EMMANUEL Mayuka’s arrival has led to fresh questions as to whether Saints will sell a striker before the close of the transfer window – and if Rickie Lambert could be that man.
Saints need plenty of high quality attacking options to compete in the Premier League, but they are amassing what appears to be too many to keep happy.
Nigel Adkins is operating a sort of 4-3-3 system this season, meaning technically you can play three strikers at any one time. Normally you want two options for every position, so six would be about right for that.
The formation actually works with one main striker through the middle and two joining in from out wide.
The problem for Saints so far has been that they have tried to play regular strikers in those wider roles and they have not been able to contribute as effectively as they might through the middle.
Saints have six players on their books now that could be considered as out and out strikers, another youngster, three that are wide players competing for the attacking wide berths and are certain to sign at least one other, probably Gaston Ramirez, in that position as well.
That is a total of 11 players competing for those three spaces – and by most people’s reckoning that is too many, both from a wages point of view and from trying to keep the togetherness and the unity that has done so much for Saints over the past couple of seasons.
The spotlight on any such discussion inevitably falls on Rickie Lambert as the high profile man.
You would almost deem it unthinkable that the talisman could be the one to make way, but with six out and out strikers who can play through the middle – Lambert, Mayuka, Tadanari Lee , Billy Sharp , Guly do Prado and Jay Rodriguez – Saints are spoilt for choice.
At 30, going on 31, Lambert’s value is unlikely to ever be higher than it is now, and the fact other clubs are eyeing him proves they think they might be able to convince Saints to sell.
Saints fans would be distraught to see him leave though. He is a hero for what he has done at Saints, and rightly so.
His departure would be a huge gamble.
If Saints did badly this season without him it would come back to haunt them for sure.
But they won’t sell Rodriguez having just forked out £7m for him, likewise Mayuka and Lee, while Do Prado has just extended his contract.
Suddenly you are looking at Billy Sharp but he too has only recently signed, and done a great job too, and then Lambert.
Elsewhere in the ranks competing for those attacking wide berths are Jason Puncheon, Steve De Ridder , at least one new signing we assume and youngsters Sam Hoskins, more a striker, and Ben Reeves.
Maybe the casualties will come from that list, but Saints need to be wary not to stack the wide attacking roles purely with strikers because it has endured mixed fortunes so far.
It’s going to be a fascinating end to the transfer window.