While Southampton have had issues with what appears on the fronts of their shirts, the markings on their backs are in good shape for the 2020-21 season.
It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s the best Premier League clean-up operation of recent times – on a par with what we occasionally used to see in the 1990s. In total, there are eight changes and all of them are downwards.
The changes for new captain Ward-Prowse, Bertrand and Romeu are especially notable, as they had had their previous numbers since 2012, 2014 and 2015 respectively. Perhaps manager Ralph Hasenhüttl is a numbers-nerd like us – when he was at RB Leipzig, Dayot Upemecano switched from 17 to 5 while Naby Keita and Timo Werner were given suitable numbers 8 and 11 respectively when they signed.
The best way to illustrate the changes is to show their starting line-up for the last game of 2019-20, at home to Sheffield United (left), compared with how the same 11 would appear with their new digits (right).
People might quibble with 4 being in central defence and 6 in midfield, but those sitings are correct for the respective players’ home countries (Jannik Vestergaard is Danish and Romeu is Spanish) while more than a few English teams, and the national team on occasion, have operated that way, too.
Centre-forward Shane Long wearing 7 isn’t ideal, but we don’t agree with a player being shifted from a 1-11 number to a higher one when they are still part of the first-team squad. In any case, right-midfielder Stuart Armstrong’s number 17 is the perfect alternative to the 7 that he ‘should’ be wearing.
It’s not absolutely perfect from Southampton – reserve goalkeeper Angus Gunn keeps 28 and Fraser Forster is still number 44, while Jan Bednarek has kept 35, but he previously wore that for Lech Poznan and so there must be some attachment.
Overall, it’s an excellent job though – hopefully the Saints have a good season and other clubs are inspired to follow suit.