Lack of number 10s the reason for Saints’ £20m Lille move

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If laying out his midfield quartet in a diamond formation is going to be Claude Puel’s modus operandi this season, he’ll need more depth at its apex.

Dusan Tadic has been the first choice to sit behind the strikers at St Mary’s in the Frenchman’s opening two games, and rightly so after the Serb contributed 19 combined goals and assists for the south coast club last term. However, those numbers came largely in a left-wing role.

Beyond the former FC Twente creator, who has only made eight appearances for the Saints as a number 10, there are few options to deputise for him.

That lack of cover could therefore explain Southampton’s £20m move for Lille man Sofiane Boufal.

The 22-year-old is more accustomed to playing in an attacking midfield position and excelled for Les Dogues last season, although he too was used off the left flank.

He scored 11 Ligue 1 goals and registered four assists in the campaign, while his tally of 72 key passes was only bettered by three players in the division according to WhoScored.

Along with a readiness to shoot – he had the second-most attempts at goal in the Lille squad during 2015/16 – he appears ready-made to battle Tadic at the tip of Puel’s midfield.

The newly-installed Saints boss will be acutely aware of the Moroccan international’s talent, having managed against him in the last two terms with Nice.

Having already added four new faces to the squad since arriving from the south of France, the 54-year-old clearly has one more area of the field he wants to bolster.

The Saints are yet to win under Puel’s watch, but have shown impressive signs in both the 1-1 draw with Watford and the 2-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford to suggest that first victory isn’t far away.

They are 8/13 to break the duck at home to Sunderland, while we make them 9/1 to finish in the top six this season.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.