Southampton’s fortunes are looking up, but their team could have been unrecognisable had last summer gone differently.
Under Ralph Hasenhuttl, the Saints enjoyed a successful summer in the transfer market with deals for Gavin Bazunu, Romeo Lavia, Armel Bella-Kotchap, Duje Caleta-Car and Joe Aribo among others.
However, two of their biggest targets were deals they couldn’t get over the line.
Those targets were Goncalo Ramos and Cody Gakpo, two players who have seen their stock rise in dramatic fashion with stunning World Cup displays for Portugal and the Netherlands respectively where both scored three goals.
So how would Southampton have looked if they’d been able to wrap up the deals? They’d have looked very impressive, to say the least.
Lining up in the 5-3-2 used by new boss Nathan Jones in his first match in charge, the Saints’ back line almost selects itself with Bazunu in goal and a back three of Mohammed Salisu joining Caleta-Car and Bella-Kotchap in central defence.
They’ll be behind Kyle Walker-Peters and Romain Perraud who occupy the wing-back roles.
In central midfield, Southampton have options with the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Aribo on board, but in Stuart Armstrong, Romeo Lavia and club talisman James Ward-Prowse in the engine room.
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Had their summer deals come off, Southampton could have had a heck of an attack on their hands.
Ramos was a key player for Portugal in the World Cup, leading to suggestions that Manchester United could be tempted by a move for the 21-year-old Benfica star.
As for Gakpo, he looks certain to move on with talkSPORT understanding that Manchester United are planning to go all-out to sign the PSV Eindhoven star.
With the Dutch side hoping for offers of around £45million, it means that Southampton may have missed the boat on a move for Gakpo.
If they had pulled off the double deal, however, there’s no knowing how far up the Premier League they might have finished this term.
In his first home match in charge – a Carabao Cup win over Lincoln – Jones said he is trying to build something.
“We’re not going to suddenly turn into Barcelona overnight.
“With the greatest of respect, we probably haven’t been doing the basics well enough up til now and that’s why we’re in the position we are, so we have to build.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a fantastic Southampton team. The biggest thing today was we’re in the hat.”