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Hooiveld struggling to make Villa clash
Jos Hooiveld is a major doubt for Saturday’s crunch St Mary’s clash with Aston Villa.
The Dutch centre half was forced off midway through the first half of the 6-1 drubbing at Arsenal with a calf injury.
Hooiveld had been struggling with the problem for several days but Saints were hopeful he could get through the game.
It didn’t work out that way and Maya Yoshida was drafted into the side earlier than expected, having only had one full training session with the club since signing, and that after arriving back from international duty with Japan.
Saints’ much praised medical staff are doing all they can to have Hooiveld ready for the weekend game against Villa, but he is at best touch and go to be ready.
If he fails to make it, that would mean a first Saints start for Yoshida alongside Jose Fonte .
It would also mark only the third league game that Hooiveld would have missed since joining the club from Celtic on August 31, 2011.
In that time his fantastic fitness record has seen him start in 43 of the 45 league matches that have taken place since he moved to St Mary’s.
Hooiveld and Fonte have been the regular pairing in that period, starting 39 of those games together.
On the four occasions Fonte was out injured, Hooiveld partnered Aaron Martin , now on a season long loan at Crystal Palace.
The two games Hooiveld missed, in which Fonte partnered Martin, were both draws, against Cardiff and Birmingham.
The centre half department is one in which Saints are short of options beyond their lead three defenders of Fonte, Hooiveld and new recruit Yoshida.
Their only other centre halves are Dan Seaborne , who has slipped well down the pecking order, and Jack Stephens, a teenager with only a handful of lower leagues games for Plymouth to his name. Nigel Adkins also has another problem to wrestle with as he tries to find the best way to get Gaston Ramirez into the starting line-up.
Adkins is believed to want to start the £12m Uruguayan this weekend, having been impressed by what he saw in the second half at the Emirates Stadium.
However, he will have to move the team around to do it. At Arsenal he sacrificed one of the central midfield three in the shape of Steven Davis to bring Ramirez in at half time and tinkered with the formation slightly.
Adkins will have to decide whether to try and play Ramirez in the hole just off Rickie Lambert and adapt the team around that, or whether to employ him in the 4-3-3 type formation the club have favoured this season.
If he does the latter then he may have to consider moving captain Adam Lallana back into a more central role. Alternatively, he could drop Jason Puncheon , who has been one of the brighter lights of the season so far.