Picking Southampton's Ideal XI for the 2020/21 Season

Ralph Hasenhuttl
Crystal Palace v Southampton FC - Premier League | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

It's weird to think about the 2020/21 season now, given we're still unsure if the current season is going to be played out or not.

When we do get to the next campaign though, Southampton's aim will be to elevate themselves back into the top half of the league. They started this season poorly, including that 9-0 embarrassment against Leicester. However, since then, the Saints' form has improved significantly and they've shown they can compete with the best, as wins against Chelsea and Spurs showed.

Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl will hope to continue his transformation of the playing squad, and bring in the players he wants in order to play the high-energy, entertaining brand of football his RB Leipzig sides were remembered for in Germany.

If everything fell into place for the Saints, here's how their ideal lineup could look in the 2020/21 season.

GK - Alex McCarthy

Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy has held off Angus Gunn for the number one spot at St Mary's | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Alex McCarthy has never had a clear path to being Southampton's first-choice goalkeeper, with the likes of Fraser Forster and Angus Gunn keeping him on the bench at various moments during his time on the south coast.

But whenever he's selected, the 30-year-old has done exactly what he's asked to do, in making saves and being a unflappable presence in the Saints' goal. And given how goalkeepers tend to get better with age, this could possibly be the best season from the Englishman to date.

And with the younger Gunn waiting in the wings, McCarthy will certainly have the necessary competition to push him into producing consistently at the back for his team.

RB - Joakim Mæhle

Joakim Maehle
Genk right-back Joakim Mæhle has been the subject of a previous bid from the Saints | TF-Images/Getty Images

With Kyle Walker-Peters's loan deal ending in the summer, Hasenhüttl and the board will likely be on the lookout for a new right-back option in the transfer window.

And one name that would fit the bill perfectly is Genk's Joakim Mæhle. The 22-year-old is excellent with the ball, and has four assists for the season, showing his willingness to support the attack higher up the pitch.

Were the Saints to sign him, the Dane would be a long-term solution at the position and could develop further into becoming a top-class full-back on the south coast.

CB - Jack Stephens

Jack Stephens
Jack Stephens has become one of the club's top centre-backs | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Having broken through only a couple of years ago, Jack Stephens has become one of the first names on the team sheet for the Saints.

The 26-year-old is a composed figure at the back and plays with his heart on his sleeve, with the physical abilities to make life tough for opposing strikers. His leadership tendencies have been invaluable in marshaling the Southampton defence to keep clean sheets over the second-half of their season.

And his experience will be key, especially as his centre-back partner will need some time to adapt to the Premier League...

CB - Evan N'Dicka

Evan NDicka
Evan N'Dicka would be a fantastic long-term signing for the club | TF-Images/Getty Images

He may only be just 20 years old, but Evan N'Dicka has impressed for Eintracht Frankfurt during this campaign, and would be an excellent signing for the south-coast side this summer.

A left-footed centre-back, the Frenchman is quick and uses his 6ft 4in frame to dominate in the air. He's also comfortable with playing out from the back, and could compliment Stephens' skills nicely while forming a great partnership in the middle.

Under Hasenhüttl's tutelage, N'Dicka could become a potential star at the back for Southampton as an option to rotate with the towering Jannik Vestergaard.

LB - Ryan Bertrand

Ryan Bertrand
Ryan Bertrand's experience will be crucial to the Saints' backline | Robin Jones/Getty Images

An ever-present in the red-and-white stripes of Southampton, Ryan Bertrand is still a highly capable full back who can be relied upon to perform whenever he's called upon.

The 30-year-old is still tenacious in the tackle and can keep opposing wingers quiet. But he's still strong offensively, with his bursts into the box a major feature of his game.

And with some new faces in the back four, Bertrand's experience will be counted on to help the Saints' form a consistent base in front of McCarthy.

CM - James Ward-Prowse

James Ward-Prowse
James Ward-Prowse has spent his entire career at Southampton | Jack Thomas/Getty Images

The fact that every Southampton manager since 2011 has found him a place in the team says a lot about James Ward-Prowse.

The Englishman has lined up for the Saints in the centre-midfield position for what seems like forever, and has been a great fit for Hasenhüttl, who's used him all over the pitch this season. But he's best as part of a double pivot in front of the defence, where he can use his range of passing to great effect, while also being able to shackle any number ten he goes up against.

And while he's a deadly set-piece threat, the 25-year-old still has room to develop in terms of his attacking returns. If his goals and assists went up, it could make him a real box-to-box threat on the south-coast.

CM - Pierre-Emile Højbjerg

FBL-ENG-PR-SOUTHAMPTON-BURNLEY
Saints fans will be hoping Pierre-Emile Højbjerg stays at the club | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Willing to do the dirty work in the midfield, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has become an essential player for the Saints.

His defensive work has been great, with his ability to win the ball back crucial for his manager's tactics. The skipper has good passing skills too and can initiate attacking moves, while being disciplined enough to position himself in order to prevent an opposing counter-attack.

With Spurs interested in signing the Dane, Southampton supporters will hope he sticks around to continue leading the side up the table for the next season and beyond.

RW - Nathan Redmond

Nathan Redmond
Nathan Redmond can create something out of nothing | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The second-highest goalscorer for Southampton this season, Nathan Redmond's attacking contributions has been key for the Saints' fortunes in the league.

He's been a fan favourite since arriving on the south-coast, and his ability to play upfront as well as on the wing has made him a more complete offensive threat. The 26-year-old has always had excellent dribbling skills, but his shooting has improved significantly too, in making him a versatile weapon in the final third.

How Redmond performs during the next campaign will play a major role in deciding how the Saints fare in the league.

LW - Moussa Djenepo

Moussa Djenepo
Moussa Djenepo could become a dangerous attacking threat | Robin Jones/Getty Images

While he's struggled with injuries during his first season on the south-coast, Moussa Djenepo has shown some impressive flashes of what he could become for the team.

The Malian is a fantastic dribbler, as his goal against Brighton earlier in the campaign showed. And given time, he could improve his finishing abilities further to really become a top winger in the league, just as Sadio Mané did so in the years beforehand.

An injury-free season could allow him to display the attacking potential he looks to have, on a consistent basis.

ST - Danny Ings

Danny Ings
Danny Ings' goals are crucial for the Saints | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Few predicted that Danny Ings would score close to 20 goals this season. And yet, with the remaining portion of the 2019/20 season to go, he's netted 18 in all competitions so far.

The former Liverpool striker has finally found the opportunity to play regularly, and has definitely made the most of it. With his pace and finishing a match for most in the league, Ings could become the Saints' main striker for the foreseeable future.

If he continues to score as many as he has during this campaign, Ings will become a modern Southampton legend.

ST - Yussuf Poulsen

Yussuf Poulsen
Yussuf Poulsen has worked with Hasenhüttl before at RB Leipzig | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

With the Saints needing another forward to compliment Ings, Yussuf Poulsen would be a great fit on the south coast.

The Dane is a hard worker, and is willing to press defenders and run constantly without being asked to. He's also a reliable goal-scorer and can set up his teammates too, demonstrated by his 19 goals and eight assists during the 2018/19 season.

Starved of opportunity at RB Leipzig this season, we wouldn't be surprised if his former boss gave him a call to invite him over to play for Southampton this summer...