his chance when handed the opportunity.
Therefore, Hasenhuttl could benefit from throwing Simeu in at the deep end to see how he adapts, as the evidence suggests that he could be the Stephens replacement they need if he is able to make the step up.