Saints’ preparations for the Premier League enter their final stages tomorrow – with Nigel Adkins searching
for more answers to his midfield conundrum.
The manager will further sharpen his squad with a friendly at St Mary’s against Championship outfit Wolves.
The most fascinating aspect of pre-season so far has been the introduction of a fresh formation by Adkins.
Having graduated to the top level, he is keen to move away from the classic 4-4-2 that has served Saints so well in the past two seasons, instead fashioning his team into a more intricate 4-3-2-1
With the club’s work in the transfer market so far incomplete, there is obviously still some evolving to be done.
For now, though, there is little doubt about what Adkins’ preferred personnel at the back is.
Kelvin Davis remains number one in goal, with new signing Nathaniel Clyne at right back, Danny Fox on the opposite
side of defence, and centre halves Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld at the heart of it all.
Up front, Rickie Lambert remains the focal point – and is well built, both physically and metaphorically, for the role of a lone frontman – but it is in
between where things are less certain.
Under the new formation, Adkins is deploying three centrally-based midfielders, with two more advanced widemen supporting Lambert.
The situation in those areas is currently fluid. Guly and record signing Jay Rodriguez provided the wide support to Lambert in last week’s 1-0 defeat against Ajax, but neither possesses the sort of
searing pace that might be desired there.
Billy Sharp falls into the same category, as does Tadanari Lee, who remains sidelined through injury.
It is no secret that Saints are keen on adding some quick wingers to their ranks, and it is clear to see why.
Occupying the central positions last weekend were Morgan Schneiderlin, teenager James Ward-
Prowse and Adam Lallana.
Lallana is almost a guaranteed starter, although could certainly be utilised in a more advanced
role, but the other two positions are not so clear cut.
Adkins is still awaiting the return of Team GB representative Jack Cork, who he played in every league game last season.
He has also been without summer signing Steven Davis, with the ex-Rangers man having been out injured.
Beyond them, Dean Hammond and Richard Chaplow are also available, although both are facing
ever-increasing competition for a spot in the line-up.
There were some positive signs against Ajax last week that the new formation has potential, but Adkins is still searching for the perfect blend.
He will have another valuable chance to tinker and experiment tomorrow, while he continues to work on upgrading the squad in the transfer market.
Time is ticking away, though.
After this weekend, there is just the visit to another Championship club, Bristol City, next Tuesday and the home fixture against Udinese a week tomorrow before the daunting trip to champions
Manchester City beckons on August 19.