Should Southampton match the high defensive standards they set last season, it could well be regarded as an even finer achievement considering the number of changes they have undergone in that department this summer.
Toby Alderweireld decided not to make his loan move from Atletico Madrid permanent, while Nathaniel Clyne moved to Liverpool and Florin Gardos suffered a knee injury that will rule him out for up to seven months.
Although Steven Caulker, Cedric Soares and Cuco Martina have all arrived to cover those absences, the latter pair are both right-backs and Ronald Koeman recently indicated he’d like another senior centre-back to join Caulker, Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida.
It looks as if in-demand Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk is the man the Dutch tactician has earmarked as the final piece in his defensive puzzle, with the Daily Mirror reporting that the south-coast club have lodged an £8m bid.
Having been chased by a wide range of Premier League clubs, from Manchester United and Arsenal to Everton and Sunderland, the Bhoys will likely feel they could get far more than that for their star, but the Mirror believe Saints will not budge on their initial offer.
The Breda native’s appearance in the qualifying stages of the Champions League, which cup ties him for all European competitions for other clubs, is the reason the paper gives for Southampton’s firm stance.
However, with so many other teams clearly in the hunt for Van Dijk, Koeman may be well served loosening the purse strings a little.
Van Dijk played a pivotal role in Celtic’s opening-day Scottish Premiership win over Ross County, threading the ball through to Leigh Griffiths in the buildup to the striker winning his side a penalty for the first goal.
Having developed a reputation as a ball-playing centre-half during his time north of the border, the 24-year-old will clearly fit well in Koeman’s playing style.
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