As mentioned previously on this site and across various forums, Southampton’s opening fixtures are tantalising. Seven of their first eleven fixtures are at home and they face only one side that finished above them last season (United in gameweek 6). In addition, they play all three newly-promoted sides in the opening run of games.
As a rough estimate, I would speculate that 95% of the draft teams I’ve seen so far have included at least one Southampton defender. With uncertainty around the centre-half position, the common FPL Dilemma appears to be whether to pick Bertrand (5.5m) or Cédric (5.0m). Let’s discuss the relative merits of each.
The basic numbers are this: 123 points last term (compared to 102 for Cédric) means the powers-that-be have priced the England International at 0.5m more than Soares. With both players playing virtually the same amount of minutes (2,508 & 2,520 respectively), Bertrand’s 2 goals and 4 assists (vs. 3 assists for Cédric) meant he ended up with the higher total in FPL.
I fully expect to see a Pellegrino side that uses full-backs as an integral part of the attack, counter attacking where relevant and adopting a potentially higher press from wide areas than that of Puel. As a result, this could mean strong returns for both players during the early weeks. Last season, Bertrand’s underlying stats in attacking areas were (despite the 2 goals and extra assist) significantly less than Cédric’s. These numbers are highlighted below.
So how secure is Bertrand’s spot? Well, without Europa League matches to contend with, I would expect to see a far more settled line-up this season, with Bertrand’s main contender for the position being the promising Matthew Targett (who ironically is having a decent pre-season). Come gameweek 1 however, I fully expect to see Bertrand starting.
The big concern for potential suitors of Cédric is whether or not he’ll start the first match. Having taken part in the Confederations Cup for Portugal this Summer, Soares has only returned to training this week (Monday 31st July); this gives him a worryingly short amount of time to be match fit for the opening game, though he recently discussed keeping himself in excellent condition during the break.
Now, as previously mentioned, the underlying numbers for Cédric last season suggest a big upturn in FPL returns should lie ahead. In comparison with Bertrand, he made an average 1.4 crosses-per-game (vs. 0.5) and 1.3 key-passes-per-game (vs. 1). At home (where Saints play 7 of the first 11), he also averaged 1 shot-per-game (vs. 0.3) and made 2 assists (vs. 0). Decent numbers that could indicate a better attacking return than Bertrand.
One other factor worth considering here is the pre-season form of the clubs other right-back, Jérémy Pied. Having started (and impressed) in the past two friendlies, the Frenchman will certainly be in a position from a conditioning perspective to start against Swansea.
With the extra 0.5m able to make such a difference within FPL sides, many managers will be willing Cédric to start gameweek 1, however this might be too big an ask. At the time of writing, Cédric is yet to play a minute of pre-season and unless he can get a large chunk of match time in the remaining two friendlies, I would expect Pied to start against Swansea.
What the underlying numbers tell us is that Cédric has the potential to bring offensive returns in the longer-term. If you’re looking for a guaranteed starter for the first week, Bertrand is your man, however expect Cédric to be delivering in the side before long and potentially outscoring him.
The key message is this: monitor both the game-time of the players against FC Augsburg and Sevilla, whilst also considering (perhaps more tellingly) Pellegrino’s comments regarding the fitness of Soares. I will be monitoring the situation and updating regularly via my Twitter handle, @FPLSWOT