Saints’ Plot ECL life with Aribo, Tella

Edwin  - CEO June 12, 2023
Updated 2023/06/12 at 11:32 PM
8 Min Read

Saints’ best possible EFL starting XI calculation ditches Onuachu, Salisu, and Sulemana

(L-R) Che Adams, Joe Aribo and Nathan Tella all have experience in the English Football League
(L-R) Che Adams, Joe Aribo and Nathan Tella all have experience in the English Football League (Image: (L-R) Nathan Stirk/Getty Images, Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images, George Wood/Getty Images)) 

By Ed Emeanua

Southampton’s EFL XI: Alex McCarthy, James Bree, Jack Stephens (C), Dynel Simeu, Thierry Small, Will Smallbone, Joe Aribo, Ryan Finnigan, Nathan Tella, Adam Armstrong, Che Adams.

Southampton is already moving ahead with its reunion with English Championship football with plans for a starting EFL eleven that includes Nigerians midfielders Joe Aribo and forward Nathan Tella but absent striker Paul Onuachu.

Absent convincing indicators for imminent transfers for some of its player force and stern desire for greener pastures from others, the Saints have started taking a look at its possible EFL starting eleven when championship hostilities resumes in about two months.

Premier League relegation comes with many of a team’s established stars likely moving on. According to Hampshire Live, the stay of players like James Ward-Prowse, right-back Kyle Walker-Peters, centre-back Armel Bella-Kotchap, and Belgian teenager Romeo Lavia are all uncertain.

Black Stars of Ghana’s left winger Kamaldeen Sulemana and Carlos Alcaraz will definitely attract interest from other clubs too, while striker Sekou Mara and defender Lyanco have already been linked with moves away as well.

Players like Nigeria striker Paul Onuachu and Croatian left winger Mislav Orsic are reported to be unhappy with their game time this season and are looking for the way out of Southampton.


Helps a lot' - Paul Onuachu details how he can impact Southampton's Premier League survival bid - HampshireLive


Ghana international defender Mohammed Salisu is reported to be frowning at a life in the championship at this stage of his career.

Hampshire Live reports what a new-look Southampton eleven in the EFL will resemble when the 2023/24 season kicks off below.

Goalkeeper and defense

We had two choices in goal with both Alex McCarthy and Gavin Bazunu having experience within the EFL. If we’re doing it by the number of games played in the EFL, McCarthy wins hands down. He’s played in the Championship with Reading, Leeds United, and Ipswich Town, in League One with Brentford and Yeovil Town and in League Two with Aldershot Town.

,Bazunu meanwhile, has just two seasons in League One under his belt with Rochdale and Portsmouth, but he’s the keeper we’ve gone for as he’s the one most likely to start next season. It’s best to start realistically before we get creative with the defenders in front of him.

The easy picks here are James Bree and Jack Stephens. Both of them have a very real chance of starting Southampton’s first game of the new season and they have the experience too. Bree has spent his entire professional career in the EFL before joining Saints in January, playing for Barnsley, Aston Villa, Ipswich Town, and Luton Town. Stephens’ career has taken him to League One with Plymouth Argyle, Swindon Town and Coventry City, plus a single Championship appearance for Middlesbrough.

Here’s where we have to rely on some wildcards, starting with Dynel Simeu partnering Stephens at centre-back. The former Chelsea youngster hasn’t made a senior appearance for Southampton yet but has spent the last two seasons on loan in League Two with Carlise United and Tranmere Rovers and, most recently, in League One with Morecambe.

At left-back is Thierry Small, who at least has one Southampton appearance to his name in the FA Cup against Coventry City. The 18-year-old creeps into this team thanks to four appearances in League One with Port Vale early on in the 2022/23 season. Since then, he’s been in the Scottish Premiership with St Mirren.


The midfield was easier to pick though we still had to rely on some youth in there. Will Smallbone is one of the first names on the team sheet despite only spending one season in the EFL. He made 43 appearances in the Championship last season while on loan from Stoke City.


When do Championship fixtures get announced and who will Southampton, Leeds and Leicester play? - HampshireLive


Alongside him is former Charlton Athletic midfielder Joe Aribo, who ended up at Southampton via Rangers last summer. Aribo won the League One play-offs with the Addicks in 2019 and played 97 games for them in total during his time in south London.

The wildcard here is 19-year-old Ryan Finnigan, whose only experience of the EFL came with 16 appearances in League Two on loan at Crewe Alexandra last season. The midfielder was named on the bench for Premier League games against Arsenal and Fulham however and has often travelled with the squad as the 21st man. He might well get some game time in the Championship next season.


Even with the limitations we’ve placed upon ourselves in picking this XI, this front three is still pretty devastating. Nathan Tella‘s future is uncertain right now, with Burnley hoping to bring him back to Turf Moor on a permanent deal after he helped fire them to the Championship title last season with 17 league goals.

On the other side, Adam Armstrong has bags of experience across the EFL with Coventry City, Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers. For the latter, he scored 28 goals in 40 Championship games during his final season at Ewood Park before moving to Southampton.

Up top, Che Adams has to lead the line with his experience in League One with Sheffield United and in the Championship with Birmingham City. The forward would link up excellently with Tella and Armstrong in the second tier.

Southampton’s EFL XI: Alex McCarthy, James Bree, Jack Stephens (C), Dynel Simeu, Thierry Small, Will Smallbone, Joe Aribo, Ryan Finnigan, Nathan Tella, Adam Armstrong, Che Adams.


As Burnley requests Nathan Tella permanent signing

There’s no doubt that having Nathan Tella at Southampton next season would help the club’s promotion push, having been Burnley’s top goalscorer this season on loan at Turf Moor as they won the Championship.

The Clarets are keen to sign the 23-year-old on a permanent deal after he scored 17 league goals and contributed five assists to Burnley’s title-winning campaign, accounting for 20 per cent of their output in front of goal across the season.

HampshireLive understands that initial talks have already been had between Southampton and Burnley and could intensify as the summer transfer window officially opens next week.


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